Everyone experiences bad days, anxious moments and stressful rough patches. And when these situations hit, it’s common for people to turn to alcohol in an attempt to relax and temporarily take their mind off an undesirable reality.

While most people can find their way back from difficult experiences, those who struggle with depression experience those low periods longer than others. And when a substance use disorder – like alcohol addiction – is added to the mix, a troubling and unstable cycle ensues. This cycle of managing depression by excessively using alcohol is examined extensively in the field of mental health, and studies yield a strong correlation.

But how are the two truly connected? Does depression lead to alcohol addiction, or does alcohol addiction lead to depression?

To understand the link between the two, let’s start by discussing what a co-occurring disorder is.

Alcohol Addiction and Depression are Co-Occurring Disorders

A co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis, is when a person contends with a mental health disorder (like depression) and a substance use disorder (like alcoholism) at the same time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2014 alone, approximately 7.9 million adults in the U.S. had co-occurring disorders.

Co-occurring disorders are complex in nature and often challenging to diagnose. Because two disorders are present at the same time and often feed off one another, the signs and symptoms of one disorder can be hard to distinguish. SAMHSA reports that people with co-occurring disorders usually receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder is left untreated.

The trouble with only addressing and treating one disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), is one disorder will usually make the other disorder worse. So, despite one’s dedication and effort to get better, the untreated disorder will undermine the progress.

Does Depression Lead to Alcohol Addiction?

While there’s no definite answer to this chicken and the egg conundrum, research has shown, that for most patients with a dual diagnosis, depression usually comes first.

According to the Comorbidity of Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately one-third of study respondents with an alcohol dependence also had a mood disorder, such as depression.

Of the respondents, alcohol-dependent respondents were 3.9 times more likely to have a major depressive disorder.

Additionally, children and teens who suffer from depression are more likely to use and abuse alcohol as a coping mechanism and develop an alcohol-related problem as time passes.

Does Alcohol Addiction Lead to Depression?

Viewing this co-occurring disorder from a different angle, alcohol can cause depressive symptoms in people. As previously noted, it is common for people to abuse alcohol when contending with a depressive disorder.

By its nature, alcohol is a depressant, and the use of this substance can initiate depressive symptoms, such as drowsiness, apathy, sadness, irritability and hopelessness. Alcohol consumption tends to intensify an individual’s depressive state and can void the impact of antidepressants.

The Link Between Alcohol and Depression Affects Many

  • One-third of individuals with depression had a co-occurring substance use disorder, according to the Epidemiologic Catchment Area study conducted by the National Institute on Health.
  • People with alcohol dependence had rates of depression that were significantly elevated for both men (2.95) and women (4.05) with major depression, as reported by the National Comorbidity Study.

Regardless of what disorder came first in your life, if you feel you are living with one or both issues, your life depends on what you do next.

Treatment for Substance Abuse and Depression at Ranch Creek Recovery

Countless people live with addiction and depression every day, so it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your fight to overcome your co-occurring disorder. At Ranch Creek Recovery, our unique, non-12 step treatment program is focused on treating your whole self, not just the mental health disorder or just the addiction.

Contact us today to learn more about our holistic dual diagnosis treatment program and our non 12-step rehab center in Murrieta, California. We are ready to help you start the journey toward recovery today!

CALL NOW: (877) 293-8607



Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Co-occurring Disorders. Accessed March 18, 2018. https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/co-occurring.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Accessed March 17, 2018. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. Estimating the prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adults from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey. Accessed March 17, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1403718/.

QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. Depression and alcoholism. Accessed March 18, 2018. https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/97/4/237/1525431.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Substance Use Disorders. Accessed March 17, 2018. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/substance-abuse#.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Comorbidity of Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders. Accessed March 17, 2018. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/81-89.htm.