Yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day, organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). This year’s theme is “The Power of Connection,” to highlight how those who have suicidal thoughts often live in self-imposed isolation and can be helped through involvement from their family, friends, and the community at large. Our addiction treatment facility, Turning Point, emphasizes the similarities between suicidal thoughts stemming from mental illness and those which derive from substance abuse. Both mental illness and addiction are diseases that share an interconnected relationship. When a person suffers from both, simultaneously, it is known as co-occurring mental illness and addiction.
The Chemical Reason Addicts Become Depressed
Addiction is a disease, although it is often stigmatized and seen as a choice. Mental illness is also a disease, although many view mood disorders like clinical depression or bipolar disorder as a sign of weakness, or that those who suffer from it are simply seeking attention. The sad truth is, addicts oftentimes develop a mood disorder because their minds are chemically altered by drugs. Many addicts resort to any measure to procure more of their drug(s) of choice and feel hopeless and depressed at their secretiveness and at the extreme means they take to procure more drugs.
There is also a chemical reason behind their depression, though.
The reason addicts go back for a second hit of any given drug is because they enjoyed the rush of euphoria they experienced when taking that first hit. That pleasure wears off all too quickly, though, and by the time they go back for a third hit, fourth hit, and so on, their brain has gained a tolerance to the initial dose and they must take more and more of the drug to achieve the same euphoria. Gradually, the brain can no longer produce the “pleasure chemical” (dopamine) at all, no matter the dosage they take. By the time a person is hooked on a given drug, the dopamine receptors in their brain are completely shot by repeated drug abuse, and before long, the addict can hardly experience pleasure whatsoever, let alone by turning to their drug of choice.
Of course, many active addicts have a pre-existing mood disorder, too. These addicts who are already clinically depressed often fail to adhere to their prescribed antidepressants or other psychotropic medication regimens and slip even deeper into depression. Their lives spin out of control as all they can think about is getting more drugs, and everything else takes a backseat to getting high, including school and/or work, family, and friends. Because of these reasons, it’s critical for an addict’s family and friends to step in and realize the power of connection so they can help their addicted loved one climb out of the hole of co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse, and get involved.
Does Depression Cause Addiction, or Does Addiction Cause Depression?
Both. Addiction can lead to depression, and depression can also lead to addiction. Those who are depressed may turn to drugs as a means to cope with their suffering, only to end up becoming even more depressed as they neglect all self-care and turn to drugs to deal with the stress of daily life. While substance abuse may temporarily fill the void, it isn’t an effective coping mechanism for long. The fact is, no one who is hooked on drugs leads a life as fulfilling and meaningful as they could otherwise if they were sober.
While the addict may deny feeling depressed or just consider themselves to feel emotionally numb (and credit their drugs for helping them achieve such a state of numbness), they are actually succumbing to mental illness. One study found that a person who has co-occurring depression and addiction is 6 times more likely to attempt suicide, often by overdosing on their drug of choice, or combining various drugs with alcohol. For an addict who feels suicidal, the drugs they have on hand are just as powerful as a loaded gun.
Why it’s Important to Prevent Suicide Among Addicts
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, and as advocates for mental health and wellness, our addiction specialists at Turning Point strive to understand and treat co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse. These are major public health concerns worldwide, as well, with one person taking their life by suicide every 40 seconds, on the global scale. That number surpasses lives lost by homicide and war, combined. Suicide attempts are even more common, with as many as 20 times the number of people attempting suicide per year versus the number of suicide deaths.
By involving the community to help substance abusers who suffer from co-occurring mental illness, we can turn the tide of rampant substance abuse and suicide. By doing so, the entire community benefits when healthier, happier individuals actively and productively contribute to society.Turning Point is proud of our alumni who have successfully completed treatment for their co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse. Learn more about them on our client testimonials, and contact us today to learn how you can overcome addiction by calling