There is nothing so heartbreaking as to watch a loved one suffering from a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and depression. These two demons often go hand in hand, and help explain why there is such a high suicide rate among alcoholics. The depression may have been the spark that led to your loved one’s attempt to self-medicate by drinking alcohol, only to morph into an alcohol dependency that only complicated the already existing depression. Or, possibly an alcohol use disorder became so entrenched that a cascade of negative consequences led to your loved one’s resultant depression.
Understanding how to help someone with depression and alcoholism as co-occurring conditions is the first step in getting them treatment. It is important to seek out an addiction treatment program that specializes in treating dual diagnosis so your loved one will obtain a comprehensive approach to treatment.
Understanding Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Alcohol Dependency
Co-occurring substance use disorders with mood disorders are very common. Alcohol figures in the majority of these dual diagnoses, and when coupled with depression can be particularly challenging to treat. According to data reported in the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it is estimated that about 17% of the 20 million adults who had a substance use disorder also had a major depressive episode. Of that group, the most prevalent substance used was alcohol. Of that segment, only 7.7% of those with a dual diagnosis of major depression and alcohol use disorder received specialized dual diagnosis treatment.
It is crucial that someone battling both alcoholism and depression get the appropriate dual diagnosis treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that in 30% of suicides, blood alcohol levels were above the legal limit and that 50% of those suicide deaths also involved major depression. Alcohol is a depressant, and will compound the effects of a major depressive episode.
When assessing someone who has both depression and alcohol addiction it is helpful to get an accurate diagnosis through reliable description from the individual as to whether they were experiencing the symptoms of depression and then began drinking to excess or if the chronic alcohol use led to negative repercussions in their life. Sometimes it is hard for the clinician interviewing the individual to get an accurate picture of the chronology, so a loved one may be able to offer more concise information about which disorder occurred first. Knowing how to help someone with depression and alcoholism is reliant on the most accurate information possible regarding the history of the illness.
Treatment for Depression and Alcoholism
There are different schools of thought on whether to treat a dual diagnosis patient by addressing one disorder at a time, such as first treating the alcohol dependency and then the depression, or to treat the disorders simultaneously by integrating the treatment of or both the depression and the alcoholism. Generally, the integrated approach tends to be the most accepted method of treating a patient struggling with co-occurring disorders.
In a dual diagnosis treatment setting, the individual will likely detox first before any treatment is attempted in order to allow him or her to be completely engaged in treatment. Following detox, a comprehensive blend of medication and psychotherapy in combination with peer group counseling is the usual treatment protocol for how to help someone with depression and alcoholism. Combining an antidepressant with an opioid antagonist called naltrexone can lead to better recovery outcomes. This is because the antidepressant can help alleviate the symptoms of depression while the naltrexone can curb alcohol cravings.
Receive Guidance on How to Help Someone With Depression and Alcoholism
The Treatment Specialist provides national resources for inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for addiction, dual diagnosis, and primary mental health conditions. If you or someone you know is struggling with a dual diagnosis condition, call the team at The Treatment Specialist and we will provide you with a free confidential assessment and treatment options. Ask our our free insurance check to see if your benefits cover substance abuse treatment. Admissions Helpline at 866-644-7911.