alcohol and depression, man sitting on couch with drink in hand

Alcohol and Depression

14.5 million Americans ages 12 or older meet the criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder each year, which equates to more than 5% of the American population. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can also lead to a slew of medical and mental health problems. In fact, alcohol and depression often co-exist.

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe to use. Alcohol is a prime example. Even though alcohol is legal in the United States, it has the potential to cause physical and psychological dependence. The widespread availability of alcohol and its inclusion in celebrations like weddings and sporting events can make it easy to engage in activities like binge drinking, which can evolve into alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and Depression

So, how exactly are alcohol and depression related? When you consume alcohol, your brain releases an overwhelming rush of pleasurable neurotransmitters like GABA. Alcohol is also a central nervous system depressant, which means that it creates relaxing effects that can alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation. When you struggle with depression, alcohol can temporarily relieve your symptoms. However, alcohol and depression are a problematic pairing because alcohol can cause depression.

Alcohol also intensifies whatever emotions you are experiencing when you start drinking. So if you’re drinking because you’re depressed, alcohol intensifies your sadness. If you’ve ever been called an angry drunk, it can indicate that you have underlying issues with depression. Depression can also lead to feelings of anger and irritability.

Another reason why alcohol and depression don’t mix is that abusing alcohol aggravates and worsens underlying mental health disorders. Alcoholism creates severe neurotransmitter imbalances, which can impact your mood, emotions, and behavior. Alcohol intoxication can also result in impaired judgment. If you struggle with alcohol and depression, it can increase your risk of attempting or committing suicide.

How Alcoholism is Treated

If you struggle with alcohol and depression, it’s best to find a dual diagnosis treatment program. When you abuse alcohol and depression symptoms appear, it’s an important sign that you need treatment. Since alcohol can lead to physical dependency, detox symptoms can appear within hours of your last drink. During detox, which should ideally occur under medical supervision at a treatment center, you can experience significant mood changes.

Another potential danger of alcohol detox is that it can lead to delirium tremors, which is a rare but fatal complication that requires emergency medical treatment. Treatment for alcoholism can occur at an inpatient or outpatient treatment center. The big difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment is that inpatient is residential, while outpatient programs allow you to return home each night.

Most inpatient programs also offer medically supervised detox services, which ensures your recovery from alcohol and depression is safe. Medications can help reduce the intensity and severity of your symptoms, while a dual diagnosis program provides you immediate access to mental health professionals, including psychiatrists. Inpatient programs can offer short-term treatment, which typically lasts for 28 days, as well as long-term options.

Inpatient treatment is a great option if you have a physical addiction, multiple attempts at recovery, or severe addiction. When you complete an inpatient program, outpatient treatment offers a great way to support your recovery efforts. Transitioning to an outpatient program following discharge helps ensure that you have support and guidance throughout the early stages of recovery.

Finding Treatment Today

Because addiction continues to get worse until you get treatment, the sooner you reach out to a treatment center, the better. At Right Step Houston, we offer resources such as:

If you are having problems with alcohol and depression, finding a dual diagnosis program is the best way to start your recovery journey. Recovery starts with a phone call. Contact us today at 1.844.768.0169 to find out more about our programs and your treatment options.

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