Does Depression Lead to Substance Abuse?

1 min read · 2 sections

Depression isn’t getting “bad news” and then having a bad day or two because of it. And taking the advice from well-intentioned loved ones to read a self-help book or to watch a comedy aren’t necessarily viable solutions for it.

Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is a serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms, which impact how an individual handles daily activities, how they think, and how they feel.

Not everyone who suffers from depression abuses substances, but the co-occurrence of both is not uncommon.

At American Addiction Centers, a nationwide leader in addiction treatment, we treat both substance abuse disorders and co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. We provide both outpatient and residential treatment. If you’re battling a substance use disorder, please reach out for the help that you need.



Depression isn’t just about being sad. There’s more to it than people may think. Depression symptoms need to last two weeks or longer in order for there to be a depression diagnosis. A Woman working at desk holding her head.diagnosis should be done by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. Symptoms need to be present nearly every day for the majority of the day for at least 14 days.

Symptoms may include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Pessimism.
  • Feelings of helplessness, guilt, or worthlessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Decreased energy.
  • Loss of pleasure/interest in activities/hobbies.
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • Loss/increase in appetite/weight changes.
  • Moving/talking more slowly.
  • Persistent “empty,” anxious, or sad mood.
  • Aches/pains without a clear reason for their cause.
  • Difficulty making decisions/concentrating/remembering.
  • Oversleeping/difficulty sleeping.

Not every individual who suffers from depression will experience every symptom. The number of symptoms will vary between individuals.

Additionally, there are different forms of depression:

  • Postpartum depression.
  • Persistent depressive disorder.
  • Seasonal affective disorder.
  • Psychotic depression.
  • Bipolar disorder.

Treatments for depression include talk therapy and antidepressants. If these options prove not to be effective, brain stimulation therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be the more effective choice.


Substance Abuse Mixed with Depression

Alcohol abuse in AmericaRoughly 1/3 of individuals with major depressive disorder has a substance use disorder. Depression can raise the risk of substance abuse, as chemical intoxicants can be a way to self-medicate by numbing feelings of despair. This chemical intoxication can make depressive episodes more severe, thereby exacerbating self-destructive behavior and pessimistic thoughts.

Statistics on Depression and Alcohol:

  • In a nationwide study of 43,093 adults (18 and older), researchers found that 20% of those suffering from a current alcohol addiction also met the criteria for major depressive disorder.
  • Although alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that initially acts as a stimulant, feelings of depression, drowsiness, and lethargy rapidly intensify after consumption.
  • Alcohol use can increase the risk of a suicidal attempt within a depressed individual.

If you’re struggling with an alcohol or substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health issue, you’re not alone. We’re here. There are resources available to help you achieve long-term sobriety and to live a healthy and productive life. Don’t let a battle with substance abuse hinder you. Please reach out to get the help that you need today.

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