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Substance abuse can increase the risk of depression

Dual diagnosis is often used to describe the co-morbid condition of a person considered to be suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. Recent evidence seems to indicate that although the conditions often co-exist abusing substances, whether they are legal like alcohol or illicit like cocaine or heroin, can increase the risk of depression.

Link between substance misuse and depression

For some time Medical Practitioners, Support Workers and Therapists in alcohol rehab clinics have been aware of the link between the symptoms of depression and substance misuse.

This occurs when the individual begins to use the substance in question as an escape from problems which are causing depression, as a means of self-medicating their depression or as a crutch for dealing with their daily confrontations. The addict uses illicit drugs to feel better in the short term instead of dealing with underlying issues. Because the solution is only temporary the problem will remain and potentially become worse. Alongside these difficulties tolerance to the drug develops – and so the addiction cycle begins.

Enhanced vulnerability to depression

A recent study provides strong evidence that there is also an inverse relationship between alcohol and mood disorders. In other words – substance misuse can lead to depression. The results of the research published by Cell Press in the journal Neuron, make a clear link between depression and cocaine.

Researchers could evidence that cocaine not only triggered depression but it also increased severity. Senior study author Dr. Eric Nestler from Mount Sinai School of Medicine said “Clinical evidence shows that substance abuse can increase an individual’s risk for a mood disorder. Our results provide fundamentally novel insight into how prior exposure to a drug of abuse enhances vulnerability to depression and other stress-related disorders.”

It is perhaps expected that if an individual is struggling with a drug addiction they are highly likely to be prone to severe periods of depression and other mood disorders but what the studies have shown quite clearly is this is more than just environmental factors causing mental health issues - the presence of the drug causes clinical changes in the brain.

Dr. Nestler and his colleagues have found there is a direct link between a fundamental chemical in the body (H3K9me2) and mood disorder and it’s involvement in the effects of repeated cocaine use on vulnerability. A reduction in H3K9me2 reflects a decrease in the number of histone methyl groups, with previous human and animal studies suggesting a link between histone methylation and mood disorders.

The researchers are very enthusiastic about how this new clinical information can be used not only in addiction treatment but also in depression treatment. New findings are continually emerging in identifying the underlying chemical changes associated with both mood disorders and substance abuse.

One of the advantages of Life Works is that we treat the primary addiction as well as the underlying cause, which is probably why we have such a good success rate.

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