How is Depression and Addiction Are Interrelated?

According to the UK government, approximately 589,000 people in England are dependent on alcohol use disorder, and about a quarter of them receive mental health medication.

While mental health conditions like depression increase the risk of physical health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, substance use disorder or addiction affects a person’s brain and behaviour. And both conditions are interrelated. Depression can lead to addiction and vice-versa, but the link is complex.

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Depression may motivate you to drink alcohol or use drugs to self-medicate the symptoms. On the other hand, chronic use of drugs or alcohol and withdrawal may trigger or worsen the symptoms of depression. Luckily, depression and addiction are treatable using dual diagnosis treatment plans. Also, when an individual receives treatment for one condition, the signs of the other improve too.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health condition where individuals experience feelings of hopelessness, low mood, loss of pleasure, and changes in sleeping and eating habits. In fact, for some people, especially men, depression may look like overworking, over-exercising, or even anger instead of sadness.

Depressive mental states that are often associated with addiction include:

  • Bipolar depression
  • Substance-or medication-induced depression
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)

What is Addiction?

Addiction or substance use disorder is a chronic brain dysfunction where an individual finds it hard to quit the substance they are using despite experiencing harmful consequences. Someone with addiction may experience symptoms such as:

  • Display a lack of self-control
  • Lack of an emotional response
  • Have an increased desire for the substance
  • Be unable to stay away from the substance of choice or stop addictive behaviour
  • Dismiss how their behaviour may be causing problems

Addiction can be mild or severe and significantly contribute to the development of depressive disorders.

What is the Link Between Depression and Addiction?

Though there is a strong link between depression and addiction, one condition may lead to another, and the cause-and-effect relationship between these two conditions is unclear. Also, genetics play a significant role in addiction and depression. It is because specific gene variants contribute to addiction and mental health disorders. Also, research reveals that genetics might cause brain changes that:

  • It makes you more susceptible to mood disorders
  • It makes you prone to developing addiction and depression
  • Causes a response to initial substance exposure promoting chronic misuse

How May Depression Lead to Addiction?

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Most people with depression use alcohol, drugs, and other substances, causing addiction in order to relieve the pain. Even according to PubMed Central, about 32% of people with mood disorders also have an addiction. The most common mental health condition occurring with addiction includes depression. People with this mental health condition often start using drugs like cocaine to boost their mood and have more energy. But these substances only relieve the mood symptoms temporarily and worsen the situation later.

How May Addiction Lead to Depression?

Most people who use chronic substances may develop symptoms of depression. And in people who do not have a genetic or medical history, depression symptoms disappear after medical treatment. Also, the type and length of addiction impact the time it takes for depression symptoms to subside.

When a person uses drugs or alcohol, it worsens existing symptoms in those with a history of mental health disorders like depression. Substance use also masks an underlying mental condition. Also, intoxication and withdrawal symptoms of addiction mimic the symptoms like mania and depression. For example, chronic use of stimulants or drugs like cocaine may cause symptoms similar to mental health conditions.

Symptoms of Depression and Addiction

Depression symptoms differ from person to person, but the common ones may include the following:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Changes in appetite and sleep
  • Feeling agitated
  • Less physical activity
  • Physical aches and pain

Likewise, symptoms of depression also vary depending on the person, the substance of choice, and the existing mental health condition. Continued substance use negatively affects a person’s life, causing:

  • Mood swings
  • Financial strain
  • Decreased participation in hobbies
  • Impaired daily functioning
  • Increased isolation and reduced social interaction
  • Decreased physical health, such as sudden weight loss and interrupted sleep

In addition, people with addiction may also have one or more addiction criteria, including:

  • A tolerance to substances
  • Strong urges or cravings to use substances
  • Repeated failed attempts to stop or control addiction
  • Using substances in more significant amounts for more extended periods than intended
  • Withdrawal symptoms when stopping the use of substances

Treatment Options

Just as symptoms of depression and addiction overlap, so are their treatments. Mental health professionals employ certain medications and therapies to treat addiction and depression. And the treatment of both conditions simultaneously is called dual diagnosis treatment and may be more effective for the sufferers. The addiction recovery treatment plans can also be tailored to an individual’s specific conditions and symptoms. For example, the treatment plans may include the following:

Behavioural Therapy

One of the most effective behavioural therapy to treat depression and addiction together includes cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is talk therapy where a counsellor or therapist aims to help a person change their irrational thoughts and existing behaviours to cope with challenging situations.


Most doctors may prescribe antidepressants to treat mental health conditions. For example:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin), and doxepin (Sinequan)
  • Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), and fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, such as phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and isocarboxazid (Marplan)

Also, doctors prescribe certain medications to treat substance misuse, including:

  • Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone for opioid use disorder
  • Naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram for alcohol use disorder


While medications and treatments can help treat conditions like depression and addiction, living with either can be difficult. But, there are support groups which can help people overcome the situation. These support groups include 12-step anonymous, alcoholics anonymous, and rehab centres for drug abuse.

Bottom Line

Depression and addiction are interrelated. About half of all people suffering from a mental health condition like depression may also experience addiction to alcohol or drugs. Though there is a link between the two states, one does not necessarily cause the other. Also, it is difficult to live with depression or substance use disorder due to affected mental and physical health but dual diagnosis treatment plans can help with addiction recovery. The treatments include medication, therapy, or both. If you are also struggling with mental health conditions or addiction, contact a rehab centre today!



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