Depression and Alcohol: a Dangerous Combination

If you’re struggling with depression, alcohol may help you put your troubles aside for awhile. Unfortunately, the short-term benefits of treating depression with alcohol are short-lived, but the long-term consequences can be devastating.

Alcohol Can Intensify Depression

A central nervous system depressant, alcohol has a sedative effect and can actually magnify your depression, leaving you feeling sick, guilty and jittery the next day. Over time, drinking can worsen depression by lowering serotonin and other mood-leveling chemicals in your brain.

Alcohol Isn’t an Easy Fix

Alcohol won’t solve your problems, but drowning your sorrows might create a set of new woes. A serious problem with alcohol may lead to relationship problems, job loss, financial disaster and legal issues, not to mention an increased potential for illness, injury and death.

Alcohol Won’t Help You Sleep

It may seem like you sleep better when you’re under the influence, and it’s true that you might fall asleep faster. However, alcohol tends to prevent deep, restful sleep and you may end up feeling exhausted the next morning.

Alcohol Increases the Risk of Suicide

Studies indicate that alcoholics who are depressed are nearly 60 percent more likely to commit suicide than depressed patients who don’t drink excessively, with a higher rate of both attempted and completed suicides. Alcohol tends to deepen depression, skew judgment and remove inhibitions.

Alcohol is often implicated in suicides of veterans, teen boys and the elderly. The risk of suicide increases substantially according to the amount and length of time heavy drinking continues.

Alcohol Can Lead to Tolerance and Addiction

Eventually, long-term drinking may lead to tolerance, which means your body no longer reacts to alcohol the same way and you need more and more to get drunk. In fact, you may get to the point that you need a lot of alcohol to feel somewhat normal.

Tolerance and addiction aren’t the same thing, but tolerance has the potential to turn into depression in time, and that’s not all. Self-medicating depression with alcohol may also result in:

  • Anger and aggression
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering details
  • Damage to organs, especially the liver and kidneys
  • Psychosis and dementia after long-term use

Treating Depression and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction rarely gets better on its own, but if you are depressed and addicted to alcohol, treatment can help.

Look for a drug and alcohol treatment center or rehab that offers dual diagnosis treatment, which means both problems will be treated simultaneously. If both disorders aren’t addressed, you are at substantially higher risk of relapse.

If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, don’t attempt to stop on your own. Quitting drinking “cold turkey” is extremely unpleasant and can be dangerous.

An addiction treatment center that offers medicated-assisted detox ensures that you are monitored around the clock. Medications may be prescribed to minimize the difficult symptoms of detox and withdrawal.

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