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

Addiction is not a simple disease. To stop using drugs requires more than good intentions or having a lot of willpower. In fact, drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse that makes quitting difficult, even for those who are ready to do so.[1] Thankfully, there are many different effective forms of treatment for addiction such as psychotherapy, art therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and others.

In some cases, there is a Dual Diagnosis where an individual has both a mental disorder and an alcohol or drug problem. These conditions occur together frequently. In particular, alcohol and drug problems tend to occur with depression, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.[2] When a Dual Diagnosis occurs, sometimes the substance abuse is first. In other cases, the mental illness is first. For example, if an individual participates in binge drinking, it actually worsens and can even cause depression. So the more this individual drinks, the more depressed he becomes. Yes, there are likely still some positive feelings coming from the drinking—but those are very short lived and not worth it when looking at it from a long-term perspective.

Now if you are currently taking a prescribed medication for depression and feel you are addicted to it, there are several specific steps you can take.

Talk to Your Doctor

Do not ever hesitate to talk with your doctor. Be as open and honest as possible. If you feel you are addicted to any medication, express your concerns. The line can become blurry between addiction and tolerance. Tolerance is the state where the effectiveness of a drug has decreased due to chronic administration. So more of a drug is required to achieve the same affect in the future. Express your concerns with your doctor and if you feel that you are not able to with your current doctor, it is likely time to find another doctor. You must be able to openly communicate with your doctor.

Not all Depression Is the Same

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

Dual Diagnosis means a mental disorder and a drug problem coexist

There are several kinds of depression. For example, there is major depression, which is when depression lasts longer than two weeks, and the symptoms are often very disruptive in the individual’s life. Another variety is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that people experience due to the change of season, such as going from summer to fall. Some women experience postpartum depression after the birth of a child due to changes in hormonal levels. Lastly, there is a psychotic depression where an individual experiences distorted or broken thinking of a psychotic nature.

Accordingly, your treatment will depend on the specific kind of depression that you struggle with. This could look very different from person to person as there are many different depression medicines on the market.

Be as Patient as Possible

In general when taking depression medication, you may need to try several different medications or even a combination of medications before you find one that works well for you. Your inherited traits play a role in how antidepressants affect you. So if possible, the use of genetic tests may offer clues about how your body may respond to a particular antidepressant. So if your mother or father is depressed and has been taking a specific antidepressant, it is very possible that this drug is the right choice for you. This process can take time so again, please be as patient as possible and continually talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any side effects or cravings etc.

Don’t Quit on Your Own

It is important to not stop taking your medicine on your own. Instead, work with your doctor. In many cases, he or she will likely lower the dosage over time as opposed to stopping treatment. It is possible that stopping abruptly could cause withdrawal-like symptoms including: anxiety, extreme hunger, fatigue, irritability, sweating, vomiting and more. Quitting suddenly may cause a sudden worsening of depression. Talk to your doctor before making such big decisions.

Get Help for Addiction to Medications

If you are addicted to anti-depressants or other drugs like Methadone, help is available. As we continue to have new breakthroughs in technology, we know more now about how drugs work inside the brain. We also know that addiction can, in fact, be successfully treated to help people lead productive, healthy lives. If you would like to talk to someone about your addiction—or even if you’re not sure if you are addicted to a drug or not—please feel free to call our toll-free helpline. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you move forward. You will not be asked anything on your part other than what prompted the call and some basic demographical information. The counselor will help you talk things through and give you answers to any of your questions. You do not have to wonder anymore. Once you get clean, can you imagine the feeling of no longer having to hide your addiction? Take this step so you can get the help you need.


[1] Drug Facts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction.

[2] Dual Diagnosis