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Is There a Connection Between Drug Addiction and Depression?

Black and white image of depressed man holding head in both handsThere isn’t a doubt that there is a connection between drug addiction and depression.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducted a survey in the United States and the results were staggering:

  • ~ 17.5 million people over the age of 18 have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
  • ~ 4 million people with a mental illness also have a co-occurring drug addiction.
  • ~ 40% of the people struggling with mental illness and drug addiction seek out treatment for either one.
  • ~ 5% receive treatment for both issues.

When someone exhibits symptoms of both drug addiction and a mental illness, such as depression, they are battling a Dual Diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis can come in many combinations:

  • Alcoholism and Depression
  • Weed and Anxiety Disorder
  • Painkillers and Bipolar Disorder

In most cases, the symptoms and problems of drug addiction can negatively affect those of a mental disorder.

Dual Diagnosis sometimes occurs when patients try to do something to ease their anguish. These patients often turn to self-medication in the form of drugs. In some cases, depression leads to drug addiction; and in others, the drug addiction causes depression.

To inform you and your loved ones about Dual Diagnosis, please read about the connection between depression and drug addiction. You can also read on about finding treatments available to you.

Depression Symptoms

There’s a difference between having a bad day and depression. A bad day occurs on occasion, while depression is a mental state that lasts for weeks or even years.

Symptoms vary person to person, but there are common ones:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of activity pursuits
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Appetite changes
  • Trouble concentrating

Depression alone is difficult to treat long-term. And the symptoms get worse with substance abuse, making it even more difficult to treat.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction and Depression

Regardless of whether you or your loved one was diagnosed first with depression and then drug addiction, or the reverse, it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

Common symptoms of drug addiction and depression are:

  • Loss of interests
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of irritable, angry, or hostility
  • Feelings of emptiness, lost, or helplessness
  • Change in diet or eating habits
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Careless appearance
  • Loss of enthusiasm or motivation
  • Deciding to be alone
  • Extreme weight gain or loss
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking, and/or remembering
  • Chronic pains and aches
  • Continuous thoughts of suicide

If you or a loved exhibit these symptoms, then you may a dual diagnosis.

The next question you might ask: Did drug addiction cause the depression? Or did depression initiate the drug addiction?

Well trained therapists will be able to figure it out using a psychological evaluation. Additionally, reports from family members and friends, work employers, and even court records can help clarify which one came first.

Why is it Important to Know Which Disorder Came First?

For treatment purposes, it becomes extremely imperative to know.

For patients whose drug abuse was from depression, they will undergo a longer and different treatment regimen. They will receive a supervised detox and possibly have a medical intervention. All before receiving treatment for their depression.

For those where depression was from drug addiction, they will be taken off their drugs. After, therapists will evaluate if the patients truly have depression.

How Does Depression Lead to Drug Addiction?

Depression causes a downward spiral. It makes people feel sad and lonely and show disinterest in their hobbies.

People affected by depression often try to assuage it with illegal or prescription drugs. The drugs temporarily alleviate their symptoms and makes them feel better. However, once the drug wears off, the feelings of despair return. This causes some people to use drugs even more, which leads to drug addiction.

How Does Drug Addiction Lead to Depression?

Drug addiction worsens or intensifies depression symptoms because it mimics them.

Since addiction and depression symptoms are so close, you may not even realize you have the disorder. When the drug is removed from your system, then a proper depression diagnosis can be given.

Drug addiction undercovers underlying issues such as childhood or adulthood abuse, other traumas, blocked memories, family structures, or a combination of things. Therapy can help work through these problems without depending on drugs.


There are thorough treatments available for both drug addiction and mental disorders. Doctors and specialists use medication more frequently since it is more effective.

The best treatment is rigorous outpatient or inpatient treatment programs. By the end of these programs, you can stop your dependency and learn to manage your depression in a healthy manner.

Dual Treatment for Drug Addiction and Depression

The best option if you have a dual diagnosis is a dual treatment plan. Drug addiction and depression feed each other. Both need to be addressed to put a stop to the cycle.

A vigorous dual treatment program concentrates both on the drug addiction and underlying causes of depression.

A dual treatment may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Medical support
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Onsite medical assistance
  • Family involvement
  • Relapse prevention support
  • Detoxification
  • 12-step programs
  • Medications

An effective treatment plan uses a combination of the strategies listed above.

Limits of Treatment

One of the major misconceptions of treatment is that it solves your problems upon completion of a program. Treatment is actually an ongoing process and requires support from therapists, group sessions, and family members.

Ideally, the treatment plan would work and you learn how to cope with depression and not relapse. However, that rarely happens.

In most cases, one-third of people with depression go to remission; one-third show progress but not in remission stage; and finally, one-third doesn’t feel better than when they started. To remedy this, long-term treatment needs to use both medication and therapy.

Overall, long-term treatment significantly reduces the risk of drug addiction and stages off symptoms of depression.

New Treatment Options

Treatment options are expanding and improving with our continuing understanding of co-diagnosis.

Treatment plans might use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) when antidepressant medications and other established depression treatments do not work.

Scientists and doctors are creating new medications that will use new neural pathways for depression symptoms.

There’s even studies that hope to manipulate genes to help curb addiction.

Support Groups

There are also online resources readily available to help you.

Dual Diagnosis provides information for different support groups:

  • Dual Recovery Anonymous: A 12-step program that helps patients recuperate from drug addiction and mental illness. It concentrates on preventing relapse and improving the quality of attendees’ lives. The group urges people to build a support network.
  • ERG: Everyone’s Recovery Group: A 12-step program that’s inclusive to all types of addicts. The hope is that people will be more motivated hearing other people’s recovery and progress stories.
  • Double Trouble in Recovery: A 12-step program tailored specifically for dual diagnosed patients. People who have only a drug addiction or diagnosed with a mental disorder are also welcome.
  • Dual Disorders Anonymous: A fellow ship of men and women who wish to help those with both mental disorders and drug addiction.
  • Dual Diagnosis Anonymous: The group talks about the importance of group therapy and medicated treatment. The group wants its members to share their recovery stories along with their struggles.
  • Schizophrenics Anonymous: An adapted 12-step program run by non-professionals for those suffering from schizophrenia.
  • Depressive Manic-Depressive Association: National organization whose meetings provide scholastic information about self-help.

Help Yourself or Your Loved Ones

There’s no need to wait, you can now make an informed step towards recovery.

If you or know someone who is going through these symptoms, contact our addiction treatment center to get the imperative treatment.