Struggling With Depression During Addiction Recovery

MastHead Outline
April 17, 2018

Those who have gone through drug withdrawal or have watched someone go through the process know how difficult it can be. Aside from the physical pain and discomfort, people can sometimes experience debilitating depression that makes recovery much more difficult to achieve. Dealing with depression isn’t easy and there are several ways to tackle the problem, but why does it occur in the first place?

Depression and Opiate Use

Depression and opiate use is interlinked. Not only can opiate use and withdrawal lead to depression, but many people with depression tend to take opiates. According to a news report, many people who already have depression are given opiates to manage pain. This may sound counterproductive, but there isn’t much doctors can do. As it turns out, depression can predispose people to developing chronic pain conditions. One study published in 2016 reported that people with depression developed altered pain sensations and can be more sensitive to pain. In other words, depression can lead to pain and opiate use, and opiate use can lead to depression. How can you deal with a cycle like that?

Dealing with PAWS

Depression after drug use is a part of a condition called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). This is a debilitating syndrome that causes tremors, seizures and a high heart rate among other conditions. In the weeks to months that follow drug withdrawal, people will start to feel mood problems like depression.

How Depression Occurs

Depression occurs when there is an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. It is largely a chemical disorder that worsens when someone suffering from addiction removes opioid substances from the brain chemistry. The two main chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, take time to reach normal levels again. Until then they won’t be released in the same levels as they once were before the drug was withdrawn. This causes the low mood or “blues” that many people suffer from.

Effects of Depression

Contrary to popular belief, depression isn’t just a persistent low mood. Although this can be present, it is best described as a feeling of total apathy and a loss of positive feelings. People suffering from this condition frequently report problems like:

  • Anhedonia (Loss of pleasure in previously pleasurable activities)
  • Apathy
  • General weakness
  • Chronic pain
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety

Some people who suffer from depression can suffer so much that they relapse to self-medicate. A study in the International Journal of High-Risk Behaviors and Addiction studied two groups of both relapsed and non-relapsed individuals recovering from substance use disorder. According to the results of the study, people who suffered from extreme depression were twice as likely to relapse than those who didn’t suffer from extreme depression.

Methods to Help Deal With Depression

Dealing with depression is difficult, but the effects described above show just how important it is to find ways to cope with it.

  • Finding social support: Serious depression can leave people feeling helpless and isolated. Having social support from close friends and family can be just what someone needs in times of crisis. Some modes of treatment like drug recovery clinics and health clinics provide access to support groups for depression.
  • Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins which can improve feelings of depression and alleviates anxiety.
  • Healthy diet: Healthy diets, especially those high in L-tryptophan, can give your body the right amount of tryptophan needed to make the sorely needed serotonin. Good sources include pumpkin seeds, milk, cottage cheese, dates, yogurt, sesame, chickpeas, spirulina, chocolate and peanuts.
  • Counseling: Therapy from certified professionals can give you the right tools and advice needed to manage depression.

Depression can be difficult to manage, but you don’t have to do it alone. Finding the right treatment and help can give you the fighting chance you need to beat drug withdrawal and depression. View our recovery treatment centers and contact us today for more information.

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