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Is Depression Related to Substance Abuse?

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The relationship between depression and substance misuse

How is depression related to substance abuse? According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), there is a strong link between depression and substance use disorders. While estimates vary, anywhere from a third to over half of all people admitted into Boston rehab centers and emergency rooms for substance issues have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

The term coined for when a substance use disorder co-occurs with another mental health issue is “dual diagnosis”. About a third of Americans with a diagnosed substance use disorder also have depression, which is a concerning figure when contrasted with the 6.7 percent of adults in the general US population that have the condition.

The relationship between depression and substance use is often bi-directional though one may also chiefly cause the other. It’s also not uncommon for additional mental health conditions to be present. PTSD and anxiety disorders, for instance, frequently co-occur with depression and are also predictors of drug use in themselves.

Depression and substance misuse share several connections

An article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, referencing a 2013 study, indicates “depression may help predict first-time alcohol dependence.” The relationship between depression and substance misuse may be connected in the following ways:

  • The Brain – Substance abuse and depression both affect similar parts of the brain such as the areas handling stress.
  • Genetics – It can be in your DNA. Genetic factors show that if you are predisposed to develop a mental disorder, it may be followed by substance misuse.
  • Developmental problems – Drug use in younger people can interfere with normal brain development, which can lead to mental illness. It can also happen in reverse. Mental health issues in children can lead to serious drug or alcohol problems later in life.
  • Trauma – A serious trauma can prompt either or both conditions of depression or substance misuse.
  • Family history – When depression and substance abuse is part of an individual’s family environment, that person’s risk of following down the same path is increased.
  • Higher suicide risk – When there is a family history of both substance abuse and mental illness, the risk of suicide is significantly higher.

All of these strong correlations point to the importance of getting treatment as early as possible. Depression and addiction recovery for yourself or your loved one will help restore your life, establish self-worth, and build healthy relationships.

If you are in the Boston Area, a simple phone call will connect you to people who can help with locating the right treatment center for you or your loved one.

Symptoms of a Dual Diagnosis

Not all mental illness is the same, and only your doctor can determine your particular problem. In any case, there is a strong relationship between depression and problematic substance use. Dual diagnosis indicators vary from illness-to-illness, but some common symptoms may be present in most.

  • Individuals withdraw from social connections to family, friends, and other supportive people.
  • The person may experience noticeable weight gain or loss due to a significant change in appetite.
  • The individual may exhibit reckless, angry, or violent behavior.
  • There may be changes in sleeping habits including severe insomnia or excessive sleep.
  • The individual may experience severe anxiety.
  • The person may have difficulty concentrating even during a discussion.
  • Delusions and hallucinations may occur frequently.
  • The individual expresses deep feelings of despair, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
  • The individual has difficulty staying employed due to behavioral problems or absenteeism.
  • Students miss classes and grades suffer as a result.
  • Constant mood swings and behavior issues create problems with relationship maintenance.
  • The individual experiences frequent shifts in moods and energy levels.
  • The person uses drugs or alcohol to cope with the problems in his or her life.

The connection between trauma and substance misuse

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), serious trauma can result in the onset of a co-occurring disorder. Many types of trauma can be the trigger including witnessing a death or tragedy, war experiences, physical or sexual abuse, and being the victim of a violent act. When one of these experiences happens to a child or teenager, they are more vulnerable to developing a co-occurring mental health disorder. Brain chemistry is altered when traumatic experiences occur. This places additional stress on children and teens which can result in turning to substance abuse to cope.

Find help for depression and substance misuse

It’s important to seek help as soon as the first signs of a problem are noticed. If you are in the Greater Boston Area, a phone call can connect you to someone ready to help find you the best treatment center for you or a loved one. Early treatment can prevent depression and other co-occurring mental health problems from complicating the already difficult situation.

How It Works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, our calls are confidential and are available for 24/7 help.

Calls from your area will be answered by Legacy Healing Center, and network of treatment centers who can be found here

We are available 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work for a treatment center and will discuss whether their facility may be an option for you.

These calls are offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither this site nor anyone who answers the call receives a commission or fee dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can: browse top-rated listings, visit our homepage, or visit SAMHSA, at, or by calling 800-662-HELP. You may also contact The Florida Department of Children and Family Services at