Alcohol Abuse & Depression: Effective Treatment Options for Recovery

Woman struggling with Alcohol Abuse and Depression

Contributor: Staff of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

When it comes to alcohol abuse, there is often much more than meets the eye. For the individual who frequently turns to alcohol, there are typically many complex factors that are influencing these behaviors. Alcohol abuse commonly occurs with mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.

Research has found that among populations treated for alcohol use disorder, comorbid depression can reach up to 50 percent [1]. Alcohol can be used as a means of self-medicating depressive symptoms in cases where depressive symptoms are primary.

Similarly, individuals who struggle with major depressive disorder have an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder, with approximately a 40 percent lifetime probability [2]. The consequences of co-occurring alcohol abuse and depression can be devastating, with these comorbid conditions being associated with high mortality and morbidity rates [3].

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment

In many situations, a person struggling with alcohol abuse and depression may initially only seek out treatment for the substance use disorder, as this may present as the more problematic issue. However, if alcohol abuse and depression are comorbid conditions, addiction treatment should appropriately address the underlying depression.

Today, several combined treatment options are available for individuals dealing with comorbid alcohol abuse disorder and major depressive disorder, which can support a holistic recovery. Effective modalities that may be integrated into traditional addiction treatments include various psychotherapies, such as:

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • 12-Step Facilitation

Pharmacologic therapy, provided in conjunction with psychosocial and psychotherapeutic approaches, has also been proven as an effective form of treatment for both alcohol dependence and depression [4]. For a person facing the comorbid conditions of alcohol dependency and depression, the combination of these therapeutic approaches applied in the context of a multidisciplinary and comprehensive treatment team can improve the prognosis.

Connecting to Professional Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Man staring by a bridge thinking about Addiction TreatmentIf you or someone you care for has been dealing with both alcohol abuse and underlying depression, you may feel overwhelmed with the complexity of issues at hand.

The reality is that you have a choice in how you wish to approach these comorbid conditions. Seeking out professional help and intervention for addiction treatment is not the easy choice, but taking this step will significantly improve the overall quality of your life.

Co-occurring alcohol use disorder and depression are serious conditions with potentially fatal consequences.

Connecting to specialized addiction treatment that simultaneously addresses comorbid depression can be lifesaving. Reach out for the help you deserve today to begin your addiction recovery journey.


[1]: Swendsen J. D., Merikangas K. R. The comorbidity of depression and substance use disorders. Clin Psychol Rev 2000; 20: 173–189.
[2]: Grant B. F., Stinson F. S., Dawson D. A., Chou S. P., Dufour M. C., Compton W. et al. Prevalence and co-occurrence of substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2004; 61: 807–816.
[3]: Blanco C., Alegria A. A., Liu S. M., Secades-Villa R., Sugaya L., Davies C. et al. Differences among major depressive disorder with and without co-occurring substance use disorders and substance-induced depressive disorder: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. J Clin Psychiatry 2012; 73: 865–873.
[4]: Dongier, M. (2005). What are the treatment options for comorbid alcohol abuse and depressive disorders? Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 30(3), 224.

Thank you to Timberline Knolls for providing this article.

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center Banner


Timberline Knolls is a leading residential treatment center for women and adolescent girls, ages 12 and older, with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. Located in suburban Chicago, residents receive excellent clinical care from a highly trained professional staff on a picturesque 43-acre wooded campus. An adult partial hospitalization program (PHP) is also available in nearby Orland Park, Ill., for women to step down or direct admit. For more information on Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call 630-755-5173. We are also on Facebook – Timberline Knolls, LinkedIn – Timberline Knolls and Twitter – @TimberlineToday.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 1, 2017
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 12, 2021
Published on

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.