Depression – A Symptom or an Effect?

In relation to addiction, is depression considered a symptom of addiction or an effect that is born as a consequence? Approximately a third of the total people who suffer from substance use disorder also have depression. How exactly are these two related? Does one come before another?

Depression and Addiction

In a study involving people with major depressive disorder, 16.5% of the population was reported to be struggling with alcohol use disorder. 18% of the population was reported to be struggling with drug use disorder. Based on these statistics, it would be a calculated guess to estimate that addiction to alcohol and drugs may be related to depression. If you are interested in private rehabilitation hospitals Melbourne head over to The Hader Clinic.

Depression - A Symptom or an Effect?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, people with diagnoses of mental illnesses consume 84% of America’s cocaine, while 69% of America’s alcohol. While these are jarring numbers, they certainly clarify a link between mental illness and substance use disorders.

Signs of Depression During Addiction

While every person has a different reaction to depression and addiction, certain universal signs and symptoms can help doctors identify a pattern. Some of these signs are listed below.

  • Changed sleep routines
  • Lost interest in hobbies and activities they otherwise enjoy
  • Changed appetite (loss/increase)
  • Feelings of despair and guilt
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Having trouble with concentration
  • Having suicidal ideation or thoughts

If you or a loved one you know are struggling with the symptoms mentioned above, visit a professional before coming up with a diagnosis. Pinpointing depression during addiction can sometimes be tricky.

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How Drug Rehab Centers Offer Depression Care

Being treated in a rehabilitation center for addiction is one of the great ways of trying to become sober. However, when people with drug use disorders also suffer from depression, their treatment plans in rehab also differ. Depending on the facility, most rehab centers have in-house therapists and counseling available for depression. Sometimes, antidepressants become a part of the medication administered to the person.

Such treatment is known as dual diagnosis treatment. This means that a person has been diagnosed with both an addiction disorder and also a mental health disorder. The therapy, counselling, and overall care provided to people with dual diagnoses differs from a normal diagnosis. This is because this overlap can sometimes present problems such as worse withdrawal symptoms, as mental health may decline when someone is weaned off a substance.

Common Antidepressants and Types

Antidepressants come in many types. NASSAs (noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants) are used when people cannot take SSRIs. The most common and arguably the ones that may cause addiction are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Fluoxetine (Prozac) is an SSRI.

Mirtazapine (Zi spin) is a NASSA. Another type is SNRIs (serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors). Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is an SNRI.

TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) are usually more harmful because overdoses can occur. They’re an old antidepressant but are still administered sometimes when other treatments and medications don’t work. Amitriptyline (Elavil) is a TCA.

SARIs (serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors) are also a type of antidepressant. They’re usually not the primary choice, but may be used if nothing else is working. Trazodone (Molinari) is an example of a SARI.

Lastly, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are old antidepressants but rarely may be used. Dicarboxamide (Mar plan) is an MAOI. Since MAOIs may have severe side effects, they are prescribed only by specialists.

SSRIs are the most widely used antidepressant because they do not cause severe side effects. Also, in the case of an overdose, it will likely be serious.

Is Addiction to Antidepressants Possible?

While addiction can occur with any substance, antidepressant addiction is quite different from general substance use addiction (such as opioids or heroin). Although not impossible, people generally do not have an addiction to antidepressants, but they do still feel withdrawal symptoms. This is because developing a physical dependence on antidepressants is possible.

However, people who struggle with antidepressant use disorders don’t feel the same cravings that those with other substance use disorders do.

Antidepressant Dependence vs. Addiction

There’s a distinct difference between dependence and addiction when it comes to antidepressants. Most antidepressants do not have the potency or liability to be able to cause addiction, but in case they do, it is a primary and chronic disease.

It is neurobiological, and there are genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors that influence its manifestation and development. Addiction can be characterized by compulsive use, loss of control relating to the use, and/or continuing use even though it’s causing harm.

Dependence, on the other hand, is when the body adapts to the medication and experiences withdrawal symptoms when the medication stops being administered. Dependence is usually caused by simply taking medication for a long period, and usually cannot be controlled.

Withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant but do not usually last a long time. If someone is weaned off an antidepressant, they are less likely to feel dependence and withdrawal symptoms, as compared to quitting cold turkey.


Depression can be one of the root causes of addiction, or it could be an effect of it. Either way, there’s a likelihood that the two are related.

#1 Being diagnosed with both substances use disorder and major depressive disorder is one of the many forms of a dual diagnosis. Treatment plans for dual diagnosis differ from standard plans.

#2 Rehabilitation centers for substance use often cater to people’s depression as well. Psychiatric and psychological help is available through medications and counselling/therapy.

#3 While developing an addiction to antidepressants is usually not common, it is not impossible either. However, antidepressant dependence is more common than addiction.

#4 Addiction is neurobiological and chronic and has psychosocial, environmental, and genetic factors that come into play. Withdrawal is not chronic, and usually, people only feel severe symptoms for the first week.

#5 To avoid antidepressant withdrawal, weaning off the drug is better than quitting cold turkey.

Regardless of the link between depression and addiction, help for both is available. If you or a loved one you know is suffering, they can reach out for help.