Co-Occurring Depression & Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Depression affects nearly 4% of adults in the world.1 However, many people do not realize how frequently those with depression also struggle with an alcohol use disorder. Some studies estimate that as many as 40% of people with depression also have some form of an alcohol use disorder during the course of their lives, while approximately 17.2% have a drug use disorder.2

This article will explain how depression and substance use disorders can go hand in hand, as well as what the symptoms of both conditions are. In addition, it will explore the common risk factors for developing simultaneous mental health and substance use disorders and ways to get help for someone with these co-occurring conditions.

Understanding Depression and Substance Use Disorder

worried young person

When a person has depression or another mental health disorder occurring at the same time, it is known as a co-occurring disorder, or a dual diagnosis.3

It is important to note that either type of disorder can occur first.3 While a person can have a mood disorder and then develop a substance use disorder, it doesn’t mean that one caused the other.2 Furthermore, genetic or psychological stressors can cause both types of disorders to emerge simultaneously.2

Symptoms of Depression

While there are several different types of depression, including postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder, when people have depression, they generally display a variety of symptoms, including:4

  • Sad or anxious moods that persist.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Irritable behavior.
  • Guilt.
  • Feelings of worthlessness.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyable.
  • Fatigue.
  • Talking or moving slower than normal.
  • Restlessness or feeling fidgety.
  • Problems concentrating or with memory.
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much.
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Aches, headaches, or stomach issues with no clear cause or response to treatment.

Symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder

The symptoms of substance use disorder are not the same in everyone. Generally, if a person shows at least 2 of the following symptoms in a 12-month period, the person can be diagnosed as having a substance use disorder:5

  • Using more of a substance than was originally intended.
  • Having cravings to use a substance.
  • Using a substance despite it causing problems with relationships.
  • Giving up other interests and pursuits to use the substance.
  • Spending a lot of time and money obtaining the substance, using it, and recovering from using it.
  • Being unable to fulfill responsibilities at home, work, or school due to substance use.
  • Using a substance in high-risk situations, such as while driving.
  • Using substances, despite knowing the use makes a medical or mental health disorder worse.
  • Making unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop using the substance.
  • Getting used to the effects of a substance and having to take more and more of it to achieve the desired effects.
  • Having signs of withdrawal when use of the substance ceases.

Other Co-Occurring Disorders

woman concerned about substance misuse

Depression is not the only type of mental health disorder that occurs alongside a substance use disorder. It is common to see other co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and addiction and PTSD and addiction.6 Bipolar and substance misuse also occur in many people.6 Some other types of mental illness that co-occur with substance use disorders include:6

  • Personality disorders.
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Can Depression Cause Drug or Alcohol Addiction?

Depression and addiction occur together in many cases, but this does not mean that one condition causes the other. There are a number of reasons why these two conditions can co-occur alongside one another, including the following:6

  • Genetics. Both types of disorders share common risk factors, including possible genetic links. These genetic tendencies toward a disorder may be triggered by stress or trauma and can make people more likely to develop a mental health or substance use disorder.
  • Mental disorders. Mental health disorders can increase the likelihood that someone develops a substance use disorder, as brain changes in those with mental illness may make the effects of substances greater than in someone without a mental illness. In addition, people with depression, PTSD, or other mental health disorders that may have been caused by genetics or their environment, may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, worsening their overall experience.
  • Substance use. Likewise, substance use may lead to changes in the brain that make people more vulnerable to developing mental health issues.

Symptoms of Co-Occurring Depression & Alcoholism

When a person has both depression and alcoholism, the symptoms of both disorders can look similar. Depending on the severity of the condition, the person may present with such symptoms as:4,7

  • Drinking until blacking out.
  • Binge drinking.
  • Lying or being deceitful about drinking patterns.
  • Drinking alone to prevent others from knowing how much drinking is occurring.
  • Getting anxious if alcohol is not available at a social event.
  • Having mood swings.
  • Being fatigued.
  • Experiencing changes in energy level.
  • Having sleep disturbances.

Symptoms of Co-Occurring Depression & Drug Misuse

Depending on the substance being misused, the signs of co-occurring depression and drug use can look different.

For example, someone abusing stimulants can exhibit behaviors such as irritability or anxiety, sleeping at unusual times, or weight loss or gain. Likewise, a person who has been misusing a depressant, such as Xanax or another benzodiazepine, may act sleepy and appear to have trouble concentrating. Since symptoms can be specific to the type of drug being used, someone with a substance use disorder and depression may present differently.

The one common denominator for all individuals with depression and a co-occurring substance abuse disorder is the presence of depressive symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and sadness in their life, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating.4

How to Help Someone With Co-Occurring Depression and Addiction

A couple with a therapistThere are many ways to help someone with a co-occurring disorder. You can take action by researching available treatment options, calling the facility to discuss possible rehab insurance coverage, and confirming whether the program is covered by the person’s insurance. You can call and ask for information from the treatment center and its approach to treatment, and what patients can expect so you can approach your loved one with the information in hand.

It’s never easy to talk with someone you care about who misuses drugs or alcohol or is depressed. However, when speaking to loved ones, it is important to approach them when they are sober. Speak in facts without using labels. You can express your worries and concerns and offer to take them to a treatment program, a doctor, or a support group.8

Treatment for Co-Occurring Depression and Substance Use Disorder

If you are looking for drug rehab in Tampa,  River Oaks can offer you a combination of different treatments for co-occurring disorders. River Oaks offers levels of treatment for alcohol, drugs, and mental health disorders, all while providing quality care with compassion.

Call River Oaks today to discuss your situation with an admissions specialist who can give you information about what to expect in inpatient rehab, as well as information about our Riverview, FL medical detox program, our outpatient substance abuse programs, and the programming we offer for co-occurring disorders.

In addition, our admissions specialists can help you learn more about your insurance benefits that may help cover the costs of treatment, as well as other ways of paying for rehab. They can also answer any questions you may have.

Call us to talk about how to start the admissions process so you can get started on your way to recovery.

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