People with persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, often use drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms.

Some people with depression self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms, putting them at high risk for addiction. Substance abuse problems are common among people who experience the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia. Without professional help, the symptoms of dysthymia can negatively impact a person’s life, especially if addiction is also present.

Effects of Drug Abuse on Persistent Depressive Disorder

Some people may seek out substances, such as alcohol or drugs, to suppress the unwanted symptoms from dysthymia. This self-medicating behavior can allow the person to feel better, but only temporarily. In the long run, using drugs or alcohol tends to exacerbate the symptoms of dysthymia. The effect that addiction has on a person with dysthymia can vary depending on the specific substance used.

Dysthymia and Alcohol

Alcohol may temporarily relax the body, relieve stress and alleviate depressive symptoms. However, the aftereffects of alcohol can be detrimental to an individual’s brain chemistry.

There is a strong link between severe alcohol use and depression. Nearly one-third of the patients diagnosed with a mood disorder have co-occurring alcohol dependence. People with dysthymia who drink excessively tend to have more frequent and severe occurrences of depression and are more likely to contemplate suicide. Heavy alcohol use also can also hinder the effectiveness of the prescribed antidepressants given to combat dysthymia symptoms.

Dysthymia and Marijuana

Though marijuana is known for its calming effect, this drug may exacerbate symptoms of most depression disorders, including dysthymia. Introducing marijuana into the system may temporarily ease symptoms of dysthymia, but after the high has subsided, the individual may experience worsened depressive symptoms. Marijuana use, especially heavy use, has been linked with occurrences of anxiety and depression.

Dysthymia and Stimulants

Few studies have been examined the effect that stimulants have on dysthymia. However, some research suggests that stimulants may help improve mood, concentration or energy in people with depressive disorders.

Statistics on Dysthymia and Addiction

Mood disorders, including dysthymia, are the most common mental health disorders that co-occur with addiction. According to the National Institute of Mental Health Epidemiological Catchment Area Study, 32 percent of individuals with a mood disorder also had a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Can Dysthymia Lead to Drug Addiction?

If a mental health specialist does not diagnose and treat a mental illness quickly, it can lead to the use of alcohol and drugs. While drugs and alcohol can improve dysthymia symptoms in the short-term, misusing these substances can cause heightened depression or other symptoms in the long-term.

Treating Dysthymia and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Patients with untreated mental health disorders might turn to substance use as a way to temporarily soothe symptoms. As with all co-occurring disorders, substance use disorder and dysthymia can cause both conditions to worsen. For long-term recovery, treatment for the co-occurring disorders must occur simultaneously.

If you think you or your loved one grapples with co-occurring substance use and dysthymia, contact The Recovery Village today. With locations across the country, our staff have experience working with patients with co-existing disorders.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Krisi Herron, LCDC
Krisi Herron is an Adjunct Psychology Professor, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and a freelance writer who contributes to several mental health blogs. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.