Alarming Trends in Teen Substance Use and Depression

Reviewed May 2, 2016

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Summary

  • How does substance use cause depression?
  • How does depression lead to substance use?

Living life like it’s a beer commercial may look fun, sexy, and exciting on TV. But the real life costs of the party life can appear depressing.

On one hand, the link between drug use and depression among teens is complicated. This is because of how our brain works. On the other hand, the results of the party life are not hard to understand. Let’s start with the easy part.

The party culture
 
If you look at teen movies and reality TV and ask, “What is the message to teens about how to have a good time?” The answer is, “Let’s party!” Alcohol and drug use are portrayed as fun and essential. You will quickly see that this lifestyle promises much but gives mostly pain, shame, heartache, and regret. In other words, symptoms of depression.

Your brain on drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol affect two different parts of our brain. First, they target what scientists call the pleasure center. This is the main reason people like to drink and use drugs. It feels good for a while. The other area of the brain is the part that controls judgment, moral thinking and controls our urges. It’s called the prefrontal cortex. Its role is to “put the brakes” on our behavior before it gets out of control.

Teens that use alcohol and drugs have a much higher chance of doing something against the law, immoral, or just plain stupid. Research shows that 80 percent of first sexual experiences happen when a person is drunk or high. This increases depression among teens, especially girls. They create a pattern of bad behavior and regrets. It is then very easy to develop a poor self-image and become depressed.

There is a very close link between depression and drug use. The two conditions go hand-in-hand with a high percentage of teens. Substance use can cause depression. Depression can cause substance use.

How does drug use cause depression?

There are a number of drugs that people use that can cause feelings of depression. Alcohol and many drugs are depressants. If you use too much, you can feel depressed and become dependent upon them. When someone is drunk or high, they are more likely to do something they regret and feel badly afterwards. What goes up must come down.

How does depression lead to drug use?

People with depression often try to lift their mood by taking drugs or drinking. In other words they are “self-medicating.” This works only for as long as the high lasts. Drugs and alcohol will change your emotions in the short run, but in the long run, they cause added problems.

What to do?

Depression and substance use are tough enough by themselves. When they happen at the same time, the result can be disastrous. Alcohol-related trauma is the number one cause of death for teen boys. The good news is that depression and substance use disorders are highly treatable.

If you are worried at all about your use of alcohol or drugs, talk with someone you trust and tell her what’s going on. Or talk with a health care professional in your area.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The relationship between mental health and substance abuse among Adolescents. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1999; U.S. National Drug Control Policy (2008, May 10). Teen 'Self Medication' For Depression Leads To More Serious Mental Illness, New Report Reveals. ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/05/080509105348.htm
Reviewed by Vincent Krasevic, MD, MPH, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • How does substance use cause depression?
  • How does depression lead to substance use?

Living life like it’s a beer commercial may look fun, sexy, and exciting on TV. But the real life costs of the party life can appear depressing.

On one hand, the link between drug use and depression among teens is complicated. This is because of how our brain works. On the other hand, the results of the party life are not hard to understand. Let’s start with the easy part.

The party culture
 
If you look at teen movies and reality TV and ask, “What is the message to teens about how to have a good time?” The answer is, “Let’s party!” Alcohol and drug use are portrayed as fun and essential. You will quickly see that this lifestyle promises much but gives mostly pain, shame, heartache, and regret. In other words, symptoms of depression.

Your brain on drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol affect two different parts of our brain. First, they target what scientists call the pleasure center. This is the main reason people like to drink and use drugs. It feels good for a while. The other area of the brain is the part that controls judgment, moral thinking and controls our urges. It’s called the prefrontal cortex. Its role is to “put the brakes” on our behavior before it gets out of control.

Teens that use alcohol and drugs have a much higher chance of doing something against the law, immoral, or just plain stupid. Research shows that 80 percent of first sexual experiences happen when a person is drunk or high. This increases depression among teens, especially girls. They create a pattern of bad behavior and regrets. It is then very easy to develop a poor self-image and become depressed.

There is a very close link between depression and drug use. The two conditions go hand-in-hand with a high percentage of teens. Substance use can cause depression. Depression can cause substance use.

How does drug use cause depression?

There are a number of drugs that people use that can cause feelings of depression. Alcohol and many drugs are depressants. If you use too much, you can feel depressed and become dependent upon them. When someone is drunk or high, they are more likely to do something they regret and feel badly afterwards. What goes up must come down.

How does depression lead to drug use?

People with depression often try to lift their mood by taking drugs or drinking. In other words they are “self-medicating.” This works only for as long as the high lasts. Drugs and alcohol will change your emotions in the short run, but in the long run, they cause added problems.

What to do?

Depression and substance use are tough enough by themselves. When they happen at the same time, the result can be disastrous. Alcohol-related trauma is the number one cause of death for teen boys. The good news is that depression and substance use disorders are highly treatable.

If you are worried at all about your use of alcohol or drugs, talk with someone you trust and tell her what’s going on. Or talk with a health care professional in your area.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The relationship between mental health and substance abuse among Adolescents. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1999; U.S. National Drug Control Policy (2008, May 10). Teen 'Self Medication' For Depression Leads To More Serious Mental Illness, New Report Reveals. ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/05/080509105348.htm
Reviewed by Vincent Krasevic, MD, MPH, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • How does substance use cause depression?
  • How does depression lead to substance use?

Living life like it’s a beer commercial may look fun, sexy, and exciting on TV. But the real life costs of the party life can appear depressing.

On one hand, the link between drug use and depression among teens is complicated. This is because of how our brain works. On the other hand, the results of the party life are not hard to understand. Let’s start with the easy part.

The party culture
 
If you look at teen movies and reality TV and ask, “What is the message to teens about how to have a good time?” The answer is, “Let’s party!” Alcohol and drug use are portrayed as fun and essential. You will quickly see that this lifestyle promises much but gives mostly pain, shame, heartache, and regret. In other words, symptoms of depression.

Your brain on drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol affect two different parts of our brain. First, they target what scientists call the pleasure center. This is the main reason people like to drink and use drugs. It feels good for a while. The other area of the brain is the part that controls judgment, moral thinking and controls our urges. It’s called the prefrontal cortex. Its role is to “put the brakes” on our behavior before it gets out of control.

Teens that use alcohol and drugs have a much higher chance of doing something against the law, immoral, or just plain stupid. Research shows that 80 percent of first sexual experiences happen when a person is drunk or high. This increases depression among teens, especially girls. They create a pattern of bad behavior and regrets. It is then very easy to develop a poor self-image and become depressed.

There is a very close link between depression and drug use. The two conditions go hand-in-hand with a high percentage of teens. Substance use can cause depression. Depression can cause substance use.

How does drug use cause depression?

There are a number of drugs that people use that can cause feelings of depression. Alcohol and many drugs are depressants. If you use too much, you can feel depressed and become dependent upon them. When someone is drunk or high, they are more likely to do something they regret and feel badly afterwards. What goes up must come down.

How does depression lead to drug use?

People with depression often try to lift their mood by taking drugs or drinking. In other words they are “self-medicating.” This works only for as long as the high lasts. Drugs and alcohol will change your emotions in the short run, but in the long run, they cause added problems.

What to do?

Depression and substance use are tough enough by themselves. When they happen at the same time, the result can be disastrous. Alcohol-related trauma is the number one cause of death for teen boys. The good news is that depression and substance use disorders are highly treatable.

If you are worried at all about your use of alcohol or drugs, talk with someone you trust and tell her what’s going on. Or talk with a health care professional in your area.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The relationship between mental health and substance abuse among Adolescents. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1999; U.S. National Drug Control Policy (2008, May 10). Teen 'Self Medication' For Depression Leads To More Serious Mental Illness, New Report Reveals. ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/05/080509105348.htm
Reviewed by Vincent Krasevic, MD, MPH, Physician Advisor, Beacon Health Options

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