The Ups and Downs of Depression During Recovery

The Ups and Downs of Depression During Recovery .There are innumerable circumstances which can make a person feel depressed. Drug use and withdrawal is high on the list of surefire causes for depression. Some believe “depression” is an illness or disorder. This is fine as a theory, however when it leads to further drugging it proves detrimental to effective therapy. The use of addictive drugs to treat drug addiction is becoming an increasingly antiquated system. Methadone used to treat opiate addiction is simply putting the addict on a replacement drug, one which in the long term is just as addictive, if not more so, than heroin. There has proven to be a beneficial use of Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) and Subutex (buprenorphine) in the opiate withdrawal process in order to reduce patients’ pain and discomfort, but when done correctly the recovering addict is gradually taken off all drugs. In detox and rehab, we want someone drug-free, don’t we?

Drug Withdrawal & Depression

Depression is a common symptom during withdrawal. In order to fully understand this, one should have some understanding of drugs in general. Drugs are commonly categorized into stimulants and depressants. However, this division is an over-simplification. Any drug in a small quantity can act as a stimulant, whereas any drug in a large quantity can act as a depressant. Drink a cup of coffee and you are likely to feel a little buzzed. Drink an excessive amount of coffee and you’re likely to feel sleepy. Snort a line of cocaine and one feels high or paranoid. Keep going and it can kill you. Even a small amount of heroin (classified as a central nervous system depressant) can act as a stimulant. Shoot a little more in a vein and one will “nod off,” sleep, die from overdose, etc. The drug in question, a person’s age, physical condition, tolerance level, and other factors all play a role in the effects experienced by an individual.

Ups & Downs

Even the nomenclature (language) associated with drugs and drug use has a lot do to with HIGHS and LOWS. There are uppers, there are downers, one feels high, one comes down, etc. Depression always follows being high, sooner or later. When a person is coming down from a meth binge, they can feel so down that they are suicidal, often accompanied by unbearable physical pain, hallucinations, and a feeling like bugs are crawling under the skin. It’s called tweaking and it is no fun. But even when someone smokes a joint, a common aftereffect is depression to a greater or lesser degree.

It is very common amongst drug users to take one drug to feel up, and when that is too up, take another drug to get back down again. Or they use one drug to calm down, but it is too calm so they use another drug to stir themselves up. Or they take a speedball – a combination of heroin and cocaine – and get everything all at once. Quite some havoc is wreaked upon the body and mind in this fashion.

Drugs & Vital Nutrients

All this acceleration and deceleration is too much for the body to handle without going into overload. Compounding the harsh effects of drug abuse is the fact that they deplete the body of vital nutrients. This is more than evident in the long-term addict who appears gaunt, malnourished, emaciated and unhealthy. When a body is missing vitamins, minerals and nutrients, the effects are not just physical but mental and emotional as well. Ever fail to sleep or eat well? How do you start to feel? When the body is in a greater or lesser state of distress or deterioration, one can feel anxious, depressed, angry, etc. People can even exhibit neurotic or psychotic behavior. Drugs affect the delicate biochemistry of the human body. They trigger a rush of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and a common aftereffect is depression.

Precise Detoxification Methods

Detoxification (detox) must be done in a precise manner. The ideal system has been found to be a hybrid approach utilizing both medical and holistic methodologies for the benefit of the recovering addict or alcoholic. Inpatient detox is preferable and in many cases absolutely necessary. Medication is used to make the process easier for the patient, and in the case of prescription drug addiction, a gradual and precise process of weaning the patient off the drug (or drugs) is often used.

The replenishment of depleted nutrients is part of effective detox, as is a regulated nutritional regimen. Exercise is an excellent therapy; however it would normally be done after the initial detox process. Techniques such as massage and acupuncture have also proven very comforting in detox. Effective forms of cognitive therapy are also used, but these are normally reserved for immediately after – rather than during – detoxification. When such elements are used in conjunction with one another, depression and mental distress are minimized, much to the relief of the patient. Simply adding another pill with heavy side effects to “treat depression” is not a component of effective detox and rehab.

Thorough Medical Examination

Another tool used is a thorough medical examination by a competent doctor, especially one trained in allergies and nutrition. I recall one young man from Boston who had been put on Ritalin at the age of seven:

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is an amphetamine-like drug but it commonly acts as a depressant in children. The reason for this is obvious given the knowledge on the stimulant and depressive effects of drugs: A child’s tolerance of drugs is very low. They are not accustomed to these toxins (and drugs ARE toxins). Give a child a cup of coffee and he could be up all night. Give him a second cup and he may be fast asleep. Being a highly potent drug, Ritalin’s impact on a child’s body and nervous system is severe. A little goes a long way, thus the depressive effect. The drug also has a long list of other side effects. In fact, Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall (amphetamine), and other psycho-stimulants are classified as Schedule II narcotics under the United States Controlled Substances Act due to their high potential for abuse and addiction.

So it was no surprise that when this man was a child, he was crushing and snorting the Ritalin in order to get his daily fix. By his teens and early twenties he was abusing alcohol and cocaine. He had become a drug addict in no uncertain terms. Now enter detox and rehab: He received a thorough medical examination and allergy testing. He had previously unknown allergies (including an allergy to gluten) and nutritional deficiencies that were underlying factors for his anxiety and malaise (a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness). When all these elements were addressed along with thorough detoxification, he recovered both physically and mentally. He also realized that his behavior as a child was due to these allergies and wasn’t a mental disorder at all!


There are so many alternatives to prescribing drugs to people that it simply becomes a crime to do so. Only looking at SYMPTOMS instead of CAUSES is doing a grave disservice to the person. Drugs treat symptoms. More specifically, they mask them. They cover up what is really going on and their side effects are innumerable. Fortunately there are practitioners and facilities that want to see people happy, healthy and drug-free and work ceaselessly to bring this about.









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