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

Does My Addiction to My Depression Meds Count as a Dual Diagnosis?A Dual Diagnosis can refer to any co-occurring disorders such as addiction to drugs and alcohol along with a mental health disorder. A person can become addicted to depression meds and still struggle with depression. When both depression and an addiction to depression meds are present it can be considered a Dual Diagnosis, which merits the need for specialized treatment at a Dual Diagnosis facility.1

Depression and addiction to prescription medications such as Lortab often go hand in hand and can be a dangerous combination. Depression is typically diagnosed when a person suffers from episodes of sadness, despair, hopelessness and loss of interest in activities that negatively affect or interfere with daily life. In order to be diagnosed with depression the episodes must be consistently present for two or more weeks. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it affects about 350 million people around the world.2

The Anxiety and Depression Society of America (ADSA) explains that one out of every 10 people over the age of 12 takes antidepressant medication in the United States to treat their depressive symptoms. Fourteen percent of Americans currently taking depression meds have been taking them for over 10 years. The majority of antidepressants being taken are not even prescribed by a psychiatrist, but rather by a primary care physician. Some individuals taking antidepressants may develop a dependence on them.

How Does Depression Medication Affect My Brain Chemistry?

There is a major difference between dependence and addiction to depression meds. The chemical make-up of depression meds alters the brain chemistry over time causing the mind and body to make changes as it adjusts to regular doses of the depression meds. The brain will compensate for the new drug by making the drug a regular part of its daily functioning. Once this change happens in the brain it is dependent upon continuing to receive the meds in order to continue operating normally. This is what is known as dependency to a drug or medication. Dependency is not considered a disorder and if present alongside depression would not be considered a Dual Diagnosis. Dependency on depression meds often leads to addiction but that is not always the case. A person can be dependent on a drug and not present any abnormal drug-seeking behavior or desire to increase dosage without consulting a doctor.

Addiction is when things get much more serious and dangerous for the person abusing the depression meds. Addiction is harmful disease that requires professional medical treatment to overcome. Addiction can lead to all sorts of physical, emotional and psychological health problems. Addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to abuse a substance despite all the obvious negative consequences it is causing. The addict will continue to compulsively seek out the drug and obtain it by any means necessary. This often results in theft, lying and doctor shopping in order to fulfill multiple prescriptions from several different doctors. Addiction is a life altering disease that can often lead people to absolute destitution with no employment, money, friends or hope.

What Is Addiction?

In order to be diagnosed with an addiction a person must present several symptoms. The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) requires a person to present at least two of the following symptoms in order to be diagnosed with addiction:

  • Takes more of the substance than initially intended or for a longer period of time
  • Unsuccessful at controlling use and unable to stop usage altogether
  • Craving for the substance
  • Obsession with the substance
  • Substance use interferes with work, school or family life
  • No longer engages in recreational or social activities due to substance use
  • Experienced damage within personal relationships due to substance use and continues to use the substance despite it
  • Tolerance to substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms occur when substance is removed
  • Continued use despite negative physical and emotional consequences

The different amount of symptoms present signifies the severity of the addiction. If two to three symptoms are present the addiction is considered mild, while if six or more symptoms are present it is considered severe and imminently dangerous. Addiction to depression meds by itself is a serious problem, but when that is combined with ongoing depressive symptoms it can create a particularly dangerous situation. People suffering from depression and addiction are more likely to mix drugs with alcohol resulting in an accidental overdose or intentionally take too high of a dose resulting in an intentional overdose.

Finding the right Dual Diagnosis treatment is essential to avoiding the dangerous outcomes of allowing a struggle with depression and addiction to continue unchecked. Dual Diagnosis treatment will evaluate both conditions and treat them simultaneously. If co-occurring disorders are not treated together then one disorder often blocks the person from overcoming the other as the two are interconnected. If a person suffering from addiction and depression were only treated for addiction the depression would cause a relapse back to addiction, and vice versa.

Need Help Finding Professional Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis?

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to Lortab and a mental health issue, please call us today. Our admission coordinators are standing by 24 hours a day in order to help you find a treatment program that will work for you. Your Dual Diagnosis can be overcome. Call us today.


1 “How to Find the Best Residential Antidepressant Recovery Center,”,, (Cited January 31, 2016).

2 Foundations Recovery Network, “Antidepressant Addiction,”,, (Cited January 31, 2016).