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An unhappy woman leaning on the armchair and suffering from depression and heroin use.

Why do people do heroin & what’s the link between depression and heroin use? Learn about these co-occurring disorders and the help that’s available.

Which came first: the chicken or the egg? This question has been used for decades as both a quandary to stump inquisitive individuals and an example of how difficult it is at times to differentiate between a person’s problem and what is causing the issue.

Such is the case with heroin addicted individuals dealing with both a substance use disorder and co-existing depressive symptomatology.

Was it their addictive impulses that increased their depressive symptoms or their depressive mental health issues that fueled their heroin addiction?

The fact of the matter is that a co-occurring disorder is rarely easy to isolate, and the instigating symptoms can be even harder to pinpoint. That is why it is so imperative to not only address the addiction in a clinically competent environment, but to also treat both disorders simultaneously in order to best facilitate personal achievement and long-lasting success.

Understanding co-occurring disorders and addiction triggers can better prepare you to aid an addicted loved one dealing with the issues while also providing them encouragement and loving support.

Why Do People Do Heroin?

It is safe to say that no one simply wakes up one day and says to themselves, “I think I want to become hopelessly addicted to heroin today.”

The process of heroin addiction has evolved over the past decade, shifting from a street-level origin to medically induced habituation.

All too often, today’s heroin addicts begin their use after suffering a physical injury or receiving treatment at a medical facility. Their experienced medical issue was most likely addressed with an opioid-based pain medication, providing them a temporary relief to the physical discomfort they were experiencing.

However, without receiving proper guidance during their medication consumption or proper detoxification efforts after their prescription has runs its course, these individuals are faced with a severe physical addiction to their pain medication and nowhere to turn other than the streets.

Unfortunately, heroin is a much more cost-effective opioid on the black market than its prescription-based cohorts, so the transition from pain medication to heroin is fairly common.

So, why do people do heroin?

Because their addiction has left them with no other option.

The Connection Between Depression and Heroin Use

It is a common belief among many researchers and medical professionals that depression can stem from the changes that heroin causes in the brain’s reward and pleasure system, as well as the impact it has on the corresponding hormone levels within an addict’s body.

These synthetic chemical reactions within an addict’s mind can provide false senses of elation and euphoria, tricking the brain into thinking that the only way to achieve that feeling is to continue heroin abuse.

In most cases, this habitual heroin use quickly leads to increased usage in order to achieve the same euphoric feelings, and forces the person into deeper and deeper addiction.

Simultaneously, their depressive symptoms continue to exacerbate due to the erratic chemical reactions associated with heroin use and the chemical fluctuations associated with their addiction.

The depressive symptoms your loved one may be displaying include:

  • Lack of energy and interest in personal activities
  • Excessive irritability
  • Feelings of despair or guilt
  • Changes in appetite and sleep pattern
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts1

Learning to spot these telltale signs of depression can aid in identifying problematic behavioral patterns within your addicted loved one and encourage them to pursue the life changing help they need.

Support and love can go a long way, so being patient and understanding with your addicted loved one is essential to maintaining their trust and helping them through the various symptoms impacting their existence.

Heroin and Depression Treatment

A co-occurring treatment approach is crucial to your loved one if they are experiencing depressive symptoms and addictive impulses. Researching the various treatment options and identifying which best suits their life can mean the difference between successfully completing a treatment program and failing to attain their sober goals.

In addition, identifying a treatment facility that can adequately address your loved one’s level of heroin addiction, including possible detox and medicinal interventions, is important to their physical health and sustained sobriety.

A few key elements of effective co-occurring treatment include:

  • Medication interventions for both heroin replacement and depression
  • Intensive individual counseling
  • Peer supports for both depression and addiction
  • An individual treatment plan tailored to their personal needs
  • Onsite medical assistance and support
  • Family psychoeducation and counseling
  • Follow up support and transitional interventions2

Above all, showing your love and support throughout the recovery process is the most important element you can provide to your addicted loved one.

The journey of recovery and sobriety can be filled with stumbling blocks and relapse triggers. Letting your loved one know that you are there for them through it all will increase their personal confidence and provide them a stabilizing support when they face potential hardships along the way.

Christian-Based Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program at Covenant Hills

If your loved one is in the throes of depression and addiction, we understand that it can be a lonely, scary, hopeless place for them. It can feel like there is no way out. But at Covenant Hills, we can confidently say that there is hope and your loved one can put you’re their heroin addiction behind them forever and learn how to address their depression.

It’s about their whole-body health at Covenant Hills, where we help them get their life back on track by focusing on the mind, body, and spirit through our Christian-based dual diagnosis treatment program.

With the help of one of the most experienced and acclaimed heroin treatment teams in the country, your loved one can achieve sobriety and return to the person they were made to be.

Learn more about our Christian-based dual diagnosis treatment program, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment. We are available 24/7.



1PsyCom. Depression and Opioid Abuse. Accessed November 24, 2018.

2Psychoneuroendocrinology. Cortisol levels and depression in men and women using heroin and cocaine. Accessed November 24, 2018.