Co-Occurring Disorders: Depression & Addiction

One-third of people who struggle with addiction also have depression. Treat your dual diagnosis virtually.

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By Workit Health Content Team

Medically Reviewed by Chris Prevette, PA-C

Reviewed: June 21, 2022

Depression is treatable​

More than 8% of American adults live with depression. Depression is an overwhelming feeling of sadness or loss of interest in day-to-day life that can make you feel hopeless. This mood disorder can have a major impact on quality of life. For some, it affects their appetite, sleeping patterns, ability to work, and relationships. Depression and substance use disorders are common co-occurring disorders. We often refer to this as a dual diagnosis.

Depression is treatable. About 80-90% of people who face depression benefit from treatment and find long-term improvement in their mental health and quality of life.

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the safest and most proven first-line of treatment against depression. They affect brain chemistry and work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Many people begin to see a reduction of their symptoms within the first 2 months of treatment. SSRIs are not habit-forming, so they are a good option for many in addiction treatment.


Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can be more effective for treating depression in some people. They affect brain chemistry by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. SNRIs can also sometimes be used to treat other conditions, such as anxiety disorders and chronic pain. Your Workit clinician will help you choose the best medication for you.

Atypical Antidepressants

“Atypical antidepressants” is an umbrella term used for medications that are approved to treat depression that don’t fit into other classes of antidepressants. Medications like bupropion, mirtazapine, nefazodone, trazodone, and vortioxetine work differently than SSRIs and SNRIs.

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Asking for help is easier than ever​

Asking for help for any health condition can be challenging. Depression can make it especially difficult to reach out for support.

Workit’s 100% virtual treatment means you can receive expert care from the privacy of your home. Our experienced clinicians understand depression and addiction.

Meet with your care team via private video appointments and receive your medications e-prescribed to your local pharmacy. All of our counselors are licensed and trained in harm reduction, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and other evidence-based techniques proven to help you recover from both your depression and substance use disorder.

Treat co-occurring depression and addiction 

FAQs About Treating Depression and Addiction

How does alcohol affect depression?

It is common for people to drink in an attempt to escape their mental health disorders. Unfortunately, alcohol can make depression worse even for people who don’t drink heavily. Those who drink to manage their depression are much more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder over time.

Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant, which means it depresses the inhibitory centers of the brain, impedes some neural functions, and slows reaction times. In plain terms, it slows down and blocks certain brain functions. Beyond that, it can also affect the reward system in your brain, making it harder to feel good or even just okay without alcohol, exacerbating depressive symptoms.

Can I drink while taking medication for depression?

Mixing alcohol and depression meds can make depression worse instead of better, and can put your health at risk. If you are considering drinking while taking anti-depressants, talk to your doctor first, and then follow their guidance.

With some medications, your doctor may okay moderate drinking. If you don’t know whether you’ll be able to abide by your doctor’s suggested limits, it’s safest not to drink at all.

If you have a dual diagnosis of alcohol use disorder and depression, make sure your doctor knows about both. It may affect which medication or therapy is most effective for your treatment.

How do opioids affect depression?

Using opioids has been linked to subsequent depression, and depression has been associated with longer periods of opioid use.

It is possible for opioid use disorder and depression to create a feedback loop—the presence of one worsens the other. For this reason, it is often best to address depression and opioid use at the same time. Ignoring depression to treat addiction can lead to relapse, and ignoring opioid use disorder to treat depression can prolong mental health struggles.

Can I take medication for depression if I’m taking Suboxone for opioid use disorder?

In most cases, yes. Many antidepressants are well tolerated and effective for those taking Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone).

Your doctor needs to be aware of all medications you’re taking in order to make the best recommendations for your care, but you shouldn’t fear that you’ll be forced to choose between treating your opioid use disorder and your co-occurring mental illness.

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Our pages are medically reviewed and fact-checked by accredited medical professionals to ensure that all statements about medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, procedures and tests, standards of care, and typical protocols are accurate and reflect current guidelines as well as the latest research. However, please remember that the information on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided on this page. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.