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July 24, 2022

Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Depression?

While many individuals consume alcohol to celebrate, many others turn to alcohol to “drown their sorrows.” Alcohol can provide temporary relief from sadness but is actually a depressant. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead individuals to develop alcohol use disorder (AUD), harm their physical health, and worsen depression.

In 2019, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 14.1 million adults ages 18 and up were dealing with AUD. Numerous studies have shown a strong connection between alcoholism and an increased chance of depression.

The Connection Between Alcohol and Depression

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), depression (or other mood disorders) and alcoholism are separate illnesses, each requiring its own treatments. When the two disorders occur together, treatment professionals refer to this condition as a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.

Depression can develop as a result of excessive drinking, or alcoholism can flourish due to depression. If depressive symptoms are the result of alcoholism, they may diminish once the individual stops drinking and overcomes withdrawal symptoms. However, if depression is causing alcohol abuse, the individual will likely need to treat both conditions simultaneously.

If the individual does not deal with their alcohol abuse in addition to their depression, a vicious cycle of drinking and depression can develop, where the person struggling with AUD feels depressed and, in turn, drinks even more.

A study published in 2011 in the journal Addiction further illustrated the relationship between depression and alcoholism. The study found that the risk of developing alcoholism or depression was doubled for someone already struggling with one of those issues separately.

Signs of Alcoholism and Depression

Signs that someone may be abusing alcohol include regularly craving alcohol or continuing to drink despite the negative impact alcohol is having on their life. A person at risk of AUD may also cut back on other activities in favor of drinking or spend a large amount of time drinking.

If someone exhibits the following signs for at least two weeks, they may be dealing with depression:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Erratic sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Concentration problems
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Guilt

If individuals are exhibiting signs of both alcohol addiction and depression, they may have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.

Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis

Successful treatment for someone dealing with alcoholism and depression should involve an integrated program that addresses both concerns at the same time. This approach may include general psychiatric counseling to address the individual’s unique issues and an integrated rehab program that considers the addiction complications linked to depression. The individual may undergo behavioral modification therapy to equip them with new methods for coping with depression and alcohol use disorder, including identifying triggers to avoid that could lead to a relapse. Finally, the individual may continue their treatment through support groups or some other aftercare rehab program to guide them in their recovery.

With trained therapists familiar with co-occurring disorders, the professionals at Meta are committed to helping people deal with substance abuse. We believe that with the right attitude and the right support, it is always possible to start a new chapter of your life. Contact us today if you are seeking assistance for yourself or a loved one in overcoming addiction in the greater Boston area.