Author: Charles Frank

Alcohol Use, Abuse, and Depression: Is There a Connection?

is alcohol a depressant

This is the equivalent of six pints of average-strength beer or six medium glasses of wine. If you regularly drink as much of this, it’s best to spread it over three or more days. Children who were abused or raised in poverty appear to be more likely to develop both conditions. It’s often a lifelong commitment, but one that can improve your life, health, and well-being in the long term.

Drinking persistently and excessively can increase your risk of developing a major depressive disorder. It can also aggravate symptoms of pre-existing depression and endanger your health and mental health. If you’re battling depression, alcohol isn’t going to make you feel better.

Side effects of depressants

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your central nervous system, leading to decreased blood pressure, drowsiness, poor coordination, and reduced alertness. It can also cause other side effects, including a risk for dependence and addiction. It’s generally not recommended to drink if you’re taking antidepressants. Alcohol can make depression worse and increase the side effects of some antidepressants. If you’re trying to cut down or stop drinking, research shows some antidepressants can increase your risk of relapsing.

is alcohol a depressant

Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and disulfiram are also FDA-approved medications that can help curb alcohol cravings. “Cells are living beings, and if you want to fix the issue of depression at the level of the cells, they cannot be inebriated,” says Taylor. “Alcohol makes us feel drunk and confused because alcohol makes the cells drunk and nonfunctional.” Because of this shared connection, treatment for both should include a diet to improve gut function and reduce endotoxin load that contributes to neuroinflammation. Following a Mediterranean diet rich in omega-3s, for example, might be one recommendation. Depression can also be directly caused by alcohol in the case of a substance-induced disorder.

What’s the Connection Between Alcohol and Depression?

Much like barbiturates (sedatives), alcohol is a drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain’s functionality. Yet, many Americans drink alcohol, even if they’re depressed. For some people, treating alcoholism will relieve depression.

It’s a little less clear why a sometimes crushing low replaces that initial high as your blood alcohol level decreases. They used to go by the name central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which pretty neatly describes what they do. They don’t make you “depressed” — they calm down activity in your CNS. Some are safer than others, but all produce lower levels of awareness in the brain and cause the activity in the CNS to slow down. John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

  1. For many people, alcohol consumption is a means of relaxation; however, the effects of alcohol and hangovers can actually induce anxiety and increase stress.
  2. “In our society alcohol is readily available and socially acceptable,” says Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, author of Whole Brain Living, explains.
  3. When you start drinking, booze acts like a stimulant, making you excited and energetic.
  4. If you rely on alcohol to cover your anxiety, you may soon find yourself drinking more and more to relax.

Individuals with mental health conditions may be more likely to use alcohol as a treatment. Several studies suggest that military veterans are more likely to experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and misuse alcohol. Alcohol also inhibits glutamate, resulting in memory loss and other impaired brain functionality. In addition to affecting GABA and glutamine, alcohol releases dopamine — the neurotransmitter chemical responsible for pleasure and reward. This causes people to drink even more in an attempt to increase those feel-good feelings that dopamine produces. Major depressive disorder involves persistent and prolonged symptoms, but depression, in general, takes on many different forms.

They can check your physical health and put you in touch with local support, such as local NHS alcohol addiction support services. You can also ask about other support groups or talking therapies to help you. If you’re worried about drinking or feel it’s affecting your mental health, a lot of help is available. Alcohol affects the part of your brain that controls inhibition, so you may feel relaxed, less anxious, and more confident after a drink. The chemical changes in your brain can soon lead to more negative feelings, such as anger, depression or anxiety, regardless of your mood. Some people may drink to try to relieve the symptoms of mental ill-health.

Variations in this gene might put people at risk for both alcohol misuse and depression. Nearly one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem. Research shows that depressed kids are more likely to have problems with alcohol a few years down the road. Also, teens who’ve had a bout of major depression are twice as likely to start drinking as those who haven’t.

Individuals with alcohol use disorder often develop a physical dependency on alcohol. Major depression and alcohol use disorder are also co-dependent in women, research suggests. Women with depression are also more likely to engage in binge drinking.

Risks of Alcohol/Antidepressant Interactions

Drinking profoundly alters an individual’s mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. For many people, alcohol consumption is a means of relaxation; however, the effects of alcohol and hangovers can actually induce anxiety and increase stress. Alcohol is classified as a Central Nervous System Depressant, meaning that it slows down brain functioning and neural activity. Alcohol does this by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA.

This content mentions substance abuse or addiction (which may include mentions of alcohol or drug use), suicide or suicidal thoughts, self-harm, depression and anxiety. There are details of where to find help at the bottom of this page. It is important to note that medications for alcohol use disorder are a first-line treatment.

And yes, because alcohol makes you sleepy, a few beers or glasses of wine can seem to relax you and relieve anxiety. Previous trauma is also a risk factor for alcohol misuse and depression. This is true for adults as well as children and young adults. Children who have major depression as a child may drink earlier in life, according to one study. Alcohol is a depressant that reduces the speed of brain activity. Research indicates that it can have negative effects even in low amounts.

Options for support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous, Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART), or Women for Sobriety (WFS), among others. Naltrexone may also be used to reduce drinking without quitting cold turkey. This approach, known as the Sinclair Method, aims to reduce drinking by having people take naltrexone when consuming alcohol. Because alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions and act more impulsively, it may lead to actions such as self-harm or suicide. Heavy drinking is also linked to suicidal thoughts and attempts.