The Connection Between Depression and Substance Use Disorder

Depression in America

Clinical depression is at worrisome levels across the nation. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), “Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3 and affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older”.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

Depression and substance use disorder (SUD) often go hand-in-hand, with close to half of those who are diagnosed with depression, also being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Some of the different types of depression include:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Dysthymia
  • Atypical depression
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)

People suffering from mental health conditions and mood disorders require both substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as behavioral therapy. It’s important that these individuals seek treatment through rehab centers that offer treatment programs featuring coping strategies so they understand how to manage their anxiety and depressive disorders.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Since there are several different types of depression, the signs and symptoms and signs will vary. Some of the common signs of depression include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Inability to sleep throughout the night
  • Appetite changes
  • Changes in weight
  • Suicidal thoughts

It’s important to also look out for symptoms of addiction in people who struggle with depression. Many people with depression suppress their symptoms by resorting to drug or alcohol use as a means to cope with and mitigate the discomfort they feel.

The Vicious Cycle of Depression and Addiction

Those who struggle with depression are more likely to also struggle with substance abuse.  Likewise, people with substance use disorders are more likely to struggle with a mental health disorder. Depression and substance use disorder can become a toxic and hazardous cycle. Depression can lead to substance abuse and substance abuse can lead to depression or exacerbate it. Both can come out of the same risk factors such as unresolved trauma or a family history of addiction and substance abuse.

Self-medicating is not a long-term solution.  This ‘band-aid’ approach can exacerbate the symptoms of both the addiction as well as the mental illness. The best way to untangle these disorders and to truly heal mental and emotional pain is to seek professional help.

The Importance of Treating Depression and Addiction In Tandem

When a person is diagnosed with substance use disorder and one or more mental health conditions, we call this a dual diagnosis.  Dual diagnosis treats both conditions together, and it’s absolutely essential to achieving long-term recovery because each condition is actually a risk factor for the other. When you treat both disorders through dual diagnosis treatment, one-on-one therapy, individualized counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, inpatient rehab, behavioral health programs, and a personalized treatment plan, patients are able to navigate their conditions with success. Outpatient rehab is also an important component of overcoming alcohol and drug abuse.  In outpatient treatment depression and anxiety disorders continue to be addressed which reinforces what was taught during inpatient rehab while also providing structure, a sober community, and ongoing support.

Medications for Depression

At WhiteSands, about 50% of our clients come in on antidepressants, while about 80% leave on them.  There are several medications available that can help people struggling with depression better manage their symptoms. They are designed to stabilize the patient so that they can function day-to-day without experiencing the side effects of depression.

Some of the common medications used for depression include:

Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants today.  They have fewer side effects of antidepressants that were more commonly prescribed in the past.  SSRIs increase the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the body.  Examples of SSRIs include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs are also fairly common.  These drugs increase the availability of two neurotransmitters in a person’s body, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  Examples of SNRIs include:

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Examples of Tricyclic antidepressants include:

  • Amoxapine (Asendin)
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
  • Doxepin (Silenor)
  • Trimipramine (Surmontil)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) works best when coupled with therapy and counseling. Medication alone may not be enough for an individual who struggles with an underlying mental health condition as well as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at WhiteSands

Included in WhiteSands’ various levels of care is dual diagnosis treatment. We offer treatment plans for co-occurring depression, alcohol rehab, mental disorders, clinical depression, prescription opioids, and anxiety disorder, among many others. We have helped tens of thousands of individuals overcome and control their disorders, whether it is alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or mental illness.

Comorbidity can be overcome and managed with professional help. During patients’ stay at WhiteSands Treatment, they will meet with their primary therapist multiple times per week. Depending on the severity of the substance use disorder and the underlying mental illness, a longer or shorter period of treatment will be necessary. There is no better time to seek help than now.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.