Depression and Heroin

Adult daughter and aged mother after quarrel at home. Focus on young

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand, as addiction often serves as a means of coping with a mental health disorder that is often overwhelming and difficult to cope with.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 17.5 million Americans over the age of 18 had a serious health disorder in the past year.

Of these, about 4 million people also suffered with a co-occurring drug or alcohol dependency1.

Common Mental Health Disorders Concurrent with Heroin Abuse

Mental health disorders that may be commonly experienced include severe anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. The National Institute on Mental Health has recorded major depression as one of the most common mental disorders in the United States with an estimated 16 million adults aged 18 or older having at least one major depressive episode in the past year2.

For the countless people that struggle with depression, drugs may offer a solution albeit temporary, to the many issues they may be facing.

Using Heroin to Escape Mental Health and Real Life Problems

alone during therapyHeroin, which is an opioid drug synthesized from morphine, has been on the rise, with the number of people using heroin for the first time doubling in the past few years3. For individuals who are struggling with depression, heroin may seem like a way to escape feelings of hopeless.

Abusing heroin slows down neurological activity in the brain, which essentially induces a state of sedation. This fix is temporary though, and heroin abusers often experience a worsening of depressive symptoms after coming off a heroin high.

Finding Treatment that Addresses Both Issues

Seeking out treatment that addresses both a heroin addiction and underlying depressive disorder is essential for healing and recovering. If you or someone you love has been abusing heroin and simultaneously dealing with depression, please seek out the help you need to begin your recovery journey.

Heroin cannot solve symptoms of depression. Thankfully there are effective methods that can help a person recover from depression and a heroin addiction.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are in in recovery from an addiction to heroin? Did you also struggle with depression during your addiction to heroin? What helped you overcome and heal from depression and a heroin addiction?


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Report: Admissions with Co-Occurring Disorders”,
  2. National Institute of Mental Health, “Major Depression Among Adults”,
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “What is the scope of heroin use in the United States?”,

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 17th, 2015
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