Patrick can’t get out of bed. Feelings of self-loathing come in waves, with no apparent stimulus and no end in sight. His mouth is dry, his body aches. The future seems pretty bleak.

This is a familiar situation to anyone who has experienced the debilitating effects of depression, but you might recognise this as something else: a hangover.

The chemical process in the brain is incredibly similar when you look at common mental illnesses like anxiety and depression and substance misuse. A depletion of ‘joy’ chemicals, including dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, can leave people in quite a lot of distress. For most of us, this is something that we know will pass easily enough with food and rest, and the other boosting areas of our lives – close connections with others, satisfaction with life, a lack of worry or stress. But for some, especially for those who live more isolated lives, the impression of this chemical low can be rather long lasting.

“It was such a shock to me when I discovered our son Adam’s drug use.” Bryony from Bradford-On-Avon tells us, “He’d dropped out of his Master’s degree and his calls were becoming erratic and urgent – I thought the pressure had got to him. I was so keen to get him the help he needed to take him through this breakdown, the right therapists or psychiatrists, even a stint in hospital, but his wellness never seemed to last long once he got home. It was only when a friend of his, decided to intervene by telling me about his long-term opiate use that the patterns of his highs and lows started to make sense. He’d been hiding the awful, debilitating illness of addiction from us for so long that I don’t think I’ll ever really know when or why he started using drugs. Perhaps he hadn’t always lived with a mental illness, perhaps he had and this was a way of coping. It didn’t really matter. As painful as it was, I felt something I hadn’t in years: hope. He could finally start on the treatment he really needed.”

The urge to self-medicate can create more frequent and cyclical usage. Patients and therapists often find themselves unsure whether the substance misuse has caused mental difficulties or the mental difficulties have triggered self-medicative substance misuse. The key point is that neither can be treated in isolation. Gerri Creedon, of Regain Recovery, couldn’t agree more. “Addiction has a ripple effect…. it impacts and is impacted by every area of life, and so to treat it in isolation may be effective in the short term but simply won’t work in the long term. 

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one’s, contact the team today at info@regainrecovery.com or 0333 987 5078 for advice on ways to support the person in managing their alcohol dependency.”

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