Self Medicating Depression With Opiates

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Self Medicating Depression With Opiates

People are depressed in this day and age. The prevalence of depressive disorder in the United States hovers around 16 million, or about 6.7% of the adult population according to the National Association of Mental Illness. Women are nearly twice as likely to suffer from depression, and young adults have the highest rates of all the age groups, with 11% affected by depressive disorder.

Sadly, a large percentage, about 37%, of individuals who battle depression, do so without getting professional help from a doctor. Barriers to treatment might include feelings of shame or stigma associated with mental health disorders, a sense that it would signify weakness in character to ask for help, and cost constraints for individuals without adequate insurance coverage.

Among those who chose to tough it out, a tendency to self-medicate the debilitating symptoms of depression with drugs or alcohol is common. By using a substance, the individual hopes to numb the difficult feelings that accompany a depressive disorder, such as feelings of despair, sadness, shame, and guilt. Self medicating depression with opiates is one such solution, while others may favor alcohol or another drug.

When it comes to self medicating depression with opiates, or any drug, it can be a two way street. Some individuals may have become addicted to opiates, such as OxyContin or Vicodin, following an injury or surgery where these prescription pain medications were used long enough to create a dependence on them. In other cases, the individual may have become addicted to an illicit type of opiates, such as heroin. Addiction to opiates can lead to depression, especially for individuals who use opiates for chronic pain for a certain duration of time. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine reported that about 12% of patients who used opioid pain medications for 30 days or more developed depression. As for heroin use, the life-altering consequences of the drug can result in major depression.

Effects of Self Medicating Depression With Opiates

For those who have existing depression but seek the use of a substance to help hide the highly unpleasant symptoms of depression, they may lean on opiates. The reason for choosing an opiate, either a synthetic opioid or heroin, is due to the deep relaxation and sense of euphoria that the opiate provides. The individual virtually escapes from reality, meaning they escape from their depression symptoms.

Sadly, the effects of self medicating depression with opiates are short-lived. As the individual develops a higher tolerance to the drug, their need for more of it increases. Over time, opiate addiction can develop, creating long-term effects that are much worse than the initial struggle with depression alone.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

When someone begins self medicating depression with opiates they may initially enjoy the effects of the drug on their mental health. Opiates can alleviate pain, anxiety, and enhance relaxation in addition to masking the depression. However, once the brain’s neurotransmitters are impacted, and brain chemistry shifts to accommodate the influx of the drug’s dopamine response, the individual will begin to experience negative symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of opiate addiction include:

  • Needing to take higher or more frequent doses
  • Constipation
  • Impaired vision
  • Slowed thinking, cognitive issues
  • Ignoring obligations and responsibilities
  • Insomnia
  • Drug cravings
  • Memory impairment
  • Anoxia
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Doctor shopping
  • Obtaining the opiates off the street or Internet
  • When attempting to quit using the opiate withdrawal symptoms commence

These symptoms of the opiate abuse or addiction only compound the distress caused by the depression, creating a complex dual diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Depression and Opiate Addiction

When someone has been self-medicating depression by using opiates, or any substance, that has resulted in a substance addiction, they will need expert dual diagnosis treatment. Successfully treating someone with co-occurring disorders requires a specialized program with both psychiatric and addiction professionals available to treat both disorders simultaneously.

Depression treatment follows a conventional protocol of combining antidepressants with psychotherapy. The antidepressants aim to regulate brain chemistry, namely serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, but the effects take about a month to be noticeable. Many times, the initial prescription, selected from about 25 types of antidepressants, may need to be adjusted or switched to another antidepressant if the individual doesn’t experience relief by the 6-week point.

Psychotherapy is useful in treating both the depression and the addiction. Psychotherapy is a core treatment element for both disorders, helping individuals communicate their underlying emotional issues, past traumas, or difficult life circumstances with an objective therapist. In addition to assisting the client in processing these sources of pain, a psychotherapist can also point out a client’s distorted thought patterns—“I can’t function without Oxy, I can’t handle life without it—that lead to a reflexive behavioral response to reach for the drug. Using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) the therapist can suggest replacement thoughts—“I am feeling sad today so I will take a brisk walk and feel better”—leading to positive and more constructive behavioral results.

To further treat the addiction piece of the dual diagnosis, there are various additional treatment elements provided in a dual diagnosis program. These might include:

  • Addiction education. Classes that teach clients how addiction develops in the first place can be effective in deterring future use of drugs, as well as assisting in relapse prevention planning.
  • Experiential activities. Because a dual diagnosis impacts all aspects of one’s being it is helpful to augment therapy with holistic therapies such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, art therapy, music therapy, equine therapy, yoga, and acupuncture.
  • Medication-assisted treatment. Some individuals may benefit from a drug that is designed to reduce cravings and improve recovery outcomes. For opiate recovery, this might include buprenorphine, Suboxone, or methadone.

Individuals struggling with both depression and opiate addiction can greatly benefit from dual diagnosis treatment, going on to enjoy a fulfilling and productive life.

Quest 2 Recovery Offers Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Los Angeles

Quest 2 Recovery is unique among addiction treatment providers. At Quest 2 Recovery, we have created a comfortable, intimate home setting for individuals struggling with depression and a co-occurring substance use disorder, including opiate addiction. Our dual diagnosis program is holistic in scope, treating all aspects of the client—mind, body, and spirit. Situated in a serene location, Quest 2 Recovery offers new hope to those who need a quiet respite from the stressors of daily life in which to heal and restore overall wellness. For more information about the program, please contact Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.

By | 2018-11-23T13:56:06+00:00 November 23rd, 2018|addiction, addiction treatment, Depression, Dual Diagnosis, Opiates|0 Comments

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