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Treating depression complicated by substance misuse

  • Claire McIntosh and Bruce Ritson

Dependence on alcohol or other drugs is a depressing experience. The way of life of the individual who is dependent on alcohol is replete with incidents that are demoralising, waking daily with a hangover or with tremor and retching, coupled with amnesia for events of the night before, a sense of inability to face the day ahead and awareness of recriminations at work and at home. Little wonder that depressed mood is common in such circumstances. Similarly, the drug addict, when life is dominated by the daily problem of obtaining supplies of a substance that brings transient relief or pleasure but also experiences of an impoverished existence and low mood. Add to this the fact that the biological action of many commonly misused substances can induce depression then it is hardly surprising that depression is common in this population. There are also a smaller number who use alcohol or illicit drugs to cope with primary depression. Teasing out the interplay of affect and substance misuse is a challenge for the general psychiatrist and the addiction specialist.

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BJPsych Advances
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Treating depression complicated by substance misuse

  • Claire McIntosh and Bruce Ritson
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