Dual Diagnosis

Does Drug Rehab Treat Depression?

Depression is often linked to substance abuse. Although dual diagnosis can be complicated, it’s a treatable condition. Learn more in our blog.

Does Drug Rehab Treat Depression?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 20, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

It is not uncommon to experience depression while in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). Depression itself is much more prevalent than many people expect. According to NIH, an estimated 21 million adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2020.

Depression and substance abuse have a connection. According to the American Addiction Center, over 20% of American adults who struggle with alcoholism can also be diagnosed with depression. Conversely, more than one in four adults with mental health issues also have SUD. After all, using substances can be a way of self-medicating to escape pain or other negative feelings. Although, once the relief or high wears off, the depression returns and is intensified.

Dual Diagnosis and Co-occurring Disorders

If an individual has SUD and a mental health condition like depression, they may receive a dual diagnosis or co-occurring diagnosis.

When a medical team determines the mental health condition was caused by or is contributing to SUD, the patient will likely receive a diagnosis of co-occurring disorders. In other words, with co-occurring disorders, SUD and the mental health condition are very closely related. They may be less related for people with a dual diagnosis than for those with co-occurring disorders.

What Causes Depression?

People are still researching the risk factors of depression. The more that is understood about these factors, the more likely treatment centers can use them to help people who struggle with depression.

These factors include:

#1. Brain Structure

The brain plays a major role in a person's ability to sleep, regulate their mood, and perform many other necessary biological functions.

#2. Genetics

Mental disorders can be hereditary. Genetic research has found that people with a close family member who had depression are more likely to have depression themselves.

#3. Trauma and Adverse Experiences

People who experienced child abuse, the death or divorce of loved ones, and other traumatic experiences may fall into depression. If they remain in the depressive state for a long time, the depression can become more permanent.

Relapse Risk

Unfortunately, having depression and SUD can put people at a higher risk of relapse. After all, as a person’s body begins to function without the substances on which it is dependent, they often experience uncomfortable physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

What can make this especially difficult for people is the fact that many of them used to use substances as a coping method. Withdrawal symptoms can include scary, lonely, and dark emotions, which can worsen depression, especially when people feel they have no way to cope. This puts people at high risk of relapse.

Regardless of whether the depression or SUD developed first, certain treatment centers can help. Treatment centers experienced in handling dual diagnoses offer support for depression and other mental health conditions while treating addiction.

Many people with depression and SUD choose to attend intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment after they are discharged from an inpatient treatment center. Getting the right amount of support is crucial because the journey toward recovery can take a great deal of time, effort, and lifestyle changes. The development of healthy coping mechanisms and the focus on wellness in all areas of life can help people who have depression resist relapse, improve their lives, and boost their mental health in the long run.

Which Treatments Can Address Depression in Recovery?

When individuals are choosing a treatment center for SUD and depression, they may wonder which treatments they should consider. These treatments can help address depression as individuals recover from SUD.


Many types of therapy can help. These include:

  • Talk therapy

  • Psychotherapy

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

  • Group therapy

  • Family therapy


SSRIs can ease depressive symptoms. Anxiolytics can relieve anxiety and improve sleep. In some cases, antipsychotics can improve the symptoms of more extreme depressive and psychiatric symptoms.

If a treatment center offers medication as part of their program, individuals can discuss with their medical team the pros and cons of the medications they suggest.

The Great Outdoors

Hiking, swimming, exercising, and doing other recreational outdoor activities can be healing for people’s mental health. If these activities are too strenuous or taxing, individuals can still find ways to get the benefits of vitamin D and fresh air. For example, a person may take a short walk, start a garden, do gentle yoga in their backyard, or take a book outside and read.

12-Step Programs

Joining a 12-Step program can provide people with community and accountability. They can also offer emotional and social support.


Writing about life can help individuals with self-reflection. It can allow them to see the events of their lives more clearly and process their emotions in a healthy way. When individuals are able to read through their journals, they can see how they have felt over time. This may give them motivation for continuing to engage with life and take care of their well-being.

Art Therapy

What journaling does with words, art can do with colors, forms, and lines. Through engaging in art therapy, many people can find relief from their emotions and can gain new perspectives on life.

The Forge Recovery Center Treats both Addiction & Depression

Depression can happen to anyone, and it is amplified by substance abuse. Unfortunately, depression often causes feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and hopelessness, which can make recovery more difficult. Reaching out for help for yourself or a loved one can feel daunting.

That’s why it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge and find a treatment center that can address the challenges of dual diagnosis with professionalism, understanding, and hope.

At The Forge Recovery Center, we understand how depression and SUD can exacerbate each other, and we continually update and individualize our programs to fit each person’s needs. We care deeply about helping each person achieve well-being in all areas of life. To that end, we use evidence-based treatment in our treatment programs, which include outpatient and aftercare options.

Reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today to learn more.

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