Drug-Induced Depression and Anxiety 

What is Drug-Induced Depression?

Certain drugs can cause depression, which causes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and intense sadness. It is essential to know that drug-induced depression is not the same as the temporary feeling you may have when you have a hangover, or when you are coming down from a certain drug or medication. Depression is a more long-lasting condition that persists past several weeks. 

Doctors call this issue a “substance-induced mood disorder.”1  Examples of substances that can cause depression include alcohol, drugs, and types of medications.

Can Drugs Cause Depression?

Yes, drugs can create changes in the brain that contribute to depression as well as other mental health disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 8.1 million Americans experience both a substance use disorder and a mental illness.2 Doctors think there may be several reasons why this is the case. For example, some people use drugs as a way to self-medicate or escape their problems.3However, for others, using drugs can make depression symptoms worse.

Doctors also think that using drugs can create changes in the brain that over time make a person more at risk of experiencing a mental illness.3

What Drugs Cause Depression?

Doctors have found there nearly all illegal drugs or legal drugs that are abused can cause depression. Examples include:1

  • Opioids, such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine
  • Anxiolytics, such as Xanax and Valium
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Mind-altering drugs, like PCP, LSD, MDMA, or ecstasy
  • Amphetamines, such as crystal methamphetamines

Sometimes, a drug can cause instant symptoms of depression. Other times, continued drug use can lead to depression.

How Long Does Drug-Induced Depression Last?

Drug-induced depression means that using drugs has altered the mind such that it causes symptoms like depression. For a doctor to diagnose you with drug-induced depression, your depression can’t be related to withdrawals or intoxication. Instead, it would be due to experiencing significant and lasting changes related to using drugs. These symptoms will affect all aspects of life, including the ability to interact with loved ones, maintain employment, or do things you enjoy.  

What is Drug-Induced Anxiety?

Anxiety is an overwhelming fear or panic that doesn’t fit with the situation. Anxiety can cause you to feel filled with worry, fear, or nervousness that can overtake your life. Just as illegal drugs can cause depression, they can also lead to anxiety.

Can Drugs Cause Anxiety?

Yes, drugs can cause anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 20 percent of people with an alcohol or substance use disorder have an anxiety or mood disorder.4 Much like drugs and depression, some people use drugs as an attempt to self-medicate their anxiety. Also, some drugs can make anxiety worse.

What Drugs Cause Anxiety?

Some of the most common drugs that cause anxiety are drugs such as amphetamines or stimulants like cocaine. These drugs can speed up the heart rate, which is an anxiety symptom. They can also contribute to paranoia, which can worsen anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated one in eight of all emergency department visits in the United States is related to a mood disorder and substance abuse.4 Of these visits, an estimated 26.1 percent were for anxiety disorders.

Does Drug-Induced Anxiety Go Away?

Yes, drug-induced anxiety can go away with time. However, simply stopping use of drugs doesn’t always guarantee the end to anxiety. Instead, you often need to seek treatment for both a substance use disorder and anxiety disorder.4

How Do You Treat Drug-Induced Mood Disorders?

It’s very important to treat drug-induced mood disorders because they can have severe effects on your life. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), an estimated 15% of mood disorders like depression end in suicide.5


When a person abuses a substance and experiences depression, doctors call this a dual diagnosis. Ideally, you can seek treatment at a place that addresses both conditions at the same time. This is important because a drug led to the depression in the first place. Treatments often involve behavioral therapies, such as counseling. One approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This involves helping identify the thoughts and behaviors that keep a person abusing a substance and helps them make positive changes. Participating in group therapies, family therapy, and sometimes 12-Step programs can also help.


Doctors can use medications both to treat depression and to help end drug abuse. Anti-depressants can help adjust chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain that help address mood. Sometimes, it can be trial-and-error taking a medication for a few months to see if you feel better before determining if the anti-depressant will or won’t work well.

Doctors can also prescribe medications to help end drug use and address withdrawal symptoms. Examples include medications like methadone or bupropion to help a person stop abusing opioids. These medications have helped reduce the risks of overdose.

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