The Dangers of Co-Occurring Depression and Pain

The Dangers of Co-Occurring Depression and Pain

Co-occurring conditions are any two or more conditions that occur in the same individual. When this happens it is almost invariably the case that the two conditions are inter-related and contribute to one another. Physical pain can readily lead to depression. Depression can also cause generalized, non-specific physical pain such as fibromyalgia. It may also be the case that there is a common source of both conditions; for instance, an automobile accident may leave a person in physical pain, and may also cause other problems in his or her life that contribute to the development of depression.

Depression and Pain Can Lead to Addiction

Depression or pain alone can cause a person to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol. Experiencing both as co-occurring conditions greatly increases the risk that a person will develop substance abuse or addiction issues.

For people who are seeking relief from physical or emotional pain, the drugs of choice are usually “downers”. Obviously, opioid painkillers are a logical choice; however, sedatives such as alcohol or benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax) are also central nervous system depressants that are effective in relieving physical as well as emotional pain and producing relaxation. All of these drugs are highly addictive.

How Depression and Addiction May Occur in a Pain Patient

There are numerous ways that depression and pain can contribute to substance abuse and addiction. A possible scenario would be as follows: a person is in chronic pain due to an accidental injury; she gets a prescription for Lortab from her doctor; the Lortab relieves her pain, but the pain always returns when the Lortab wears off, so she comes to rely on taking it regularly to avoid feeling the pain. Unbeknownst to her, her body is developing a dependence on Lortab as well as a tolerance for its effects. Meanwhile, she may be depressed due to other consequences of the accident, such as mounting medical bills, financial problems, insurance headaches, possibly a criminal charge and legal liability for the injuries of another person. As she continues to take the Lortab, she finds that she enjoys the relaxing effects, which ease her emotional as well as her physical pain, and she begins to take higher doses of the drug to achieve even more relaxation. She becomes psychologically addicted to Lortab as well as physically dependent on it. If she attempts to quit using it, she will suffer miserable withdrawal symptoms in addition to intense cravings for the drug. As her addiction develops, she becomes increasingly preoccupied with obtaining and using Lortab, and has difficulty obtaining enough of the drug to satisfy her cravings. Due to the consequences of the accident combined with her increasing addiction, the circumstances in her life are spinning out of control; this causes more depression, and she continues to seek escape in use of Lortab. Thus is born the progressive, downward spiral of pain, depression and addiction.

Treating Depression and Addiction

Pain management is a matter for medical doctors. Depression and addiction can both be treated with psychotherapy. If you need treatment for depression or addiction, we can help. Please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline and speak with one of our trained addiction counselors today. We can help you find the treatment and resources you need to heal from depression and pain and recover from addiction.