The Impact of Depression in Crack Cocaine Relapse

A study appearing recently in the journal Addiction focused on 261 women who had used crack cocaine and who were going through the experience of drug court. The researchers looked at how these women were or were not affected by depression and if it had any influence on whether or not they returned to drug use afterwards. The results of the study demonstrated that the individuals who were depressed at the time they went to drug court had the greatest chance of using crack cocaine again within a four-month period. Furthermore, those who had been depressed during the preceding year—but were not in a state of depression at the time they went to drug court (i.e., their mood had improved) were found not to be at greater risk of using crack once they finished drug court, at least for the four-month period in which they were observed for the study. The data therefore suggest that depression was a contributing factor in subsequent crack usage.

The authors feel that it would be advantageous if the drug courts offered depression screening as part of their services. If those individuals found to be depressed were given treatment, the risk of future crack cocaine use would be reduced. The strategy, in addition to improving the women’s quality of life, would be more cost effective than would future court hearings and incarcerations that are probable consequences of untreated depression. What are some other ways the effort would benefit society in general?

How do you feel about the treatment for depression of those charged with drug offenses, as an alternative to incarceration? And what do you think would be most people’s opinion of it? Keep in mind that crack cocaine is very highly addictive. In light of better prospects shown for a non-depressed addict (at drug court time), do you believe the drug court system should provide screening and/or treatment for offenders’ depression?