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Why is Depression So Common in Early Recovery?

Depression is one of the most common mood disorders faced by men and women in the early stages of recovery from addiction and alcoholism. The substances that we were abusing caused major changes in the chemistry of our brains, resulting in the brain going through a healing process in attempt to reach homeostasis and baseline normalcy.

The source of depression can be difficult to determine, even for medical professionals. Depression may have existed before drug abuse and been exacerbated by the changes resulting from substances. In our attempts to treat our internal struggle with depression, we may have used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, ultimately making the symptoms worse and feeding into a vicious cycle of drug abuse. The only way to break this cycle is through a long enough period of abstinence to allow the brain to heal, then reevaluate our symptoms with a medical professional. However, depression can be a lingering symptom of post-acute withdrawal. Post-acute withdrawal, or PAWS, is a set of symptoms that may continue for months or years after our initial detox. In a 2014 Huffington Post article, “The Condition Many Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics Don’t Know About”, Jeneane Swanson explains, “GABA-agonists like alcohol and benzodiazepines, opiates, and stimulants all lead to lasting changes in learning, motivation, and pleasure. Primarily, these drugs hijack the brain’s reward circuits, a prime moving part of which is dopamine. In the case of drug abuse and dopamine, the brain not only becomes tolerant, but it also gets primed for an excess of dopamine, meaning the user eventually experiences a simultaneous lack of dopamine with increased signaling for that circuit. In other words, not only does an addict feel bad without the drug, his focus turns solely to it to make him feel good again.” The only way to return the reward-system to normal and lessen the symptoms of depression is through sobriety and recovery. Sobriety gives us the time necessary for the healing process to progress, which engagement in recovery programs allow us to develop the tools necessary to manage and cope with the emotional symptoms resulting from post-acute withdrawal.

Resilient House knows what you need when it comes to quality treatment for addiction. Bringing together the best in clinical and holistic expertise, we provide a full continuum of care to ensure lasting wellness from detox to sober living. Cultivating resilience, our programs teach clients how to live clean, sober, and well. Call us today for information: 833-CHANGE1