Depression and Alcohol Relationship: When Helpful, When Harmful?

If you are a patient of depression or/and are on antidepressants, it is best to avoid alcohol altogether.

There are two reasons that associate alcohol and depression.

  1. Regular excessive drinking (including binge drinking) leads to depression. This is called alcohol-induced depression. You should read why and how alcohol causes depression.
  2. Secondly, depressed people are more likely to drink too much because in smaller doses alcohol is a stimulant, which gives you a sense of euphoria. But, in higher doses, alcohol is a depressant. The mantra, therefore, is to go light when drinking alcohol.

Why alcohol and depression don’t mix?

Alcohol and depression make a bad mix and should be avoided because an excess of alcohol consumption worsens your depression symptoms and can invite its dangerous side effects.

According to a recent research, alcohol abuse or dependence significantly increases the person’s chances of going into a depression.

Again, since alcohol is a depressant, it can lead to a depressed mood among people who abuse or are alcohol dependent.

The incidence of depression is highest among people who abuse alcohol. Studies indicate that this prevalence of post alcohol depression is between 30 percent to 50 percent.

Again, research also indicates that people with depression are much more likely to have alcohol problems.

Even a night of binge drinking can have a depressive effect the next day. Binge drinking is defined as drinking over 8 units of alcohol in a day for men, and 6 units for women.

In any one day, a man should not drink more than 3-4 units and a woman not more than 2-3 units.

One unit of alcohol is 8 grams or 10 ml of pure alcohol – the amount that is present in a standard 25 ml measure of spirits, a half pint of 3.6% beer, or a 100 ml glass of 12% wine.

Incidentally, binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of early death in middle-aged men due to depression.

The safe limit to consume alcohol is lower for women (14 units per week) than for men (21 units per week).

Does alcohol help with depression?

In smaller doses, alcohol is a stimulant but in higher doses, alcohol is a depressant. It, therefore, worsens the existing depression, more so when alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence and depression run together.

Though alcohol gives you a mood lift, this is a short-term benefit. A patient with depression is at an increased risk of alcohol abuse and is likely to go overboard with the daily consumption. People who suffer from anxiety or depression are twice as likely to be heavy drinkers

The complications of depression are more likely to develop if you are into alcohol abuse.

Around one-third of young people with depression who committed suicide have drunk alcohol before their death, and excessive drinking is to be blamed for increased rates of teenage male suicides.

What about light to moderate consumption of alcohol?

In addition to what has been said above, there is a view and a study to back it up that mild to moderate consumption of alcohol can be beneficial for people with depression and also for those without it.

According to livescience.com, referring to a Spanish study, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, especially wine, lowered the risk of developing depression.

The study further states that elderly people who drank two to seven small glasses of wine per week were 32 percent less likely to develop depression as compared with people who never drank alcohol.

And, these results hold true irrespective of the lifestyle you adopt. The reason explained for this result of the study was that grapes contain a compound that may protect parts of the brain from inflammatory processes that are associated with depression.

Does alcohol affect depression medication?

Alcohol decreases the efficacy of the antidepressants and consequently worsens the symptoms of depression.

Alcohol disturbs your coordination, judgment and motor reflexes. Antidepressants and alcohol combination makes these conditions worse than with alcohol alone.

If you are on MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor), a type of antidepressant, and take alcohol, it might cause a sudden and dangerous spike in blood pressure.

Once addicted to alcohol, a depressed patient may stop the antidepressant drug to have alcohol and may restart it again. This is not advised as it will only worsen the depression because consistency is important when taking antidepressants for treatment.

Alcohol also increases the risk of side effects of the antidepressant drugs. Some antidepressants cause sedation and drowsiness. If alcohol is combined with these medicines, these effects are intensified.

 

How do you deal with alcoholism and depression?

The first mandatory step is to stop drinking alcohol altogether. That is easier said than done if you have become alcohol dependent.

It is going to take a lot of willpower to do it. Therefore, you may have to take the help of a psychotherapist who specializes in such type of work, if you are not able to it on your own.

These professionals have a convincing way to put things forward. Broadly, they will educate you on the downside of the effects of alcohol and how wonderful life can be without it.

Your finances improve, so does your efficiency at work and your relationships with your family and friends.

Once you have given up on alcohol, you will then slowly start to see your moods improve and your depression due to alcohol slowly vanishing. This will happen in cases where the depression has been induced by alcohol.

But, if you have been suffering from depression and have turned to alcohol for mental relief, your depression will continue, though with some improvement due to alcohol abstinence.

However, if your depression does continue and has not lifted after a few weeks without alcohol, you will have to see a psychiatrist. Initially, he will treat you with psychotherapy and counseling.

If required, he will put you on antidepressant drugs. Treating depression can be a gradual process and you have to follow it religiously.

The day shouldn’t be far when you recover and live a joyful life without alcohol and depression.

To summarize:

  • Alcohol use and depression is a bad mix because it worsens the depression.
  • If you are a healthy person, alcohol abuse can make you develop depression.
  • With alcohol, antidepressants do not work as effectively and the risk of their side effects is increased.
  • Consumption of wine in light to moderate amounts may be beneficial.
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