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Estimates indicate that close to a third of patients with major depressive disorder also have substance use disorders.1 Co-occurring disorders such as these can complicate the road to recovery, as some treatment facilities may treat the substance use but not the mental or mood disorder. Sometimes, mood disorders like depression go undiagnosed in those with substance use disorders, resulting in a missed opportunity for beneficial treatment intervention.
To provide comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders, treatment professionals also need to address a patient’s mental or mood disorder, should one be present. So, in this context, what’s the connection between depression and substance abuse? And what does treatment look like for co-occurring disorders that involve depression?
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most prevalent mood disorders in the U.S.—an estimated 17.3 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2017.2
MDD can have a pervasive negative impact on several areas of a person’s life, and has been associated with:
Those who suffer from MDD might wonder what in their genetics, family history, or life could have contributed to their mood disorder. Though the “cause” of many mental health conditions is often difficult to pinpoint, independent risk factors for major depressive disorder include:3
In order to receive a diagnosis for major depressive disorder, an individual must present with five or more of potential symptoms during the same two-week period. The symptoms cannot be better explained by:4
The symptoms must significantly interfere with the person’s normal functioning and occur nearly every day.4
The symptoms of major depressive disorder include:4
Major depressive disorder can have potentially fatal outcomes such as an associated increased risk of suicidality and self-harm. The number of the above symptoms present in a given individual and their subsequent impact on daily functioning correlates with the severity of the disorder.4
In general, rates of substance use disorders are nearly twice as high in individuals diagnosed with a mood disorder such as MDD than in individuals without such a diagnosis.
Although any type of substance abuse or dependence may co-occur with mood disorders, several types of substance use may exemplify particularly prevalent comorbidities:
People with two mental health issues may benefit from the simultaneous treatment of both. For instance, someone with a dual diagnosis (a situation also described as co-occurring disorders) of major depressive disorder and a substance use disorder may experience more comprehensive recovery by having both of these issues addressed at the same time.7
A treatment team for someone with a dual diagnosis could consist of physicians (psychiatrists or other addiction treating doctors), psychologists, social workers, counselors, case managers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and any other specialists that fit into the overall treatment plan for the individual.
Below is a breakdown of a few commonly used behavioral therapeutic techniques and treatment settings helpful for people with co-occurring disorders.
Some other, general rehabilitation settings and treatment features include:
At Oxford Treatment Center, a patient dealing with depression and substance use disorders concurrently would have their treatment tailored to his or her specific situation. Many of the treatments, services, and therapies mentioned above are available at Oxford Treatment Center’s facilities.