27 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
Fact checked

People often say they drink alcohol to escape and stop thinking of their sorrows after a job loss, bad breakup, or other major life stress. And yes, since alcohol makes you sleepy, a beer or 2, or a few glasses of wine can seem to calm you and relieve anxiety. A drink once here and there when you’re stressed out or upset is one thing, but when you depend on that cocktail every time an issue comes up, it could be a sign of using alcohol a bit too much and could be considered as alcohol abuse. There’s also a major link between serious alcohol use and depression. The question is, does drinking regularly lead to depression, or are people that are depressed likely to drink too much? The possibility is for both. 

A lot of people go for the use of alcohol when they feel down, or when they are nervous. The alcohol seems to help them feel better for the moment, but it surprises a lot of people when they hear that it is a depressant. The confusion arises because many people assume that depressants cause emotional depression.

What is a Depressant?

 While there is a common misunderstanding, depressants do not mean that they make you emotionally depressed. Instead, a depressant refers to a class of drugs that inhibits or depresses the central nervous system (CNS), which means that a depressant impairs and makes the brain and nervous system work slower. When a CNS depressant is used, there is a reduction in brain activity and awareness which occurs by blocking messages from the nerve receptors to the brain. The slowing down of the nervous system and the blocking of messages, change a person’s judgment, perception, movement, emotion, and senses. When a person takes a depressant, he or she will immediately become more vulnerable to many risks to his/her health, along with accidental injury and death.

It is mostly due to the name that many people consider depressants to cause people to feel depressed. Depressants mainly “depress” the central nervous system, they do not, however, make a person become sad while under the influence. Depressants may make a person feel quite pleased in the beginning. Like alcohol, for example, calms its consumers and puts them at ease. But depressants are not really used in small amounts because of which many people have really bad side effects. When alcohol is misused, the consequences put together can become emotionally depressing and even life-threatening. Alcohol is very addictive, and when used wrongly long-term, the drug can begin leading towards symptoms of depression that in turn eventually make the user depressed.

Is Alcohol a Depressant?

Drinking way too much can alter an individual’s mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. For a lot of people, alcohol consumption is a way of relaxation. However, the effects alcohol and hangovers have can eventually induce anxiety and increase stress. Alcohol is classified as a Central Nervous System depressant, which means that it slows down brain functioning and neural activity. Alcohol does this by increasing the effects of the neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Hangxiety Symptoms and Causes

Alcohol can depress the central nervous system by a lot, so much so that it results in impairment such as unsteady movement, slurred speech, disturbed perceptions, and an inability to react quickly. Mentally, alcohol lowers a person’s ability to think rationally, lessens inhibitions, and distorts judgment. If a person consumes too much alcohol too quickly, he or she can depress the central nervous system to a point of respiratory failure, coma, or death.

Alcohol contains stimulating as well as sedative effects. Although clinically categorized as a depressant, the amount of alcohol taken and a person’s own reaction to the drug determines the kind of effect he or she will have. A lot of people drink for the initial stimulant effect, so they can “loosen up” and lower social inhibitions. However, if a person takes in more than the body can tolerate or the body cannot handle the amount taken, he or she will then begin to experience alcohol’s sedating effects such as cognitive impairment. Few people drink primarily for alcohol’s sedative effects, for example, anxiety reduction. Certain studies show that most people primarily drink alcohol to experience stimulation and associated positive effects, but after depending on the drug or developing an addiction, they start to drink initially to experience the anxiety associated with the sedative effects. Drinking slowly is more likely to lead to a need for more sedative effects while drinking quickly tends to increase stimulation effects.

Alcohol and Panic Attacks

A few researchers believe that people who don’t respond to alcohol’s sedative effects as highly as others are at a greater risk of developing an alcohol addiction or use disorder. They drink more to make up for the fact that they don’t immediately feel anything which increases their chances of experiencing the negative side effects. Alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, can be the cause of even worse depressant effects, including the inability to feel pain, toxicity, unconsciousness, slow and irregular breathing, cold, clammy, and blue skin, and possibly even death. Such reactions will depend on how much an individual consumes and how quickly he or she does.

 Abusing depressant medications and alcohol can result in both short and long-term effects, some of which cannot be reversed. While a lot of people use depressants because of the calming effects that these substances create temporarily, the severity of the negative effects outweighs any positive associations by quite a margin. The effects of depressant abuse include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Slowed breathing
  • Inability to feel pain
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Death

Along with the above, there are also a number of non-physical effects of depressant abuse. A lot of individuals that abuse depressants experience problems with finances, employment, friends, and family. Additionally, the effects that alcohol has can easily put others at risk and in danger, such as drunk driving, participating in unprotected sex, and engaging in physical altercations or abuse.

How Alcohol Affects the Mind and Body

Alcohol impacts the brain in many different ways. Alcohol, or any other depressant, binds to receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which, as mentioned above, is a neurotransmitter responsible for producing feelings of calmness, relaxation, and sedation, as well as the depression of the central nervous system that is the cause of suppression of breathing and heart rate. Alcohol also inhibits glutamate, which results in memory loss and other impaired brain functionality. Along with affecting GABA and glutamine, alcohol releases dopamine which is the neurotransmitter chemical responsible for pleasure and reward. This causes people to drink even more in an attempt to increase those feelings of pleasure and satisfaction that dopamine produces.

However, as an individual consumes more alcohol, more depressant effects will develop. If a person continues drinking, more alcohol enters the system and it will impair judgment, vision, and alertness. It dulls the senses, affects concentration, and slows down one’s reaction time.

Depression

Depression, as aforementioned, is a mental health concern. It is important to note that there are different types (based on severity) of depressions and it is important to ascertain the symptoms for each type of depression before we move on to discussing the symptoms of Alcoholism. We will address each type and their symptoms but before we do so, it is important to ascertain that some are caused by events in your life, while others are caused by chemical changes in your brain. Whatever the cause, the first thing you should do is tell your doctor how you’re feeling. They may send you to a mental health professional to determine the sort of depression you are experiencing. This diagnosis is critical in determining the best treatment option for you.

Major Depression 

This may be referred to as “major depressive disorder” by your doctor. If you’re depressed most of the time, most days of the week, you could have this kind.

You may experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of enjoyment or interest in your hobbies
  • Weight gain or decrease
  • Feeling restless and agitated, or otherwise exceedingly sluggish and slowed down physically or mentally, or having trouble sleeping or feeling drowsy throughout the day
  • Being exhausted and drained of energy
  • Feeling worthless or remorseful
  • Having difficulty concentrating or making judgments
  • Suicidal thoughts

If one has five or more of these symptoms through majority of days for two weeks or longer, your doctor may diagnose you with severe depression. A gloomy mood or a loss of interest in activities must be at least one of the symptoms. Major depression manifests itself in various ways in different people. It might be one of the following, depending on how you’re feeling as a result of your depression:

Anxiety Distress 

Most days, you’re tight and restless. You’re having problems concentrating because you’re afraid something bad may happen, and you’re afraid you’ll lose control.

Melancholy

You’re depressed, and you’ve lost interest in the things you used to like. Even when nice things happen, you feel awful. Ahat may appear is:

  • In the mornings, you’re particularly depressed.
  • Lose weight
  • Sleep apnea
  • Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?

If you have melancholic depression, your symptoms may be worse first thing in the morning. Consider enlisting assistance with your first duties of the day. Even if you don’t feel hungry, make sure to eat on a regular basis.

Agitated

An aura of unease surrounds you throughout the day. Symptoms are:

  • Lots of talking
  • Fidgeting with your hands and pacing around the room are examples of unintentional movement.
  • Act on the spur of the moment

Talk therapy is beneficial. You’ll meet with a mental health professional who will assist you in coping with your depression. Antidepressant medications can also be beneficial.

If treatment and medicine aren’t working, your doctor may try the following:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a type of electroconvulsive (ECT)
  • TMS stands for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • VNS which stands for Vagus Nerve Stimulation

ECT, TMS, and Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) all employ electrical pulses, whereas VNS involves an implanted device. All of them are made to stimulate certain regions of the brain. This improves the performance of the regions of your brain that govern your mood.

Persistent Depressive Disorder 

Persistent depressive disorder is defined as depression that lasts for at least two years. Previously known as dysthymia (low-grade persistent depression) and chronic severe depression, this word is now used to designate two disorders.

You may experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Changes in your dietary habits (not eating enough or overeating)
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Fatigue or a lack of energy
  • Low self-confidence
  • Having difficulty concentrating or making judgments
  • Having a hopeless feeling

Psychotherapy, medicine, or a combination of the two may be used to treat you.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, often known as “manic depression,” is characterised by mood swings that vary from high energy and a “up” mood to low energy and a “depressive” mood.

When you’re in the low phase, you’ll have symptoms like those of ‘major depression’.

Medications can help you manage your mood fluctuations. Your doctor may recommend a mood stabiliser, such as lithium, whether you’re in a high or low mood.

The FDA approves the following three medicines:

  • Seroquel 
  • Latuda 
  • Olanzapine-fluxentine combination 

Other medications, such as the anticonvulsant lamotrigine or the atypical antipsychotic Vraylar, are frequently prescribed “off label” for bipolar depression. Traditional antidepressants aren’t typically advised as first-line therapies for bipolar depression since studies show that they’re no better than a placebo (a sugar tablet) at treating depression in persons with the illness. In addition, certain conventional antidepressants may raise the chance of triggering a “high” phase of illness, or increasing the frequency of having more episodes over time, in a small number of persons with bipolar disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

It is a manifestation of major depression that occurs most frequently during the winter months, when the days become shorter and the amount of sunshine available decreases. In the spring and summer, it usually fades away. Antidepressants can benefit people with SAD. Light treatment might also help. You’ll need to spend 15-30 minutes each day in front of a particular bright light box.

Psychotic depression

People with psychotic depression have major depression symptoms as well as “psychotic” symptoms, such as:

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things something that isn’t existent) 
  • Fake Imaginations (false beliefs)
  • A feeling of unease (wrongly believing that others are trying to harm you)

Peripartum depression

It can be treated with a mix of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. ECT is also a possibility. Peripartum depression is seen mostly in women and is defined as major depression that takes place in the weeks and months following delivery. In the peripartum period, about one out of every ten males suffers from depression. Antidepressant medications can aid in the same way that they can in the treatment of major depression that is unrelated to delivery.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

This is a kind of premenstrual dysphori (PMDD). At the start of their period, women with PMDD experience sadness and other symptoms.

You may also experience the following symptoms in addition to depression:

  • Swings in mood
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration issues
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in your appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Feelings of impending doom

PMDD can be treated with antidepressants or, in certain cases, oral contraceptives.

‘Situational’ Depression

In psychiatry, this isn’t a technical term. However, you might be sad if you’re having difficulties coping with a severe event in your life, such as a family death, divorce, or job loss. This is known as “stress response syndrome” by your doctor.

Atypical Depression

This is distinct from the chronic sorrow associated with normal depression. It’s regarded as a “specifier” that describes a set of depressed symptoms. A good experience might momentarily boost your mood if you have atypical depression.

Other signs and symptoms of atypical depression are:

  • Appetite increase
  • Getting more sleep than normal
  • Arms and legs feel heavier than usual
  • Overly sensitive to negative feedback

Antidepressants may be of assistance. As a first-line therapy, your doctor may recommend an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). They may also suggest an older type of antidepressant known as an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor), which is a well-studied family of antidepressants for treating atypical depression.

Treatment Resistant Depression

About a third of those who are treated for depression try multiple treatments without result. If this describes you, you may be suffering from treatment-resistant depression. There are a variety of reasons why your depression may be resistant to therapy. You might, for example, have other medical issues that make treating your depression difficult.

If you’ve been diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression, your doctor may suggest certain non-traditional treatments or, in some cases, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

What we can ascertain is that the symptoms for each type of depression vary slightly but predominantly, some symptoms are more common than the others. These are: 

  • Concentration, recalling information, and making judgments are all difficult for you.
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt, worthlessness, and powerlessness are all common feelings.
  • Hopelessness and pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much are all symptoms of sleep deprivation.
  • Irritability or grumpiness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasant activities, such as sex 
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that are persistent
  • Digestive issues that don’t improve despite therapy Sad, worried, or “empty” sensations that don’t go away
  • Suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts

Alcoholism 

Now we will discuss the symptoms of Alcoholism. The behavioural and bodily consequences that arise as a result of alcohol addiction are the basis for the symptoms of alcoholism.

The following are some of the behaviours that people with alcohol consumption disorders may participate in:

  • If you’re drinking alone, you’ll need to drink more to experience the effects of alcohol (having a high tolerance)
  • When probed about their drinking habits, they get aggressive or enraged.
  • Drinking while unable to regulate alcohol consumption creating reasons to drink continuing to drink even when legal, social, or economic difficulties arise giving up essential social, vocational, or leisure activities due of alcohol use
  • The following physical symptoms may be experienced by those who are suffering from alcoholism:
  • Immense desire for alcohol
  • When you stop drinking, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, nausea, and vomiting.
  • The morning after drinking, one experiences tremors (involuntary shaking)
  • After a night of drinking, one may experience memory lapses (blacking out)
  • Alcoholic ketoacidosis (dehydration-like symptoms) and cirrhosis, for example.

Are you not sure of the effects alcohol has on your body? Maybe you’re taking a few beers after having a stressful week at work or after a bad breakup. You could think a few drinks will calm you and make you feel better. But if you’ve already got depression, think twice before going for a drink. Even a little bit of alcohol can have bad effects on you.

Alcohol affects your brain a little bit like a sedative. Some glasses of beer or a bit of wine can seem to make you more relaxed and calm as well as relieve your stress, but they can also increase your risk of becoming depressed. Alcohol is a depressant that may make your problems seem worse than they actually are and it can make you feel even more down than the way you felt before having a drink.

Alcohol can make your depression symptoms worse which include suicidal thoughts. People who suffer from alcohol abuse have the greatest rates of depression. Research has shown that among people with an alcohol problem, somewhere in the range of 30 percent to 50 percent suffer depressive symptoms at any given time.

And it works the other way around as well. According to some research, almost one-third of people with severe depression start to have an alcohol disorder. Studies have also shown that children who are depressed are very likely to develop problems with alcohol abuse once they become adults. Alcohol may also affect your body’s functions in a bad way that further enhances depressive symptoms:

Alcohol may reduce serotonin and norepinephrine levels, which helps regulate your mood. Lower levels of these chemicals could make a sad person even more depressed. Alcohol removes the effects of stress hormones temporarily. This can increase your symptoms of depression because it depresses the brain and nervous system.

Stress or drugs such as alcohol or cocaine may initiate a gene that is connected to depression and more mental health issues. This gene may result in seizures, depression, manic-depressive episodes, and other mental issues, according to Robert Post, chief of the biological psychiatry branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Folic acid deficiency makes the brain processes age and increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Depression is also usually in those with folate deficiency. Alcohol use can lower the level of folic acid.

Alcohol alters sleep and disrupts the thought process, which can enhance depressive symptoms. If you have issues with depression, don’t enhance your depression symptoms by using alcohol. And if you have both the disorders of depression and alcohol abuse, find a dual diagnosis treatment center that could help you fully recover from both these disorders.

We will now discuss the effects of alcohol and depression specifically with regards to the next morning. 

Alcohol 

A night of drinking for many people can result in a painful morning after and the dreaded consequences of a hangover. What does science have to say about this occurrence? What causes the normal hangover symptoms? And there’s an age-old question: are there any actual cures for hangovers? This begs the question:

What Is a Hangover, Exactly?

A hangover is a combination of symptoms that develop as a result of excessive drinking. Fatigue, weakness, thirst, headache, muscular pains, nausea, stomach discomfort, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, irritability, sweating, and high blood pressure are all common symptoms. The severity of a hangover varies from person to person. Before we move forward, it is pertinent to look at other Substances that contribute to the symptoms of a Hangover. Although alcohol is the primary cause of a hangover, additional components of alcoholic drinks may contribute to or exacerbate hangover symptoms.

Congeners are chemicals generated during fermentation that are not ethyl alcohol. The taste and fragrance of alcoholic beverages are influenced by these compounds. Some people’s hangover symptoms may be exacerbated by darker drinks, such as bourbon, which contain greater amounts of congeners than clear spirits. Sulfites are chemicals that are used as preservatives in wine. If you’re sensitive to sulfites, you could get a headache the next morning after a night of drinking wine. This brings us to our next question: what causes the symptoms of a hangover? Answering this question will be able to help us understand better what one feels after a night of drinking alcohol;

  • Hangovers can be caused by a variety of reasons, including:
  • Mild dehydration: Alcohol inhibits the production of vasopressin, a brain hormone that causes the kidneys to retain fluid by sending signals to them. As a result, alcohol causes increased urine and fluid loss. The resulting moderate dehydration is likely to contribute to hangover symptoms including thirst, tiredness, and a headache.
  • Sleep disruption: People who consume alcohol may fall asleep sooner, but their sleep is fragmented, and they tend to wake up earlier. This leads to exhaustion and decreased productivity.
  • Gastrointestinal irritation: Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and promotes acid production. This might cause nausea and stomach pains.
  • Inflammation: Alcohol causes the body to become more inflamed. Inflammation has a part in the malaise that individuals experience when they are unwell, therefore it might also be a factor in hangover symptoms.
  • Alcohol metabolism, largely by the liver, produces the toxic, short-lived byproduct acetaldehyde, which leads to inflammation in the liver, pancreas, brain, gastrointestinal system, and other organs.
  • Mini-withdrawal: While drinking, people may feel calmer, more relaxed, and even euphoric, but as the brain strives to maintain equilibrium, it soon adjusts to those beneficial effects. As a result, as the high wears off, folks may feel more restless and agitated than they did before drinking.

It’s impossible to say how many beers will produce a hangover because everyone is different. When individuals drink to the point of drunkenness, there’s a possibility they’ll wake up with a hangover the next day. After having ascertained the after-effects of drinking, it must be understood how long a hangover lasts and when does it peak? The answer is that when the body’s blood alcohol content drops to around zero, hangover symptoms peak. Symptoms might continue for up to 24 hours.

Despite the fact that numerous hangover cures have been mentioned on the internet and on social media, none have been scientifically shown to be helpful. There is no secret cure for hangovers; the only thing that can help is time. A person must wait for the body to remove the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism, rehydrate, repair inflamed tissue, and restore normal immunological and brain activity. A hangover cannot be cured by drinking coffee, showering, or having an alcoholic beverage the next day.

To avoid hangovers, some individuals take over-the-counter pain medications (usually acetaminophen) before going to bed. It’s crucial to understand that combining alcohol and acetaminophen can be harmful to the liver. Certain over-the-counter pain medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can increase acid production and irritate the stomach lining, similar to alcohol. When using these drugs before or after ingesting alcohol, use care.

Some people use electrolyte-rich sports drinks or other products, or even intravenous (IV) treatments, to correct electrolyte imbalance induced by increased urine and fluid loss as a result of drinking to alleviate hangover symptoms. There is no evidence of a link between the severity of electrolyte disruptions and hangover severity, nor of the influence of adding electrolytes on hangover severity. When the effects of alcohol wear off, most people’s bodies rapidly recover electrolyte equilibrium.

Finally, the only certain way to avoid a hangover is to drink in moderation or refrain from drinking altogether.

Depression

It is now important to discuss the link between depression and alcohol. In this part of the article, we will discuss this link and how alcohol plays a part in aggravating depression. These are some of the ways in which alcohol is linked with depression and the ways in which one’s ‘next morning’ is affected:

Your sleep is disrupted by alcohol

Have you ever gotten a terrible night’s sleep after drinking? Perhaps you tossed and turned, had strange nightmares, or awoke with a pounding heart. All of these unpleasant events are very common. Alcohol consumption can cause changes in brain chemistry, which can lead to sleep problems. Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, preventing you from receiving adequate REM sleep. Remember that drinking might have bodily effects, such as nausea and dehydration, which can prevent you from obtaining a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation may have a negative impact on your mood the next day, since tiredness and persistent physical symptoms can make it difficult to focus. You may feel depressed as a result of this.

Similarly, negative emotions can be exacerbated by alcohol

After a night of drinking, being in a bad mood may be excruciating. If you already have depression, drinking can amplify the strength of your feelings, making you feel even worse. Alcohol has the potential to alter the parts of your brain that help you manage your emotions. You may start drinking to forget about what’s on your mind, but as the buzz wears off, you may find yourself wallowing in those sensations instead. Because alcohol may obscure your thinking, it might make it difficult to identify answers to issues.

Drinking as a coping mechanism can become a habit

When you use alcohol to cope with obstacles and bad feelings on a daily basis, you may neglect to take other steps that may help you properly handle those issues. As a result, whatever problems you’re having, ranging from work stress to relationship problems, may worsen and can aggravate your depression. You may never address the underlying reasons of your pain if you rely on drink to relieve anxiety in social situations, for example.

And what about the stated reduced inhibitions? They can influence you to make judgments you wouldn’t ordinarily make. This, when paired with elevated emotional states, might have certain unfavourable consequences. Increased rage may lead to a quarrel with a loved one. Having said that, the above discussion has encapsulated what a morning after drinking the night prior, and how, as a result of drinking, one can suffer/aggravate their depression. 

An alcohol use disorder can be mild or severe. Mild patterns can turn into more serious complications which is why treatment is preferred to start at an earlier stage. Early treatment and intervention could help those with alcohol use disorder much quicker and get rid of the problem while it is still in its earlier phase. While it’s up to the individual to be willing to start the journey to get better, you could also help. Continue reading for some steps you may take to help your friend, family member, or loved one.

Step 1: Learn About Alcohol use disorder:

The first thing one should do to help a depressed person drinking alcohol too frequently is to see whether he or she has an alcohol disorder (alcohol addiction). Find out if it is just an occasional form of drinking or has it become habitual? Pay close attention because a lot of times people say they are only having a little bit of a single drink, but in reality, they are heavily dependent upon alcohol for making them feel better.  It is a cause for concern if the person is reaching for alcohol ever so often, every single time they feel low.

Step 2: Practice What You’re Going to Say:

Let the individual you care for know that you’re there and that you care. Try to construct statements that are positive and supportive. Do not be negative, hurtful, or presumptuous under any circumstances. Using statements starting with “I” reduces accusation and allows you to be an active participant in the discussion. It could be helpful to bring up a specific concern. You can mention when alcohol caused an unwanted effect. That could be violent behavior or economic problems. Instead of saying, “You’re an alcoholic. You have to get help now,” you can say, “I love you and you’re very important to me, but I’m concerned about how much you’re drinking, and it may be harming your health.” A person that is depressed will love to hear that there is someone that cares about them, hence such statements will be very helpful in attempting to do your part in the individual’s road to recovery. You should be ready for any kind of response. No matter what the reaction is, you should stay calm and assure the individual that they have your respect and support.

Step 3: Picking the Correct Time and Place:

Choose the right time to have this important discussion. Have the discussion in a place where you are sure you will have silence and privacy. You will want to avoid any interruptions so that you both have the full attention of one another. Make sure your individual is not upset or busy doing something else at that moment. Most importantly, the person should be sober at the time.

Step 4: Approach and Listen with Honesty and Compassion:

If the individual has an alcohol problem, the best possible thing you can do is be open and honest with them about it. To Hope the person will get better by themself won’t fix the issue. Let your loved ones know that you’re worried they’re drinking excessively, and tell them you want to be there to help. You could face negative reactions, so you need to be prepared for that. Try to continue along with any resistance to what you may have suggested. The person could refuse to be drinking completely, and they can even react angrily to your tries. Do not take it to heart. Let them have some time and space to make an honest decision with an open mind. Then listen to what they have to say.

Step 5: Offer Your Support:

You need to realize that you cannot force someone who does not want to go into treatment. All you may attempt is to offer your help. It is in their hands to decide if they will take it or not. Do not be judgmental. Be more empathetic, and sincere. Picture yourself in the same situation and what your reaction might have been. Your friend or loved one may choose to cut back on their own. Actions, however, are more important than words. Urge the individual to go into a formal treatment program. Ask them for assurance and strong commitments and then do a check upon them. You could also want to see if other family members and friends want to be involved. This may depend on a few factors, such as how serious the condition is or how much to themselves the individual may be.

Step 6: Intervene:

Approaching someone to talk about your concerns is different from an intervention. An intervention is being more involved. It involves planning, giving consequences, sharing, and presenting a treatment option.

An intervention can be the course of action if the individual is extremely resistant to getting help. In this condition, friends, family members, and co-workers may get together to confront the individual and urge them into treatment. Interventions are mostly done with the help of a professional counselor. A professional therapist could:

  • Give advice on how to get the individual into treatment
  • Explain the treatment options they can opt for
  • Find treatment programs in your area

Modern research has become advanced enough to find out the correlation between depression and alcohol. In fact, it is proven that people who are suffering from depression are more likely to become dependent on alcohol. One reason for this may be that alcohol affects the natural chemistry of the brain, disrupting its balance of neurotransmitters and hormones. This misbalance and modification of neurotransmitter concentration results in depression. Individuals try to look for ways to bring about the balance again, and the easiest way to do this is to drink alcohol. For example, when the monoamine neurotransmitter dopamine is reduced, people feel depressed. To feel better and less melancholic, they reach for alcohol because alcohol increases dopamine levels. Thus, people drink in order to get rid of their sorrows. A depressed person also may turn to alcohol because he/she finds it as a source of self-medication that can take their worries, sadness, fears, and negative moods away.

Nearly one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem. Mostly, depression occurs first. Research shows that depressed children are more likely to have alcohol problems a few years later when they grow up a bit. Also, teens who have had strong depression are two times as likely to start alcohol abuse compared to those who have not.

Women are more than likely to start alcohol abuse heavily if they have a history of depression. Experts say that women are more likely than men to overdo alcohol when they are depressed. Drinking will only worsen depression. People who are depressed and have an alcohol abuse problem have more severe and frequent bursts of depression and have a higher tendency to think of committing suicide. Heavy drinking can also reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants.

Another reason why depressed individuals drink is that they have a family history of either of the two conditions. We already know that depression and alcohol occur side by side more often than not, and so if even one of these is present in another family member (alive or deceased), that person may have developed a genetic predisposition for both of these conditions.

The factors that can be identified here, that contribute towards drinking by depressed individuals, are; ease of access to alcohol, speedy and immediate effect of alcohol on the body, and genetics.

Alcohol is probably one of the oldest mood-changing and enhancing drugs discovered by human beings, but it can induce depression. The levels of serotonin (5-HT) and its metabolites are low in regions of the brain, which are of alcohol-preferring rats and in the cerebrospinal fluid of people who depend on alcohol. Enhancing 5-HT neurotransmission reduces the consumption of alcohol in rats; in humans, however, this intervention at times lessens depression and may contribute to the treatment of alcohol abuse.

Determining the relative chronology of alcoholism and depression is required. Most people with a dependence on alcohol who enter treatment, for example in randomized trials, have higher scores on a depression rating scale. These ratings normally decline after some weeks of either abstinence or normalized consumption. This is why the diagnosis of comorbid depression, and any associated treatment plan, must be done during this period, to determine if the symptoms of depression are secondary to the drinking issue or not.

In cases where the symptoms of depression are primary, alcohol abuse has mostly developed in the course of attempts at self-medication. In this situation, the type of depression (e.g., dysthymia, major depression, bipolar disorder, subsyndromal mood disturbance) has to be found out.

Lastly, the subtype of alcohol abuse or dependence must be identified, as these details are important for treatment planning. Type I alcohol abuse is normally late-onset, which occurs in both men and women with no family history of alcohol abuse or any other drug abuse, and no familial or personal antisocial traits. More psychosocial factors, however, are involved, and the prognosis is better than for type II abuse. Type II alcohol abuse is typical of early-onset and occurs most of the time in men with a family history of alcohol dependence, more severe progression of the disorder, and personal and familial antisocial traits; response to treatment is normally poorer than it is for type I.

Once comorbidity of alcohol abuse and depression has been clearly established, 2 symptoms of the depression spectrum require special attention. The risk of suicide attempts for people with both conditions is greater than it is for people who do not have an alcohol problem. These patients could get insomnia, which may last for months after they start abstaining and it is a predictor of relapse. Alcohol abuse has its essential characteristic of impaired control over alcohol usage and it happens due to changes in synaptic plasticity within the pathway underlying craving. The neurobiological concomitants of depression contribute to this impairment and raise the risk of relapse.

There are several modes of pharmacologic treatment that are available:

  • Naltrexone, a mu receptor antagonist, reduces craving by attenuating the rewarding effects of alcohol. Its results are slightly inconsistent.
  • Acamprosate (recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration) stops the negative need due to abstinence. Beneficial effects in not relapsing have been positive in many large-scale studies.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors work better and more effectively for the depressive component than it does for alcohol abuse. They seem to improve outcomes by treating the underlying depression rather than by changing drinking behavior.
  • Ondansetron (16 μg/kg twice daily) must also be mentioned, however, a 5-HT3 antagonist, for the more “biologic” subtype of alcohol abuse (type II above). It has influenced favorably both, symptoms of depression and alcohol abuse, in several studies, mostly when combined with naltrexone. The amount of time of the treatment must be left to the judgment of the clinician, as it hasn’t been specified in the published clinical trials. Ondansetron, interestingly, does not have a significant effect on type I alcoholism, which is normally more accessible to psychosocial treatments.

Psychosocial and psychotherapeutic approaches are always provided in conjunction with pharmacologic therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has been proven effective for both alcohol abuse and depression, and the normal strategies of motivational interviewing, which increases the chances of lasting results.

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