Depression and Substance Abuse Treatment

It’s common for people with drug or alcohol problems to also have mental health issues like depression. At Lifetime Recovery in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, we provide depression and substance abuse treatment, or dual-diagnosis treatment, to help you resolve mental health issues to improve your chances for lasting wellness and recovery.

Women during a depression and substance abuse treatment therapy with a therapist

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How substance abuse becomes addiction

Addiction is considered a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves motivation, reward, and memory. It is about the way a person’s body craves a behavior or substance, especially if it causes an obsessive or compulsive pursuit of a specific “reward” and a lack of overall concern for the consequences. People with drug or alcohol addiction:

  • Are unable to stay away from the substance or stop the habit-forming behavior
  • Have an increased desire for the behavior or substance
  • Dismiss how their behavior might be causing problems
  • Display a lack of self-control
  • Lack an emotional response

As time goes on, addiction can severely impact daily life. The cycle of addiction often includes remission and relapse in between intense and mild use of drugs or alcohol. Despite the ranging cycles, drug and alcohol addictions generally worsen over time. They can lead to serious consequences like bankruptcy and permanent health complications.


An estimated one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem.

Depression and substance abuse treatment combined can help you identify triggers, thought patterns and behaviors that drive depression and help you approach your mental health with a clear head and body, free of drugs or alcohol. Treating substance abuse and mental health at the same time falls under dual-diagnosis treatment.

Addiction stages


When you consume a drug, their body becomes accustomed to it and in turn, must have bigger doses to achieve desired results.


With more of a reduced drug intake, you may become nauseated, nervous, or agitated and can experience trembling or cold sweats.


Even though people take drugs or alcohol feel better, over time they’ll generally begin to experience sadness or guilt after using.


When people try to quit using, they’ll often turn to drugs or alcohol again to avoid withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

When you stop using substances, depression will likely begin to worsen at first, especially if you struggle with severe depression. Similarly, if you’ve been drinking to bury your depression symptoms for years, the depression might become more pronounced when you first get sober. Thus, the need for coordinated care for substance abuse and depression.

How depression gets worse with substance abuse

Depression is extremely common among people with alcohol and drug addiction. Substance abuse can intensify or trigger feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or loneliness generally associated with depression.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 10% of American adults have depression. Data from the CDC also indicate that the following are most likely to become depressed:

  • Uninsured individuals or those without any access to a variety of healthcare insurance
  • Unemployed people or individuals with disabilities that cannot work for any reason
  • African Americans and Hispanics
  • Middle-aged adults around 45-64
  • Females

Most people will go through low and high moments throughout their lives, but clinical depression persists for weeks, months, or sometimes years. Clinical depression has the power to interfere with your entire life, including your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle or occupation. For people struggling with depression who feel as though the end isn’t near, alcohol and drug use may appear like an escape to their problems.

Effects of depression and substance abuse

People initially seek out substances to feel good. As time goes on, however, alcohol and drug use may lead to dependency and addiction, which can fuel the negative feelings and despair often associated with depression. The depression then feeds back into the addiction as people want to feel better by drinking or taking drugs and the vicious circle continues. 

Substance abuse and depression combined constantly exacerbate each other and may result in health problems like brain damage down the road. 

Depression and substance abuse can also cause people to:

  • Struggle in relationships
  • Isolate themselves from others
  • Give up hobbies or social activities
  • Refuse to acknowledge a problem

Drinking alcohol can lead to depressive symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, and lethargy because alcohol is a depressant, meaning it “depresses” the nervous system.

A depressed mental state can deteriorate, leading to suicide, injury, or self-harm. Depression can also take an intense toll on the immune system and cause the body to weaken, making you vulnerable to diseases such as cancer.

Most common types of depression

There are variations on the types of depression people experience. Some people may experience depression only for a short time, at a particular point in time, while others struggle with this mental health disorder their entire lives. Here are the common types of depression:


This is a milder form of depression. People with dysthymia struggle from a continual “gloomy mood” that can persist for one or two years. Drinking or using drugs allows people to mask the negative emotions that come from dysthymia—but only temporarily. Because dysthymia is considered a chronic condition, it may lead to major depression. 

Major depression (major depressive disorder or MDD)

One of the most common types of depression is major depression. It affects about 7% of the nation’s population at any certain time. The main symptoms of this type of depression that typically lasts for more than two weeks are:

  • Sleeping pattern changes
  • Extreme sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability

If left untreated, major depression can reoccur throughout a person’s life.

Atypical depression

With this form of depression, a person will experience depression symptoms that may be uplifted briefly with news of a positive event. During the “low” periods, depression can become so intense, life feels like it’s not worth living.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Typically occurring in the wintertime, seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that’s associated with variations of light. People with SAD might struggle with mood changes, overeating, sleep issues, and anxiety, generally over a period of three consecutive winters.

When individuals decide to engage in depression and drug abuse, alcohol and addictive substances are typically utilized as a way to self-medicate. It can result in detrimental behavioral and emotional problems. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder 

Typically occurring in the wintertime, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a type of depression that is associated with numerous variations of light. Individuals with this depression might undergo mood changes, overeating, sleep issues, and anxiety. To properly diagnose SAD, an individual must be able to display the above-mentioned symptoms over at least three consecutive winters.

When depression and drug abuse are combined, the suicide risk escalates to about 25%.

Most people with depression experience similar types of symptoms. For those with more severe types of depression, however, the symptoms can be especially dangerous, even life-threatening. 

Common depression symptoms

  • Loss of interest in hobbies, personal goals, and work
  • Feeling hopeless, pessimistic, and useless
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Irritability

Severe depression symptoms

  • Using alcohol and drugs to cope with depression
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Feeling of guilt or being worthless
  • The sense of being hopeless
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Weight loss and appetite loss
  • More appetite or weight gain
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Tearfulness, dizziness
  • Under or oversleeping
  • The aches and pains
  • Reckless behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • General irritability

Diagnosing depression

There are numerous ways doctors diagnose depression. A review of your medical history, a physical exam, lab test, mental health and family history, may all be part of your depression and substance abuse treatment.

Physical exam

A doctor will complete a physical exam to determine if any underlying health conditions might be linked to your depression. This specific exam might include a thorough range of physical tests to get a more accurate understanding of your overall health. 

Lab tests

Blood tests may be ordered to rule out any underlying health conditions that could be contributing to your depression symptoms. For example, a thyroid test or complete blood count will ensure various parts of the body are properly functioning.  

Psychological evaluation

Mental health professionals or doctors might have you complete a questionnaire to learn more about your thoughts, feelings, and symptoms. The information you provide assists doctors in forming a diagnosis that can help determine the appropriate depression and substance abuse treatment.


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM-5, is used regularly by mental health professionals. Criteria listed in this manual assists doctors in diagnosing mental health conditions. It’s also utilized by insurance companies to reimburse treatments associated with a condition. 

Depression medications

Antidepressants are specifically designed to improve the way your brain processes chemicals that control your mood. Finding a medication that works best for you and your symptoms while producing the least amount of side effects can take time.

A doctor might recommend a combination of two medications to increase effectiveness for a short period. Some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants might include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Atypical antidepressants
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

Similar to other medications, antidepressants can become addictive. If you’re struggling with co-occurring depression and substance abuse, it’s imperative to inform your doctor. Your doctor will work with you to find the treatment plan suited for your needs. If it means avoiding the pharmaceutical route with medications, your doctor will organize that plan for you. Every part of your health is important, including your ability and power to stay sober as you heal from past hurts of depression and substance abuse.

Depression and substance abuse treatment program in New Jersey

Trying to go through recovery alone is dangerous and lonely. Supervised depression and substance abuse treatment allows you to start your journey with a professional and supportive team of people helping you along the way

At Lifetime Recovery in Mullica Hill, NJ, in South Jersey, our outpatient and recovery center treats people with conditions ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to mental illness.

We’re also one of the few alcohol and drug rehab centers to provide gambling addiction treatment. Through our integrated model and holistic approaches, we provide evidence-based winning solutions for you to recover from painkiller addiction and develop healthy ways to live the rest of your life.

Serving all of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York.