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For many Americans in the LGBT community, depression and substance abuse go hand in hand.
Depression and Addiction: The Link
Experts and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America define depression as a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated or disinterested in life in general. Many people experience feelings such as these for short periods of time over the course of their lives. However, individuals who experience them daily or nearly daily for no apparent reason and struggle to function, as a result, may have depression.
Researchers at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, say that over half of all adults with severe mental illnesses battle substance abuse. Possibly many of them use drugs and alcohol in order to feel normal, cope with negative symptoms and numb emotional pain. Sometimes substance abuse leads to the mental-health condition. For example, marijuana and alcohol can slow brain functioning and diminish cognitive ability subsequently triggering depression. Stimulants such as cocaine temporarily elevate mood but lead to a come down that can feel depressive especially if dependence develops.
The connection between depression and addiction is not completely understood. A myriad of factors can lead to both, and it is impossible to ascertain which comes first. Individuals in the LGBT community who suffer from depressive symptoms may seek relief by getting high or numbing out. Conversely, people who are not depressive when sober may develop symptoms as part of the withdrawal from illicit drug use. As an addiction leads to negative consequences such as financial hardship and relational problems, an actual depressive condition may manifest in reaction.
Substances of Choice: Anything Will Do
No studies have examined whether people with depression abuse certain illicit substances more than others. However, depression is one of the most common mental-health diagnoses in the United States, and statistics show that 16 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. As the two groups overlap, it is reasonable to conclude that when it comes to depression, any mood-altering substance poses the threat of becoming addictive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says opioids, depressants and stimulants are the most commonly abused prescription drugs. Rather than obtaining them from dealers, like street drugs, prescription medications are typically obtained from friendly sources. Surveys conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that friends or relatives who share or fail to lock their medicine chests are the most common supply sources. Medications often used illicitly include the following:
- Zoloft (Sertraline HCl)
- Lunesta (Eszopiclone)
- Ritalin/ Focalin (methylphenidate HCl)
- Ambien (zolpidem tartrate)
- Suboxone® (buprenorphine HCl and naloxone)
- Concerta (methylphenidate HCl)
- OxyContin® (Oxycodone HCl controlled-release) Maker of brand-name drug: Purdue Pharmaceuticals
- Vicodin (hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen
- Soma (carisoprodol)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Percocet (oxycodone acetaminophen)
- Klonopin / Rivotril (clonazepam)
- Fentora (fentanyl citrate)
- Xanax XR (alprazolam)
People in the LGBT community with depression may not even realize that they are abusing prescription drugs. They may think borrowing from a friend, for instance, is harmless. In an effort to clarify such faulty thinking and to educate the public, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has issued a clear definition of prescription drug abuse. They recognize three behaviors as grounds for prosecution in the illegal use of prescription drugs including taking medication without a prescription, taking medication without a personal prescription and taking medication for the high it induces.
Treating Two Conditions: The Value of Integrated Treatment
Although it is possible to treat a depressed person who has an active addiction—also called a Dual Diagnosis—professional help works best after detox. Additional evidence touts the benefits of treating both conditions at once at an integrated treatment center, a professional rehab center with a psychiatric specialty. Individuals who pursue care in such a facility can expect to receive an individualized treatment plan (ITP) created just for them by a team of specialists. Components of most Dual Diagnosis ITPs include the following:
- Psychiatric evaluation
- Physical assessment
- Group counseling
- Support from a recovery community such as a 12-Step program
- Stress management training
- Family sessions
- Spiritual guidance
- Career counseling
Integrated treatment for Dual Diagnosis individuals focuses heavily on relapse prevention as having a mental health condition often makes staying sober a greater challenge. Progress is typically more gradual than it is for individuals in the LGBT community recovering from addiction alone, which is why treatment takes longer. Viewing recovery as an ongoing effort shared by many team members such as a 12-Step community, therapist and doctor makes it possible to stay sober and build a dynamic future.
Help for Depression and Addiction
If you or a loved one in the LGBT community suffers from depression and addiction, we can help. Admissions coordinators are available at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to guide you to wellness and affordable solutions. Please call today, and take the first step toward a life of health and wholeness.