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Link Between Drug Addiction and Depression

Finding the right answer to the question, how to help someone with drug addiction and depression, can be difficult. You must realize that when drug addiction and depression happen to a person simultaneously, they create a vicious cycle. Drug addiction and depression feed off one another. Breaking the cycle is not something that you can achieve alone. Most importantly, it’s not something your loved one can do without help, either.

How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression? Depression is common among people struggling with alcohol or drug addiction. Substance abuse and addiction can trigger or intensify the feelings of sadness, solitude, and hopelessness often associated with depression. High rates of depression are prevalent among individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUD), particularly alcohol dependence.

According to the National Institute on Drugs Abuse (NIDA) [1], research indicates that 43 percent of people in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment for nonmedical use of prescription painkillers have a diagnosis or symptoms of mental health disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. Data from the National Comorbidity Survey estimated the lifetime pervasiveness of major depression to be nearly one-quarter (24.3 %) among alcohol-dependent men and about one-half (48.5%) among alcohol-dependent women, beating the prevalence rates among individuals without AUD. In clinical samples, the lifetime rates of co-occurrence are still more significant, ranging from 50 to 70%. This bases on the research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information [2]

Common Risk Factors That Contributes To both Drug Addiction And Depression

Both mental illnesses, such as depression and substance use disorders, are caused by overlapping causes such as epigenetic and genetic vulnerabilities, issues with similar areas of the brain, and environmental forces such as early exposure to trauma or stress. Learning how to help someone with drug addiction and depression means educating yourself on risk factors that may contribute to both conditions.

Genetic Vulnerabilities

It is predicted that 40–60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to alcohol and drug use disorders is attributable to genetics. In some cases, a gene product may act directly, as when a protein influences how a person responds to a drug (for example, whether the drug experience is pleasurable or not) or how long the alcohol or drugs remains in the body. Specific genetic factors have been identified that predispose an individual to alcohol dependence and cigarette smoking. Also, research is beginning to reveal the connection between genetic sequences and a higher risk of heavy opioid use, cocaine dependence, and cannabis craving and withdrawal. This is according to NIDA [3].

Genes can also operate indirectly by altering how a person responds to stress or by increasing the likelihood of risk-taking behaviors, which could influence the beginning of substance use as well as the development of substance use disorders and other mental illnesses.

Epigenetic Influences

Epigenetics refers to the study of changes in the regulation of gene activity and expression that are not dependent on gene sequence. These are the changes that affect how genetic information is acted on and read by cells in the body. Environmental factors such as trauma, chronic stress, or drug and alcohol exposure can cause stable changes in gene expression, which can alter functioning in neural circuits and eventually impact behavior. Studies show that environmental factors combine with genetic vulnerability during particular developmental periods increase the risk for mental illnesses, which include depression and addiction.

How to help someone with drug addiction and depression
How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression: You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed, or unworthy. You were created to be victorious.

Brain Region Involvement

Several areas of the brain are influenced by both substance use disorders and other mental illnesses, such as depression. For instance, the circuits in the brain that mediate decision making, reward, impulse control, and emotions may be affected by addictive substances and disrupted in substance use disorders, schizophrenia, depression, and other psychiatric disorders. In addition, multiple neurotransmitter systems have been involved in both substance use disorders and other mental disorders, including, but not limited to, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Environmental Influences

Multiple environmental factors are linked with an increased risk for both substance use disorders and mental illness, including trauma, chronic stress, and adverse childhood experiences, among others. Many of these factors are modifiable. Therefore, prevention interventions will often result in a reduction in both mental illness and addiction, as explained in the Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health [4].


Stress is a recognized risk factor for a variety of mental disorders and therefore provides one likely common neurobiological connection between the disease processes of substance abuse and mental illness. Exposure to stressors is also a major risk factor for relapse to alcohol and drug use after periods of recovery.

Stress responses are processed through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which in turn can alter brain circuits that regulate motivation. Higher levels of stress have been revealed to decrease activity in the prefrontal cortex and increase responsivity in the striatum, which leads to decreased behavioral control and increased impulsivity.

Chronic and Early life stress can induce long-term changes in the HPA axis, which affects limbic brain circuits that are involved in learning, motivation, and adaptation, and are damaged in individuals with substance use disorders and other mental conditions.

Addiction causes changes to many neurotransmitter systems that are connected in response to stress. These neurobiological changes are thought to carry the link between stress and the rise of drug use as well as relapse. Treatments that focus on stress reduction, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction, have been shown to be beneficial for reducing depression, anxiety, and substance use.

Trauma And Adverse Childhood Experiences

Emotionally or physically traumatized individuals are at much higher risk for drug use, and the co-occurrence of these disorders is associated with inferior treatment outcomes. People with mental conditions such as depression and PTSD may use substances in an attempt to overcome their anxiety and to avoid dealing with trauma and its consequences.

Signs Of Depression

Everybody feels sad from time to time. However, major depression (or clinical depression) is a diagnosable condition described by a low or depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. Learning how to help someone with drug addiction and depression means knowing how to look for the signs that can lead to both depression and drug addiction. Symptoms of major depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Persistent emptiness or feelings of sadness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Feelings of helplessness, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Lack of interest and enjoyment in usual hobbies and activities
  • Lowered energy
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping more than usual)
  • Trouble concentrating and paying attention
  • Restlessness or difficulty sitting still
  • Major decrease or increase in appetite and, or weight changes
  • Increased body pains, aches, or soreness without a clear medical cause
  • Addiction refers to the problematic abuse of substances despite serious financial, interpersonal, or medical consequences

Signs Of Addiction

When individuals are suffering from addiction, they may show or experience at least a few of the following symptoms, signs, and behaviors:

  • Taking larger amounts of drugs or alcohol than intended
  • Having an urge to stop or reduce the use of drugs but being unable to do so
  • Spending excessive energy and time attempting to get the substance, use it, and recover from its effects
  • Feeling intense desire and cravings to use the drugs
  • Continuing to take the drugs despite adverse consequences, such as school, work, or family problems
  • Repetitive fights with loved ones about substance use
  • Taking risks to get the substance (such as stealing, lying, criminal behavior)
  • Displaying secretive behavior and going out of one’s way to use the substance
  • Using alcohol or drugs in dangerous situations (such as drinking and driving)
  • Developing tolerance (requiring more to achieve the desired effect)
  • Undergoing withdrawal symptoms when stopping from the substance
How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression
How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression?

By nature, addiction can be progressive, meaning these symptoms often get worse until the substance user gets help. Depression can increase the risk of chronic illness, including the disease of substance abuse. These chemical intoxicants such as drugs and alcohol can become a form of self-medication for relieving the feelings of hopelessness, low self-worth, and despair that define this mental health condition.

Dual Diagnosis As An Integral Part Of Drug Addiction And Depression Treatment

Learning how to help someone with drug addiction and depression means finding the right approach and treatment for a new level of recovery. Treatment for a dual diagnosis of depression and drug addiction usually attempts to treat both conditions simultaneously. Without addressing depression that induces drug dependence, or vice versa, the person is at risk of returning to their addictive behaviors or experiencing a recurrence of depressive symptoms.

An integrated model of treatment is used to address both depression and drug addiction at the same time. The person may see the same clinician for both treatments rather than seeing two separate professionals.

This program serves to address the complexity of comorbid symptoms since some may overlap. Moreover, the person can manage emotions and triggers linked with their addiction, which can help maintain and foster recovery.

How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction and Depression
How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression: If you love someone with depression or an addiction, you love someone with a physical, emotional, and spiritual handicap. One who can never fully give you what you need until that person is freed from that bondage.

Treatment typically involves a combination of therapy and medications. Antidepressants may be prescribed to help stabilize mood and drugs that help the person withdraw from substances may be used, as required. At the backbone of treatment are therapies such as individual counseling and group therapy to give a solid foundation for addressing the problems that are related to both disorders.

Dual Diagnosis On How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression

The exact definition of dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring disorders) can differ between institutions. However, it is generally defined as the specific treatment of someone who has been diagnosed with having a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. There is no distinction of whether the mental condition led to substance abuse or vice versa. Addiction treatment professionals understand that mental health and substance abuse have a complex relationship that is difficult to extricate from one another. Standard therapeutic approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), and prolonged exposure therapy (PET).

Find The Right Treatment Plan At We Level Up Florida

We Level Up Florida offers primary mental health treatment with secondary co-occurring diagnosis treatment. We’re able to treat the entirety of mental health disorders from primary depression treatment to secondary co-occurring substance abuse disorders. Drug Addiction And Depression are co-occurring disorders and require that both be treated for long-term recovery success. Talk to us, learn more about the dual diagnostic approach to depression and addiction treatment. Contact our team at We Level Up Florida today for a free mental health assessment as a first step to getting help!


[1] NIDA –,disorders%2C%20particularly%20depression%20and%20anxiety.

[2] NCBI – How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression

[3] NIDA – How To Help Someone With Drug Addiction And Depression

[4] Surgeon General Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health –

Drug Addiction and Depression – We Level Up