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"Depression" The Second Barrier to Successful Recovery Part III   PDF  Print  Email 

Depression is another of the barriers present in the harness of addiction that lingers in an addict's life and is the source of a constant and significant amount of discomfort that prompts continued use.

It is also the second prominent barrier to successful recovery for those seeking help through treatment.

Some of the traditional medical and psychiatric based programs diagnose and treat the depression an addict is experiencing rotely as the root cause of the person's drug or alcohol problem, when in actual fact more times than not it is a symptom of the problem that manifested itself after the person had become addicted, not before.

Often times in the course of this method of treatment psychotropic medications are used which will temporarily mask the symptom but does nothing to cure it.

As these meds wear off the depression returns, often times magnified making the recovery process extremely more difficult if not near impossible for the addict in treatment.

There are physical and mental mechanics at play that create the state of depression and lethargy an addicted person experiences.

At a physical level most addicts are in a declining or poor state of health.

When they are high they are in a euphoric, painless state of mind and are numb to the damage drugs and/or alcohol are causing to their body.

When they are sober they have no energy and minor aches and pains are intensified.

They are physically spent, all as a result of the severe nutritional deficiencies that follow long-term abusive drug or alcohol use.

It is these deficiencies that accelerate poor health and put the person in a physically lethargic state of being.

At a mental level they have a difficult time finding joy or happiness in anything while they are not under the influence.

An addict at some point surrenders to the idea that they must be high in order to experience anything at an emotional level.

They must be high to celebrate an accomplishment, to escape sadness; they must be high to solve problems, to enjoy sex, to have meaningful relationships, to work or to play.

The addict really believes and operates on this principal, numb to the actual fact that their quality life and relationships with others is on a down trending spiral.

To give a layman's explanation of how and why this barrier of depression exists let's look at what is happening to a person's mind and body as the addiction develops.

There is another biophysical aspect to this scenario which is created by the drug's interaction with the body's natural chemistry.

Some of the body's natural chemicals act as a built-in reward system that encourages us to eat, exercise and procreate.

Other natural chemicals act as painkillers that activate when we physically injure ourselves or are experiencing pain.
These natural chemicals are directly related to procuring our physical well being in one way or another.

In addition to the presence of drug metabolites in the system and the memories associated with drug and alcohol use as described in part 2 of this editorial series, the physical brain of the addicted person also identifies the drug or alcohol as an aid that either enhances or restricts the release of these natural chemicals.

In some cases the brain identifies some drugs as superior to the body's natural chemicals and replaces them.

As the person starts to use drugs on a regular basis, the body becomes depleted of key nutrients and amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for the body's natural chemicals.

These nutritional deficiencies prevent the body from receiving the nutritional energy necessary to produce and release the natural chemicals.

In short, the drugs take over the functions of the body's natural chemicals and the person's brain and body gets fooled into thinking that the drug or alcohol are the natural chemicals.

When drugs or alcohol are present in the addict's system the physical perception is that the body chemistry is working and all is well.

When the drugs or alcohol leave the addicts system the brain and body perceives a deficit of the natural body chemicals which adds to the lethargy and lack of enjoyment an addict not under the influence of drugs experiences.
This condition is what adds to the compulsion and drive for an addict to do more drugs or drink more alcohol, despite the oftentimes life-threatening consequences an addict is faced with on a day-to-day basis.

The drug or alcohol gets misidentified as an aid to the production and release of the natural chemicals when in fact it is suppressing the body's ability to manufacture them.

One final piece of the depression puzzle is what is actually happening in the addict's life.

There are broken relationships, sometimes problems with the law or financial problems.

The individual starts to distance themselves from the people they love and become more and more withdrawn.

They may lose their job or start experiencing serious health problems.

Basically their life is going down the toilet and the addict deep down is not happy about it.

They are depressed about these circumstances that for the most part are present because of the individual's addictive life style.

Depression is an appropriate emotion considering the misery that they are faced with in their life.

For some medicos in the treatment field to address this depression as a "mental illness or disease" and expect that prescribed medications will some how fix the person so they can fix these situations in their life seems somewhat irrational if you think about it.

It is a fact that these prescribed medications will mask the depression temporarily, but so will their drug of choice.

Neither one helps the person restore their physical health or helps them develop the life skills to repair these real life problems, which is the only real cure for this affliction

Coming Next… The Life Cycle and Mechanics of Addiction: "Guilt" The Third Barrier to Successful Recovery: Part IV

News and Topics of Interest
The abuse of prescription drugs has increased dramatically in recent years, with marked increases in the abuse of some of the online pharmacies' best-selling products, such as narcotic painkillers and anxiety drugs like Valium. Hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, Lortab and Lorcet, seems to have seen the biggest jump in usage. In its annual drug use survey, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found prescription drugs were second in popularity only to marijuana among substance abusers last year. In 2002, some 6.2 million Americans - 2.6 percent of the population 12 and over - were nonmedical users of prescription drugs, meaning they had abused drugs at least once in the month before taking part in the SAMHSA survey.

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