Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll

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“Drugs are a bet with your mind.”

― Jim Morrison

In this series, we will be reviewing the “Treatments That Work” workbook, ” Overcoming Depression.” The intention will be to highlight key skills that can be helpful in easing the difficulties experienced from depression. As a recap, BEAST is the mnemonic used to not only give a picture of the burden of depression, but also give a framework of how to conquer it. BEAST stands for Body, Emotion, Action, Situation, and Thoughts.

In the last post, we reviewed the importance of sleep. Today, we will talk about how depression affects and is affected by sex and drugs. The Rock ‘N’ Roll was thrown in for the title.

Sex and Depression

Changes in sex drive may not be listed in the DSM-V criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, but it is well known that there are changes in the frequency, desire, and functional aspects of a person’s sex life when they are depressed. It is important to have an understanding of what your ” baseline” sex life entails. Comparing your sex life before and after changes in mood may be intriguing. It’s important to tune into these changes because a change in a person’s sex life may be what leads a person to a physician or therapist for additional help. Sex is a taboo subject for some people to discuss with their doctor. However, it’s very important to discuss changes. I want to note that an increase in sex may also be a signal that something is changing with a person’s mood. Another key time to discuss sexual changes is when treatment has started. Sexual side effects are common in depression treatment. Discuss these changes with your mental health provider because they are aware of these side effects and can help before you stop a medication unnecessarily.

Drugs and Depression

Like sleep and sex changes, drugs can be the cause or result of depression. When we discuss drugs, I should first comment on the fact that all mind and body altering substances are drugs. That means alcohol, prescription medications, and street drugs are in the umbrella of drugs. I will discuss prescription drugs briefly and then illicit drugs. Some prescription drugs may have depressed mood as a side effect. Before starting any medication, I would discuss the possible side effects with your doctor, look at the side effect profile that’s included on the medication information, or ask your pharmacist to review side effects before taking a new medication. If there is a concerning side effect, for example depression, discuss it with your doctor before stopping or changing the medication. This also includes medications intended to treat depression because some people feel more depressed or more suicidal on these medications.

Illicit drugs and alcohol may cause depressed mood. After the high has passed, people are usually left in withdrawal or with lows that are unbearable. The cycle of dependence can occur to avoid those lows that come from not using illicit substance and alcohol. Many people ” self medicate” with drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with their psychiatric symptoms. Illicit drugs are like many of the drugs we prescribe. Some of the main differences are change in functioning and predictability. Many people who use illicit drugs are up against the risk of decreased functioning in the various domains of their lives because of their use. Many people dependent on substances have problems with their work, family, friendships, and other aspects of their life because of their drug use. Another difficulty is that when drugs are bought on the street, there are less regulations and protections for a consumer to get what they believe they purchased. With that said, it is important to inform your doctor of drug use because drugs can interfere with any medication you take. However, never abruptly stop any drug or alcohol. This can be unpleasant and dangerous. It is especially important that you get help from a medical provider when stopping alcohol or benzodiazepines ( Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, Valium…) because withdrawal from those substance can be deadly.

In the next week, keep track of your sexual activity, drug use, and alcohol use. Try to be specific about your drug and alcohol use. The first link under resources details what’s a standard drink and what’s the recommended use. If you haven’t already, you should consider investing in a journal or finding an app to track your journey. Every post will encourage you to track or reflect on some aspect of your life as it relates to fighting the BEAST.


Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol

NAMI- Substance Use Disorders

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Alcoholics Anonymous

The skills in this blog post were adapted from:

Gilson, M., & Freeman, A. (2009). Overcoming Depression: A Cognitive Therapy Approach Therapist Guide. Oxford University Press, USA. Retrieved from

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