Depression and Substance Abuse

August 16, 2014

With the recent passing of the popular and exceptionally talented comedian Robin Williams, a spotlight is once again shining directly on the issue of substance abuse and depression. And while we don’t yet know the root cause of Mr. Williams’ apparent suicide (and may never find out), it has been reported that he was suffering and had suffered from both diseases. Indeed, he may have received treatment for substance abuse as recently as this year. Both depression and substance abuse are significant risk factors for suicidal behavior.

Substance abuse and mental health issues such as drug addiction and depression respectively often go hand in hand. In the treatment industry this is known as co-occurring disorders and many addiction professionals are trained to diagnose and treat such issues. Tackling the two diseases, of course, adds to the complexity of treatment. Further, the root cause of either issue may be hard to find – substance abuse issues often lead to depression and vice versa. Sufferers also have to deal with the stigma associated with each disease from those who believe that you can simply snap out of it. As we learn more about these disorders, it has become ever clearer that there is no easy answer.

Tragedies such as the apparent suicide of Robin Williams remind us that the treatment of substance abuse and mental health issues never ends. Further, while strides have been made in the effective diagnosis and treatment of co-occurring disorders, we have a long way to go. The brain is an amazingly complex and enigmatic organ – it represents one of the last frontiers in medical advancement.

To family and friends around those suffering from co-occurring disorders: you can never be too vigilant or let your guard down even if your loved one seems perfectly fine and content. This is not to say you need to smother them or check their every move; but be vigilant for the signs of relapse. Those suffering from depression and substance abuse, whether separately or co-occurring are very adept at hiding their distress.

The first step in treating substance abuse and mental health disorders involves making a phone call to a qualified treatment facility such as Fellowship Hall to start the recovery process. Our facility can treat patients whose primary diagnosis is substance abuse; we can also treat those who have a secondary mental health diagnosis. Should the primary diagnosis be a mental health disorder, we have a comprehensive referral program to direct a patient to the most appropriate treatment. From there, patients can receive the care they need to help ensure their long term recovery from substance abuse and/or a mental health disorder.