Depression is common among patients who abuse both opiates and cocaine, and its treatment has had mixed success. This study compares buprenorphine-maintained patients with lifetime major depressive disorder (MDD, N = 53) with those never depressed (ND, N = 96) on cocaine and opiate-free urines during a 12-week outpatient double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. The 149 subjects were assigned to four groups: 1) desipramine (DMI) + contingency management (CM); 2) DMI + noncontingency management (NCM); 3) placebo + CM; and 4) placebo + NCM. Depression assessments included Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Inventory, and Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV interview for diagnosis of lifetime MDD. Urine toxicologies were performed thrice weekly and the CES-D was performed monthly. The MDD group had a larger proportion of females (45% vs 21%, P = 0.02) and were more likely to be married (13.2% vs 7.3%, P = 0.02) than the ND group. Treatment retention did not vary by depression status. Hierarchical Linear Modeling found that depressive symptoms decreased comparably across the four treatment groups. Although participation in CM improved drug-free urines more for patients with MDD than for the ND group (Z = 2.44, P = 0.01), treatment with DMI was significantly more efficacious for the ND group than for the MDD group (Z = -2.89, P = 0.003). These results suggest that patients with MDD may respond better to behavioral treatments such as CM than to desipramine plus buprenorphine. The ND cocaine-abusing, opiate-dependent patients may be more responsive to the anticraving effects of DMI.