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Alcohol and Depression

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Raj was feeling sad during the discussion with his friends about how depression led to Tom’s suicide attempt. He suggested; “Let’s have a drink. It will calm us all down”

“Are you sure?” said Martin. “Did you know that alcohol is a depressogenic drug? In other words, it causes depression.”

Raj retorted; “ That is so confusing. I know from my experience that it calms me down. I feel more social and confident. How can it be depressogenic?”

“I know that many people can use a small amount of alcohol socially and feel calm temporarily. At the same time, good feelings can backfire. In my case, it surely did.” Martin said with concern on his face.

“I used to drink sometimes with friends or at parties without any problems. When depression crept in I started having sleeping problems. Because of that, I drank every night because I thought it would help me sleep better and distract me from the persistent feelings of sadness I was going thru.

Although it helped me temporarily relieve some of the symptoms of depression, it ultimately served to worsen my depression on a long-term basis. 

Once I started daily, it kind of took a cycle of its own. On the days when I was stressed or had an argument, I would drink more. I realized that drinking more every day was not giving me the relief I used to get so I drank more to get the same benefit. I developed tolerance. 

Slowly I found that the days when I was not able to drink, I started craving. When my family commented on my drinking, I started becoming angry. I didn’t want to accept it, but I was starting to feel withdrawal when I would not drink. I was getting physically dependent on it. 

“Did you know that a third of those who suffer from major depression have a co-occurring Alcohol Use Disorder?”

“I understand why when you feel depressed, you may want the temporary relief that alcohol can provide. Having been thru it, I can tell you that alcohol abuse can simply compound  the depression.”

Raj asked; “Would it make it more likely for me to become addicted to alcohol if I have a family history of depression?”

“You see, some people have overlapping genetic predispositions that make them more vulnerable to both alcohol issues and depression. They say that the onset of one condition can trigger the onset of the other. 

I remember how my hangovers were often accompanied by feelings of depression. When I continued alcohol, it led to longer periods of depression.

When I took antidepressants, I experienced additional ill effects. Alcohol not only makes antidepressants less effective, its depressant effect further worsens the depression.

Raj said; “That makes sense. Your brain is experiencing depression, you add another chemical to make it more depressed. No wonder, antidepressants are not effective. Alcohol is canceling the benefit the antidepressant is trying to provide. 

Maria asked; “So,

Does Alcohol Abuse Lead to Depression or depression lead to alcohol abuse?”

John replied; “I have heard that while depression can put a person at greater risk to develop an alcohol problem, the inverse is even more common. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), depression can arise and increase during a battle with alcoholism. This increase in depression can then lead to more drinking. And guess what?  More drinking means negative effects on virtually every aspect of life.”

“When my brother was struggling with drinking alcohol, he started having problems financially. It also affected his work leading to more alcohol. His relationships with our whole family suffered, and his depression worsened. He told me one time that he was stuck in a damaging cycle of abusing alcohol in an effort to self-medicate his symptoms of depression, and the depression worsening due to the continued alcohol abuse.

He was experiencing feelings of depression as a result of his alcohol abuse. Once he stopped drinking, most of his symptoms dissipated. 

According to a study published in Addiction, individuals dealing with alcohol use disorder or depression are at double the risk of developing the other condition. There were links found between the neurophysiological and metabolic changes brought about by alcohol abuse and the mechanisms for depression to occur. The study concluded that abuse of alcohol puts an individual at a significantly greater risk to develop depression than that of a person who is not abusing the substance.  It found that alcohol abuse is more likely to cause major depression than the other way around.

Maria added; “ I think, Tom’s suicide attempt was also associated with both his depression and alcohol abuse. His girlfriend was telling me how he had started to drink more and more and the police found his blood alcohol high at the time of his attempt.”

“I don’t know about you but I am deciding to avoid using the drug that can cause more depression.” 

Martin continued.  “I was lucky that I was able to stop after making a firm decision. I also attended AA meetings to help me reinforce my decision. My brother had to go for treatment to be able to stop. 

Now, when I go to parties and I am offered a drink, I simply ask for a non-alcoholic drink. I like the dry brand of beverages. They taste great and yet are non-alcoholic. 

Now I have developed my identity as a non-drinker. You can too and save yourself from the potential risk of addiction

Do you agree with Martin’s suggestions?  

November is addiction awareness month. If you would like more information or any help with this markedly increasing issues, visit this national helpline at  https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Did you find anything you read here helpful? If so please let me know in response to this post.

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