Summary: Is there a cause-effect relationship of substance abuse and depression? Does substance abuse cause depression or does depression cause substance abuse? What is the relationship between these diseases?

Cause-Effect Relationship of Substance Abuse and Depression

cause-effect relationship of substance abuse and depression

Is there a cause-effect relationship of substance abuse and depression?

What is the cause-effect relationship between depression and substance abuse? Can depression cause one to become addicted to drugs/alcohol? Can an addition to drugs/alcohol lead to depression? The answer is yes. Don’t you hate it when you provide options in which a choice needs to be made and the response is yes? Well, in this case, we have the infamous chicken and the egg scenario. Depression can be caused by substance abuse and vice versa.

Depression is defined as a serious mental illness which can affect one’s mood, behavior, thoughts, and physical well-being.  Substance abuse is defined as a chronic addiction to alcohol or drugs (prescribed or not).  Co-morbidity is the technical term used when both substance abuse and depression are present.

What is the relationship between these two illnesses? Following are some similarities and relationships that exist between substance abuse and depression:

  • Both substance abuse and depression are influenced by the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
  • One of the symptoms of substance abuse may be depression.
  • Depression may be exacerbated with the use of alcohol.
  • Alcohol is a depressant.
  • Alcohol may reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants.
  • Those with depression are at a higher risk of substance abuse.
  • Mental and mood disorders are common in those with substance abuse disorders.
  • Alcohol can activate a gene which may cause depression.
  • Some individuals turn to alcohol or drugs to help cope with depression which tends to make the situation much worse.
  • Depression can be a direct result of substance abuse.
  • Marital and/or financial issues may cause depression and/or substance abuse.
  • Alcohol affects stress hormones which may trigger depression.
  • Alcohol lowers the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin which can directly cause depression.
  • When alcohol is taken to combat depression, the individual generally feels more depressed when the alcohol effects wear off.
  • For those that have both substance abuse and depression, men tend to have substance abuse prior to depression, whereas, women tend to have depression prior to substance abuse.
  • The use of alcohol may increase the risk of suicide by the increase of depression.

Some of the symptoms which may be present include:

Symptoms of Depression Symptoms of Substance Abuse
Unable to find joy in activities previously enjoyed Inability to maintain relationships
Restlessness Aggressiveness and irritability
Change in mood or behavior Change in mood or behavior
Feeling of inadequacy Sounding selfish
Loss of self confidence Feeling run down, depression
Loss of appetite Lying about the amount of substances taken
Lack of interest Giving up activities such as sports
Difficulty Sleeping Having blackouts
Difficulty concentrating Memory Loss, forgetfulness


Notice the similarities in the symptoms. This adds further proof as to the close relationship which exists between these diseases.

Are there common causes between these ailments?

Causes of Depression Causes of Substance Abuse
Genetics/family history Genetics/family history
Chemical imbalance Environment
Substance Abuse Depression
Hormones Increase Performance
Major medical illnesses such as cancer Peer pressure
Stress Stress
Trauma Cope with trauma


Notice that substance abuse may cause depression and depression may cause substance abuse.

To answer my initial question, both substance abuse and depression are both serious diseases. Individuals may have one or the other or a combination of both. Depression may lead to substance abuse and, consequently, substance abuse may lead to depression. Alcohol may exacerbate the feelings of depression.  Depression may be the result of substance abuse.

Treatment of this co-morbidity disease is strategic. It requires a specialist trained to treat these diseases as a package and not independently. Treatment of one, when completed in a silo or bubble, may cause the other to become more severe.  There are facilities which specialize in substance abuse and there are facilities which specialize in depression. Additionally, if you suffer from both of these ailments, there are facilities which specialize in treating these diseases in conjunction with one another which is critical to successfully treating this co-morbidity disease.

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