Addiction and Depression: What’s the Connection and How Do I Get Help?

Getting help for addiction and depression.
Amanda Stevens

Written By

Amanda Stevens
Dr. Po-Chang Hsu -

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Last Medically Reviewed on February 23, 2024

Addiction and depression are often closely linked, and it can be hard to know how to get help for both. People who are addicted to substances are at an increased risk of becoming depressed, and depressed individuals have a greater chance of developing substance use disorders. Understanding the relationship between these two conditions and how one impacts the other in your lived experience can help you find the right care.

How Addiction and Depression Affect Your Brain

Both depression[1] and addiction[2] involve the chemical dopamine[1], which is essential to feeling happy. When suffering from both addiction and depression, the brain’s dopamine system, which is involved in feelings of pleasure and happiness, can be disrupted, leading to a reduction in overall well-being. In these cases, depression can lead to substance use and vice versa.  Treatment plans for addiction and depression will vary based on each person’s individual care needs. However, multiple interventions are available, including group and individualized counseling, medicines, and behavioral therapy.

Sometimes, a combination of therapies is recommended. This often means meeting regularly with a counselor for private and group sessions. You may also be prescribed medication by a licensed, trained psychiatrist in conjunction with therapy.

How Addiction and Depression Affect Each Other

Addiction and substance use can exacerbate[3] mental health conditions and intensify symptoms. For example, if you are depressed, you may try to self-medicate with alcohol or another drug. This can lead to worsening addiction, which, in turn, can lead to worsening depression. This will result in major issues in personal and professional areas and overall functioning and productivity, leading to more severe symptoms.

Likewise, if you have a substance use disorder and choose to ignore it, you may fall into a deep depression. Substance use disorder and mental health conditions share certain risk factors, such as exposure to trauma, family history of mental illness, substance use disorders, and stress. Early intervention is important in managing substance use disorders and mental health conditions, especially if there is a family history of these issues, as genetic factors can increase susceptibility.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment for Addiction and Depression

Around 17 million adults[4] in America have a dual diagnosis – meaning that they have both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder. Among these individuals, less than 18 percent get the help they need. Therapeutic techniques[5] that help treat someone with a dual-diagnosis issue include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)[6] and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)[7].

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on replacing cognitive distortions – irrational and negative thought patterns common in depression. Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of CBT that focuses on learning coping mechanisms that address addiction and mental health issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a widely used and effective treatment[6] for depression, is often covered by health insurance, although coverage can vary.

Managing Multiple Mental Health Issues and Addiction

A term similar to dual-diagnosis disorder you may have heard of is comorbidity. This term refers to the co-occurrence of two or more disorders, which can include a combination of mental health disorders and/or substance use disorders. A substance use disorder or addiction problem does not have to be one of the conditions. This can refer to, for example, someone with bipolar disorder and anxiety and is not the same as having a dual-diagnosis disorder. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)[8].

It is possible, however, to have more than one psychiatric condition and a substance use disorder. A diagnosis is typically determined after a comprehensive psychological evaluation, which assesses various mental health and substance use concerns. This will occur during your introduction to treatment and assist you and your provider in recognizing the issues that need to be addressed and the best ways to do so.

Resources to Manage Addiction and Mental Illness

Getting help to address your addiction and depression may be a difficult step to take, but it is necessary if you want to live a healthy and productive life. You may decide to see a mental health provider that specializes in substance use disorders. You can choose to participate in individual and/or group therapy. If your addiction and depression have gotten out of control, it’s best to go to a treatment center where you can get help for both.

If you are having an emergency, dial 911. Toll-free hotlines also refer you to treatment options that will be most beneficial to you. You may contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline by dialing 1-800-950-NAMI. If you are in crisis and need to speak with someone immediately and it is not a medical emergency, you may also text the name “NAMI” to 741741. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, offering 24/7 support, can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in the United States.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment at Recovery Unplugged

If you or someone you care about is struggling with co-occurring addiction and mental illness, you don’t have to spend another second battling it alone. Recovery Unplugged will help you reclaim your peace of mind and mental health. We offer compassionate and effective dual-diagnosis treatment in Nashville, Florida, Austin, and Northern Virginia and are in-network with most major insurance companies to make care more accessible. Don’t wait another second to get help. Call us today to start your treatment.

We take our music-focused treatment for addiction very seriously, so we are going to hold our content to the same precision standards. Recovery Unplugged’s editorial process involves our editing safeguard and our ideals. Read our Editorial Process.

Sources


[1] Harvard Health Publishing. (2022, January 10). What causes depression? Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

[2] Dumain, T. (2023, May 3). Drug Addiction: Know the Warning Signs. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/drug-abuse-addiction

[3] MedlinePlus. (2023, December 20). Dual Diagnosis. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/dualdiagnosis.html

[4] SAMHSA. (2020). Highlights for the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2021-10/2020_NSDUH_Highlights.pdf

[5] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, April). Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report: Introduction | NIDA. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/introduction

[6] American Psychiatric Association. (2017). What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Https://Www.Apa.Org. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral

[7] Raypole, C. (2019, January 25). DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills, Techniques, What it Treats. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/dbt

[8] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2024). Comorbidity | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/comorbidity

Amanda Stevens

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work.

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