Does My Addiction to My Depression Meds Count as a Dual Diagnosis?

Does My Addiction to My Depression Meds Count as a Dual Diagnosis?

The Mayo Clinic defines depression as a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in everyday activities.[i] Depression affects every aspect of your life, including how you think, feel and respond to situations on a daily basis. Depression is different from just having the blues, and is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression, or major depressive disorder, requires both medication and psychotherapy for successful treatment. But the medications associated with treatment for depression are highly habit forming and can lead to addiction. When a person suffers from depression and is also addicted to the medication used to treat the depression, an integrated treatment program is needed to successfully address each issue.

Depression Basics

Depression (or clinical depression) often begins with a traumatic event or a series of events that cause a person to feel extremely overwhelmed. The death of a loved one, an illness, the loss of a job or financial worries can all lead to depression. People who suffer from this illness often describe the onset of depression as a “downward spiral.” Meaning that a succession of difficult events led to their current state of mind, rather than one single trauma. When stressful or traumatic events happen, many people withdraw from family and friends. Unfortunately you increase your risk of developing depression if you stop seeing the people you love as you deal with your situation. The Mayo Clinic lists the following as symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness, fear, hopelessness or emptiness
  • Anger, irritability or frustration even over insignificant things
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities, hobbies, sports or other things you typically enjoy
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy or constantly tired
  • Changes in appetite, such as having no appetite to uncontrollable food cravings
  • Restlessness or anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, blaming yourself for things out of your control or fixating on things in the past
  • Slowed body movements or speaking
  • Inability to think straight, concentrate, make decisions or remember
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained aches and pains, such as backaches or headaches

Those with a family history of depression or mental illness, as well as people who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease or pain-causing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia are at a higher risk for developing depression. If you or your loved one has one or more of the symptoms listed, it’s time to get help.

Dual Diagnosis Explained

A dual diagnosis is given when a person struggles with both addiction and some type of mental health condition, like depression. This is true even when the addiction is caused by the medications used to treat depression. Addiction often develops in these cases because the medications used are highly habit forming. This is especially true if you or a loved one has an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness. When depression goes undiagnosed and untreated, people who struggle often turn to prescription pain killers, street drugs or alcohol to feel better. But the side effects of these substances only make the situation worse. Alcohol is a depressant, so drinking as a way to escape depression worsens the depression. Stimulants and antidepressants increase metabolism and energy, but the downward spiral caused when the drugs are withdrawn can increase depression. Getting simultaneous treatment for drug addiction and depression is the only path to true recovery.

Treatment for Addiction and Depression

According to the National Association of Mental Illnesses, 37 percent of those who struggle with alcohol addiction and 53 percent of those with a drug addiction also suffer from some type of co-occurring disorder.[ii] That’s why treatment in an integrated treatment facility is so important. Integrated treatment centers work with patients to uncover the cause of their addiction while providing appropriate treatment for the mental health condition. When depression is left untreated, the person struggling cannot lift his spirits on his own. This makes the temptation to use drugs or alcohol, or to use more of the antidepressant medication than is prescribed overwhelming. Nurturing both an understanding of your mental illness and a healthy relationship with the medications used to treat it increases the likelihood of a successful recovery.

Finding Help for Dual Diagnosis

People who have co-occurring disorders need the help of a specialized integrated treatment facility for appropriate help. Simultaneous treatment of these conditions dramatically increases the likelihood of rehab success and decreases the risk of relapse. If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline – it’s available 24 hours a day – to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options. You need not suffer alone!


[i] Mayo Clinic. “Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)”. Accessed February 1, 2016.

[ii] The Articles Factory. “The Link Between Depression and Substance Abuse.” Accessed February 1, 2016.