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How to Treat Depression & Drug Abuse

by John Zaremba
  • Overview

    Depression and addiction are major public-health problems. Drug abuse is a known cause of depression, and people with depression often turn to drug abuse as a means of self-medication. Treating these illnesses requires understanding how they work, knowing the treatments available, and either admitting the need for help or intervening on behalf of a loved one.
  • Step 1

    Treat them for what they are---diseases. Depression and drug addiction are medical illnesses with distinct causes and corresponding treatments. They do require professional medical care. There is no "snapping out" of clinical depression, and there is no willing yourself away from drug addiction.
  • Step 2

    Recognize the symptoms. Depression's symptoms include sadness, loss of interest in life, sleeping trouble, irritability, fatigue, poor self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and behavior, and physical problems with no other apparent cause. Symptoms of drug addiction vary depending on the substance being abused. Common signs of drug abuse include trouble at work or school, lack of energy, a poor appearance and increased secrecy. An addict's internal symptoms include needing to use the drug just to feel normal and increased preoccupation with keeping the drug on hand.
  • Step 3

    Intervene. Depression and addiction hinder the ability to make good choices. People with depression and addiction often fail to see that they are ill, leaving it up to their friends and family to act in their place. Some cases of addiction are so severe that they require a full-on intervention, where family and friends hire a specialist, arrange for the addict's care, then encounter the addict in a surprise meeting.
  • Step 4

    Seek treatment. Depression treatment commonly includes antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, brain stimulation and other treatments. Your primary care doctor may be able to treat your depression, or he may refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. Addiction treatment includes therapy, counseling and self-help. Therapy focuses on getting the addict to stop using. Counseling with a psychologist, psychiatrist or addiction specialist helps the addict avoid cravings and stay sober in the long term. Self-help groups generally are 12-step groups that see addiction as a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment.
  • 5

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