Alcohol and Depression


In many people, alcohol and depression are interlinked. Research suggests that four in ten heavy drinkers have symptoms of depression or have a history of depression-related illness. Studies show that the figures fall to 5% (men) and 10% (women) when the same people are not drinking heavily. These figures are on a par with depression statistics for the population generally.

There are a number of reasons why alcohol is linked with depression. A key one is that people use alcohol to cope with issues such as stress, anxiety, upset and insomnia. In the short-term on the surface, alcohol can help with these situations. However, it is not a long-term answer and can be counter-productive.

For example, although drunk people may fall asleep straight away, the sleep quality will be much lower, leading to a cycle of tiredness and irritability. Alcohol tolerance also builds up meaning more and more alcohol is needed to produce the desired effects. Also, although it can make people feel more relaxed, cheerful and chatty, alcohol is also a depressant and can lead to a vicious cycle of mood instability.

Drinking alcohol when depressed can be dangerous. It has an effect on people’s judgement and can make them more aggressive and even bring on or aggravate suicidal feelings. People who are drunk can have a tendency to behave irrationally and be impulsive. Statistics show that suicide rates are higher amongst drinkers.

Heavy drinking also causes work-related issues for some people and can lead people to feel more distant from friends, family and colleagues. Physical problems caused by alcohol can also exacerbate depression-related issues.

People who are taking anti-depressants should beware of mixing medication and alcohol. Anti-depressants are sedatives and this effect can be heightened when combined with alcohol. Anyone taking anti-depressants should consult their doctor before drinking any alcohol.



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