Insights from Arizona Dual Diagnosis Rehab; Does Depression Cause Substance Use?

Insights from Arizona Dual Diagnosis Rehab; Does Depression Cause Substance Use?

Insights from Arizona Dual Diagnosis Rehab - Does Depression Cause Substance Use

People in alcohol or substance use treatment or considering sobriety often ask themselves:

                How did I get here?

                                Why did it get to this point?

The answers are not simple and are unique to each individual. What we do know is that people often share that they started drinking, drinking more, or using unhealthy substances to numb the feelings brought on by trauma and depression, but there is a scientific explanation as well. Read on for insights from Silver Sands Recovery, Arizona dual diagnosis rehab, about this important topic.

Substance Use and the Brain & How Arizona Dual Diagnosis Rehab Can Help

Alcohol and many substances actually “numb” the brain with their effects on gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. GABA is an amino acid that blocks certain brain signals and decreases activity in the central nervous system.[1] Alcohol and some substances increase GABA, therefore, reducing activity in certain parts of the brain. This is the reason why it seems like using alcohol or drugs make you feel better, at least initially. When the central nervous system slows down, you feel a sense of calm. It is easier for your mind to slow down and not work so fast. In a person living with depression, this is often a welcome break from the chaos and hurt.

Everybody’s Doing It

Life can be challenging, especially during uncertain times. Alcohol and substance use is on the rise. A study from the University of Baltimore found that drug overdoses increased 18% over a 2-month period from March 2020 to May 2020.[2]  Social media has glorified drinking with friends and chugging alcohol at all hours of the day as a means of coping with the quarantine. It is one way of coping, but the combination of isolation, increased alcohol and substance use, and so much uncertainty in the world can be a recipe for personal disaster.

What Are the Alternatives?

There is good news! Most of the time, what you crave is not a life of addiction but rather relief from the symptoms of trauma and depression. Seeking help from a counselor or treatment program to address the root causes of depression will improve your chances of living a life free from addiction. There are also several ways to increase GABA and other brain chemicals essential for good mental health. Try a few of these methods to give you more control over your desire to turn to alcohol or other substances:


It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds. Meditation can take many forms. Many of us are familiar with the cross-legged Buddha chanting Om, but there are other ways to meditate. Simply sitting quietly in nature and paying attention to what‘s around you is a form of meditation. Others prefer to watch the flame of a candle or water gently moving back and forth. When thoughts enter your mind, recognize them but try not to dwell on them. Keep bringing your attention back to your focus point. Even a few minutes a day can stimulate the parts of the brain that makes GABA and decrease anxiety related to depression. [3]


This also does not need to be as complicated as it sounds! This time, you may have pictured the yogi with his limbs curled up like a pretzel. It doesn’t require that kind of commitment!  Simply stretching while breathing deep can begin to help you feel more relaxed, stimulate essential brain chemicals, and increase your overall feelings of well-being. [4]


Admit it, you pictured the big muscle-bound weightlifter pumping iron at the gym. Again, it’s not that complicated! Find something you enjoy, such as taking a walk, playing golf, swimming, biking, or dancing around your living room—anything to get you moving. Exercise is a powerful depression fighter and can help you feel calmer.[5] Many activities also stimulate the same healthy brain chemicals as meditation because they bring you into the present moment. This keeps the brain from focusing on the feelings of depression and gives you some control over increasing healthy brain chemicals.

Holistic Arizona Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Ultimately, these strategies are most successful when paired with dual diagnosis treatment. This is treatment that recognizes you as an individual and builds a holistic program to treat your symptoms of depression and substance use at the same time.

Seeking Treatment at Arizona Dual Diagnosis Rehab

A successful program for treating depression and co-occurring substance use must be individualized in a setting that recognizes you as a whole person. Arizona Dual Diagnosis Treatment in the outpatient setting of Silver Sands Recovery might be just what you need to live a life free from the symptoms of depression and the burden of addiction!








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