If you or a loved one is living with heroin addiction, you likely already know it can have a negative effect on mental health. As dependence on the drug grows, reaching a stable mood only becomes harder. What you might not know is that heroin and depression are closely linked and this can impact the recovery process. Understanding the relationship between depression and heroin is an important step toward recovery.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a Schedule 1 controlled substance and classified as an opiate. This class of drugs can have a variety of effects and is often used as pain relievers in medical settings. Heroin is used illegally to achieve feelings of euphoria. It’s highly addictive and comes with a wide range of side effects, including itchiness, lethargy and upset stomach, among others. In its pure state, heroin is white but can be cut with other substances and appear in varying shades of brown or black.
In recent years, the United States and other parts of the world have experienced an opioid epidemic. As an opioid, heroin has contributed to the destruction of communities and families across the country.
The clinical definition of depression is a consistent pattern of negative thoughts. It can also result in tiredness, low self-worth and a mental haze. It’s a common condition that’s estimated to affect as many as 280 million people around the world. Depression can be caused by a wide range of factors relating to age, environment, illness, genetics and substance abuse.
Depression can be identified by the following signs:
- Persistently sad or anxious mood
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
The Relationship Between Heroin and Depression
Research has shown that depression and substance abuse are linked and influence one another in complex ways. In fact, half of all substance abusers will suffer from a mental disorder at some point in their lives, and the reverse is also true. The link is even stronger for adolescents.
The reasons for these startling facts are many and varied. Generally, depression and heroin use have a symbiotic relationship, feeding into one another as they worsen. This can make it difficult for heroin addicts to break the cycle and start on the road to recovery.
Can Depression Lead to Heroin Use?
Depression is considered one of the leading predictors of drug addiction. A depressed person produces lower amounts of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of joy and contentment. This causes depressed people to find alternative ways to achieve these feelings. This relief-seeking behavior can take many forms, including self-harm and substance use. Heroin is one of many substances that can be abused in this way.
Because the signs of depression aren’t always obvious, it can be difficult for friends and family members to be aware of the problem. This can cause feelings of isolation in the depressed person, furthering the risk of substance abuse.
Can Heroin Use Lead to Depression?
Can drugs cause depression? Yes, there’s a clear connection between heroin use and depression. Long-term use of heroin changes the brain’s structure, causing it to rely entirely on the substance to produce serotonin and dopamine. Activities that used to trigger feelings of joy will no longer do so for the addict.
Additionally, heroin negatively impacts core bodily functions such as digestion, heart rhythm and the immune system. This can cause the body to produce stress hormones, which play a role in the development of depression.
The predominant social views of addiction can also negatively impact an addict’s feelings of self-worth. Without a strong support structure, substance abusers may fail to find the help they need to overcome their addiction and negative feelings. Over time, this can worsen both depression and heroin use, resulting in an escalating cycle of abuse.
The Value of Comprehensive Treatment
The most common treatment for heroin addiction is methadone. This synthetic analgesic has similar effects to heroin but is much safer. When used in a treatment setting, it allows addicts to satisfy their cravings for heroin without experiencing the harmful side effects. Since methadone stays in the body longer, it helps reduce the time between cravings, allowing patients to safely and gradually recover.
Methadone treatment is usually combined with 24-hour medical monitoring and psychotherapy.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Heroin and Depression
Recovering heroin addicts who are also suffering from depression are at greater risk of relapse. Because of this, treating both the addiction and the underlying mental health issue is crucial. This approach is called dual diagnosis treatment.
Comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment for depression and heroin addiction may employ various types of therapy. This may include group counseling, wellness classes and cognitive-behavioral, family and motivational therapies, along with prescription medications and opiate replacement therapy such as methadone.
After the initial period of detox is complete, entering a residential program may be recommended as the best way to prevent relapse. This is especially true for recovering addicts suffering from depression, who can benefit from a more structured environment.
Residential treatment, also known as inpatient treatment, can last as long as several months, depending on the individual. During this time, patients stay on-site to receive treatment under the supervision of trained medical professionals. One of the main goals is to isolate the patient from negative influences that could trigger a relapse. In the long term, this can help build the foundation for healthy habits.
While staying at the facility, the patient receives a variety of treatments. These may include:
- Psychotherapy, to continue working through issues relating to depression
- Nutrition therapy is designed to promote physical health
- Family therapy, can help the patient transition back to their regular life
- Group sessions, where recovering addicts can talk to one another about their ongoing struggles
- Holistic treatments, which can vary widely and include medication, yoga and other spiritually motivated approaches
Get Started on Your Recovery Today
Whether you’re seeking dual diagnosis or another form of addiction treatment, the first step is to get in touch with the right professionals. Only a controlled medical environment can ensure your recovery process is safe and reliable.
To get started down the path to recovery or learn more about how opiates cause depression, get in touch with our team at FHE Health by calling (844) 299-0618. With personalized treatment options and medical professionals who care, we have the tools to help you break the cycle of addiction and regain control of your life.