The Link Between Depression and Excessive Alcohol Use
Similar to the famous quandary,“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” – Does depression drive people to drink, or does drinking too much cause depression? You may have heard someone explain away a period of excessive drinking during a particularly painful time in their lives as “drowning their sorrows.” This often occurs after losing a job, experiencing a romantic breakup, or any other life-changing, negative event.
A couple of glasses of wine or a couple beers may at first seem like a good idea when you want to relax and feel less anxious – having a drink once in a while when you’re blue or stressed out is quite normal. However, if you find that you are reaching for a cocktail every time a problem arises, it could be a sign of alcohol abuse.
– the question is whether regular drinking leads to depression or vice versa. Both are possibilities, and every set of circumstances is different.
How Depression Can Lead to Drinking
Out of those individuals struggling with major depression, nearly one-third of them also have a problem with alcohol use. As research confirms, depression often arises first – depressed adolescents and teens who have suffered a major depressive episode are twice as likely to start drinking as their peers who have not experienced depression.
Another notable statistic is that women who have a history of depression are more than twice as likely to start abusing alcohol than men in the same situation.
While it may temporarily dull the pain, long term alcohol use will only worsen depression. When depressed individuals drink too much, they experience more severe episodes of depression – more often, and they are more likely to contemplate suicide. Additionally, antidepressants are often made less effective with heavy alcohol use.
Drinking Heavily Can Lead to Depression
While alcohol is clinically categorized as a depressant, the type of effect a person will experience has a great deal to do with the amount of alcohol consumed and the individual’s metabolism. Most people drink to enjoy the initial stimulant effect felt after that first drink – which can reduce social inhibitions. However, once a person consumes more alcohol, they will begin to feel the sedative effects of alcohol including depression and cognitive impairment.
Studies suggest that most people initially begin drinking to experience the positive, stimulative effects. However, after developing an addiction or becoming dependent, they drink primarily to experience the reduction of anxiety associated with the sedative effects. Because alcohol is truly a depressant, consuming more than a drink or two can cause harm to the brain and lead to depression.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause cognitive impairment – leading to bad decisions and impulsive behavior. As a result, excessive alcohol consumption can cause you to ruin relationships, lose your job, or empty your bank account. These actions can increase the risk of depression, especially for those who are genetically predisposed for this condition.
Behavior Versus Genetics
It is simply not clear if heavy drinking leads to depression, or vice versa. Nevertheless, researchers have found at least one common gene for both conditions – which is involved in the brain functions of attention and memory. Variations in this gene are thought to put people at risk for both depression and alcohol abuse.
Studies of twins have provided only minimal insight into the genetic component, as the same things that make depression more likely are also things that lead to heavy drinking patterns in families. Social and home environments also play a role, as children who are raised in poverty or suffer domestic abuse are more likely to misuse alcohol and suffer depressive disorders.
Alcohol and Depression – Treatment Facilities in MN
Unless you have a health condition that precludes you from drinking, it probably won’t do any harm to have a beer or a glass of wine occasionally. However, if you find that you are turning to alcohol simply to get through the day – or if your job or your relationships are suffering due to your drinking – you probably have a more serious problem.
Depression and alcohol abuse are both serious problems that can cause problems in every aspect of a person’s life – and they shouldn’t be ignored. If you believe you have a problem with either of these conditions, talk to your doctor about depression and substance abuse in Eagan, MN.
There are many substance abuse and mental health treatment options available. These include medications that lower alcohol cravings which may lessen alcohol addiction, while you simultaneously receive treatment for depression. Your doctor may recommend reaching out to a specialized treatment center, like River Ridge.
Here you will find our Customized Recovery Program whis is a blend of proven, evidence-based models developed to help those struggling with addiction. It incorporates our values and vision as well as some of the harm-reduction principles of focusing on positive change. We work with everyone without judgement, discrimination, or coercion – nor do we insist you top using substances as a precondition for support.
If you, or someone you love is suffering from anxiety, depression, or is seeking drug and alcohol addiction treatment, we are here to help. Contact us to learn more about our recovery programs and outpatient treatment options.