Drug Addiction Treatment helps Mood Disorders

Thursday 21st April 2011

The goal of drug addiction treatment is to help the addict stop using drugs and find a quality lifestyle where they’re comfortable being safe, sane and sober.

There are many additional benefits and improvements to life once in recovery from drug addiction.  An addict in recovery will enjoy better physical health, improved social relationships, fewer legal troubles, less problems at work, as well as an improved emotional state.

What is a mood disorder?

There are several different sorts of mood disorder.  Perhaps the best known are depression and bipolar mood disorders.  Each mood disorder has got different defining characteristics.

The best way to explain them in easy to understand terms is to say that a mood disorder is a psychological diagnosis where a person’s mood is outside of normal experience – whether it is persistently low (as is the case of depressive disorders) or cycles up and down (as in bipolar disorders).  Mood disorders are relatively common as a dual diagnosis with drug addiction.

Some mood disorders can be treated with medication.  Depression is often treated with pills that have the effect of increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain.  Similarly a bi-polar mood disorder can be medically treated.  Addiction counselling is often used together with medication as an adjunctive therapy.

In the case of somebody diagnosed with drug addiction the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders is slightly more complicated.  Drugs have an effect on the mood of the person using them.

Some drugs elevate the mood and others depress the mood. Some elevate the mood in the very short term only to dump the drug user in the doldrums when they’re coming down. Long-term drug addiction also leads to changes in the brain, which could have a long term effect on the patient’s mood.

This means that when diagnosing a mood disorder the psychiatrist must distinguish between the effect of the drug and the possible mood disorder.  It’s also important to assess whether the current mood disorder is a result of the drug addiction or potentially preceded it and the drug taking was the patients attempt at lifting or stabilizing their mood.

Addiction psychiatry is a specialist field; please ensure that the clinician has experience in diagnosing and treating drug addiction and a secondary psychological issue.

How are drug addiction and mood disorders related?

Some people may claim that they are using drugs to try and deal with negative emotions.  However the truth is that drug addiction can only make your mood worse in the long term.

Why?  Well it’s because of the way that the brain works.  Theory has it that there is a specific “reward system” in the brain that learns to associate behaviours with emotional consequences.

That’s a very fancy way of saying that we learn what behaviours make us happy, and what behaviours make us sad.  We learn to repeat behaviour that leads to a positive emotional outcome.

So a person who enjoys gym will go for a workout and know that they will feel good.  Drug addiction leads to an unhealthy reward system.  Addicts begin to associate a positive reward with drug taking.

The brain actually becomes hard-wired to believe this, so that even if there are very negative consequences (e.g.: being arrested) the brain still believes that drugs are a shortcut to happiness.

Another way that drugs interfere with mood is that they leave the brain with fewer “feel good” chemicals than the addict had when they started.  Taking a drug like ecstasy may lead to a temporary high but when the effect of the drug wears off the brain is left with a shortage of “feel good” chemicals.

Thus drug addiction can leave the addict in a depressed state.

The life skills taught in the counselling sessions used in drug addiction treatment centres will also be applicable to coping with mood disorders.  The addict also receives expert medical care in rehab.

This means that drug addiction treatment can also help with a mood disorder, in several ways.

If you are struggling with your mood and believe that your drug addiction could be related to an inability to enjoy life then please contact one of our treatment coordinators.  We will provide independent advice to help you choose a drug addiction rehab option that will suit your needs.

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