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Can Depression Cause Substance Use Disorders?

It may shock you to be taught that individuals dwelling with despair usually tend to develop substance use issues than individuals who don’t have despair.

Substance use issues are contain a sample of drug or alcohol use that may start to intrude along with your day-to-day perform, well being, and high quality of life. In brief, substance use issues transcend occasional drug or alcohol use.

Substance use issues and psychological well being circumstances so typically happen collectively that specialists have given the mixture a particular title: twin prognosis. Major despair is essentially the most generally recognized psychological well being situation amongst folks with a twin prognosis.

Below, you’ll discover an in-depth rationalization of the connection between despair and substance use, together with distinctive dangers related to a twin prognosis. You’ll additionally discover steering on getting assist for despair and substance use, whether or not you meet standards for twin prognosis or not.

If you reside with despair, you may end up utilizing alcohol and different substances to assist ease or higher handle signs of despair. This is usually known as self-medicating.

Evidence suggests folks with despair are virtually twice as prone to self-medicate with alcohol than medication.

Some widespread causes folks could be motivated to self-medicate embody:

  • Soothing undesirable feelings: It could be exhausting to really feel unhappy, lonely, or offended a whole lot of the time. For some, consuming alcohol might loosen up them, give them a break from the misery, or “numb” their ache.
  • Lifting moods: Depression could make it powerful to really feel happiness or pleasure, even when good issues occur in your life. Some folks may really feel as if they will solely really feel good — or really feel something in any respect — whereas underneath the influences of alcohol or different substances.
  • Getting some sleep: Depression and insomnia typically go hand in hand. Some folks flip to sedatives to knock out.
  • Boosting vitality ranges: Depression typically saps vitality, partially as a result of lack of sleep. Some folks might use stimulants to really feel extra alert.

Alcohol and medicines might briefly masks or ease your signs, it’s true. But they will’t utterly eliminate these signs or deal with the underlying situation. When you cease utilizing them, in different phrases, your despair signs will usually come again.

You may finally end up growing a tolerance, which suggests it is advisable use extra of the substance to get an analogous impact.

In time, you may additionally grow to be depending on the substance, which suggests you want the substance on your physique to perform because it usually would. Dependence might enhance your possibilities of habit.

Learn extra about several types of habit.

Self-medication tends to be more common amongst individuals who lack entry to psychological well being care. If you’re dwelling with untreated despair, you may end up doing something you’ll be able to to get reduction out of your signs.

Research from 2018 additionally suggests youth usually tend to develop circumstances like despair and nervousness first. An earlier prognosis of those circumstances might assist decrease their possibilities of additionally growing a substance use dysfunction.

Just as despair can issue into substance use, substance use issues can even play a component in despair. More extreme substance use issues usually tend to contribute to despair.

Substance use can contribute to despair in 4 essential methods:


Many substances, notably alcohol, can immediate the short-term launch of dopamine in your mind, which may produce emotions of enjoyment.

But they will additionally increase inflammation within the mind. Inflammation, in flip, makes it more durable on your mind to provide mood-boosting chemical substances like serotonin and dopamine by itself.


Alcohol and medicines don’t simply cut back ranges of mood-boosting chemical substances in your mind. They can even drastically enhance ranges of chemical substances associated to emphasize.

According to a 2014 research review, individuals who use MDMA frequently have as much as 4 instances the extent of the stress hormone cortisol of their our bodies than individuals who don’t use MDMA.


When you employ alcohol or medication frequently, your mind might develop to rely upon these substances to perform.

If you all of a sudden cease utilizing these substances, it might take some time on your mind to regulate and produce the degrees of serotonin, dopamine, and different necessary chemical substances it usually would. In the meantime, you may really feel low, numb, or have hassle discovering pleasure or curiosity in your common routine and each day actions — all of which may additionally occur with despair.

As a consequence, you may wind up utilizing substances once more, merely to really feel like your normal self.


Spending a whole lot of time consuming alcohol and utilizing medication can finally sabotage your profession or schoolwork, to not point out have an effect on relationships.

Isolation could make it tougher to get encouragement, sympathy, and affection — emotional assist can go a good distance towards serving to you handle and address psychological well being signs. This might, partially, assist clarify why loneliness can enhance your possibilities of growing despair.

There’s one other potential rationalization for twin prognosis. In some circumstances, substance use issues and despair might stem from a shared root trigger.

Depression and SUD can each be attributable to dysfunction in sure components of the mind, such because the:

  • circadian clock, which controls your sleep-wake cycle
  • hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls your stress response
  • reward circuits, which management motivation and satisfaction

Trauma and abuse can even contribute to a twin prognosis, particularly if the abuse occurred in childhood.

If you skilled abuse, neglect, or different maltreatment in childhood, you’re up to 3 times as likely to develop despair as friends who didn’t expertise childhood abuse. You’re additionally extra prone to develop a substance use dysfunction.

Even if in case you have despair, it’s attainable to have a wholesome relationship with alcohol and different substances. That stated, since despair and substance use issues can feed into one another, it by no means hurts to apply some warning.

A couple of indicators of doubtless regarding substance use:

  • You spend a whole lot of time fascinated about your subsequent probability to drink alcohol or use substances.
  • You know your substance use has had a destructive affect in your profession and relationships, however you’ll be able to’t deliver your self to care — or cease utilizing the substance.
  • Once the results of the medication or alcohol put on off, you are feeling much more exhausted and bitter about life.
  • You want an increasing number of of the substance to maintain your temper and vitality steady.
  • You really feel responsible or ashamed about your substance use however you’ll be able to’t cease even whenever you attempt.
  • You really feel so hopeless about your future that the potential long-term results of substance use don’t appear to matter a lot compared.

If you’ve observed any of the above indicators, a psychological well being skilled can provide extra assist and steering with subsequent steps.

Which got here first?

Not certain whether or not your despair occurred by itself (major despair) or in relation to substance use (substance-induced despair)?

It can typically assist to contemplate how and when your despair signs appeared.

If you may have a twin prognosis, you may discover your signs more durable to handle than for those who had both despair or a substance use dysfunction alone.

Compared to folks with a single prognosis at one time, these with a twin prognosis are more likely to:

  • have extra extreme despair signs
  • relapse when attempting to stop substances
  • have a decrease high quality of life
  • try suicide

According to a 2013 longitudinal study on 816 members, the order by which the diagnoses seem might have an effect on suicide threat. The research adopted members between the ages of 16 and 30 to learn how many developed despair, alcohol use dysfunction, or one situation after the opposite.

Most individuals who had each circumstances at totally different instances developed despair first. Over a 3rd of this group reported not less than one suicide try.

The tried suicide charges amongst this group have been:

  • twice as excessive as they have been for individuals who developed alcohol use dysfunction earlier than despair
  • 3 instances as excessive as they have been for individuals who solely developed despair
  • 9 instances as excessive as they have been for individuals who solely developed alcohol use dysfunction

Study authors theorize the folks on this group might have had extra extreme and continual types of despair than the opposite members, however they couldn’t draw any conclusions about why folks within the depression-first group had greater charges of tried suicide.

Treatment for a twin prognosis usually addresses each psychological well being circumstances on the similar time.

To put it one other manner, you don’t must stop utilizing substances earlier than looking for assist for despair. Likewise, you don’t want to attend till your despair improves earlier than getting assist for substance use.

A therapist or different educated specialist might advocate a remedy method that features remedy, remedy, and assist teams.


Medication may help tackle the physiological causes of despair and substance use issues.

Antidepressants may help degree out the neurotransmitters concerned in despair. While they don’t instantly enhance signs of a substance use dysfunction, they could indirectly help by decreasing the signs of despair contributing to the will to make use of substances.

If you may have alcohol use dysfunction or opioid use dysfunction, drugs may help cut back your cravings and withdrawal signs.

Medications for alcohol use dysfunction embody:

  • naltrexone
  • acamprosate
  • disulfiram

Medications for opioid use dysfunction embody:

  • buprenorphine
  • methadone
  • naltrexone

While it’s attainable to take antidepressants concurrently these drugs, take into account that some medicines aren’t really useful collectively. For occasion, each methadone and the antidepressant sertraline can elevate your serotonin ranges. If you are taking them collectively, your serotonin ranges might grow to be dangerously excessive and result in serotonin syndrome.

A health care provider or psychiatrist can provide extra details about your choices for remedy remedy.


Therapy helps tackle the social and emotional roots of your psychological well being points.

Some approaches used for twin prognosis embody:

  • Cognitive behavioral remedy (CBT): This method may help you tackle distorted thought patterns and unhelpful behaviors that issue into each despair and substance use.
  • Motivational interviewing: This method may help you resolve conflicted emotions round substance use or self-sabotaging habits.
  • Dialectical behavioral remedy (DBT): This method may help you be taught and apply new methods to manage emotional misery and higher handle low moods, cravings, and withdrawal signs.

Support teams

If your price range proper now doesn’t stretch to remedy, otherwise you merely don’t really feel able to work with knowledgeable but, you may take into account a assist group as a substitute. You can even be part of a assist group together with particular person remedy.

Support teams create area for folks with related issues and psychological well being signs to get collectively and assist one another as equals. Members can share recommendation, provide consolation, and have a good time successes.

If you may have a twin prognosis, you could need to try:

Check out our picks for the very best assist teams for despair.

Even for those who don’t have entry to skilled remedy, you don’t should navigate your signs alone.

Depression and substance use typically go hand-in-hand. Sometimes despair can result in substance use, however substance use can even contribute to despair.

No matter which situation got here first, the gold normal for twin prognosis remedy addresses all your signs and issues on the similar time. Your restoration journey might contain remedy, remedy, assist teams, or a mix of all.

The most necessary factor to recollect is that this: Both despair and substance use issues can enhance with remedy. Professional assist could make an enormous distinction in your signs, as soon as you are feeling prepared to hunt it out.

Emily Swaim is a contract well being author and editor who focuses on psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she obtained her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can discover extra of her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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