People addicted to alcohol or other substances are likely to suffer from co-occurring psychiatric conditions like depression or anxiety, which can present significant obstacles on their path to recovery. The association between the issues of alcoholism and depression often remains undetected due to the lack of specialized substance abuse treatment that can address both the conditions.
A person suffering from depression often takes to substance abuse as a means of finding solace from the pain and hopelessness associated with depressive thoughts. As alcohol is easily available, the chances of his or her to abuse it are more than any other drug like marijuana or cocaine. But, alcohol is a depressant and using it as a self-medication can only worsen the symptoms of depression. Alcohol also has the tendency to alter the functioning of the central nervous system (CNS), which makes it difficult for a person to respond to a stimulus immediately. Slurred speech, unsure gait and inability to respond quickly in a potentially dangerous situation are some of the examples that can be attributed to delayed reflexes.
Co-occurring problem of depression and alcoholism rampant in US
The coexistence of alcoholism and depression can severely affect a person’s life. In case the person is acutely affected by depression and is drinking heavily, he or she is at a higher risk of committing suicide. While the incidence of depression is common in both men and women, women are twice as likely to take to the bottle in case they have a prior history of depression. It has been observed that most cases of depression are accompanied by alcohol or substance abuse. Studies have shown that approximately one-third of the population with major depression are prone to experience associated alcohol abuse symptoms.
Teenage drinking is a growing problem in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by American teens is in the form binge drinking. It has been observed that those who drink before the age of 21 years are not only academically poor, but also have a higher chance of suffering from cognitive decline earlier than those who refrain from drinking before the standard age of drinking. Most of the teens who reportedly drink early are likely to experience major depressive disorder.
Underage drinking can have serious consequences, including increase in the risk of physical and sexual assault, alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, high rate of academic failure, alcohol poisoning, among others.
Alcohol alters processing of dopamine levels
Alcohol is both a depressant and a stimulant. When a person consumes alcohol, it takes a while before the bloodstream carries it to the brain. Once it reaches the brain, it alters the processing of dopamine hormone associated with the feeling of pleasure, resulting in the feelings of happiness and euphoria. Over a period, the person needs large quantities of alcohol to get the same effect, as he or she develops a tolerance toward it. During the initial stages of alcoholism, people often experience increased energy levels just like a stimulant, but in due course, it tends to slow down the CNS activity, which produces a relaxing effect comparable to a depressant.
But, since alcohol is also a depressant, an individual’s thoughts, feelings and actions can be severely affected. In fact, he or she may experience persistent blues that can grow into a full-blown mental disorder like depression.
Road to recovery
Both depression and alcohol addiction can be treated provided one seeks professional help at the right time. Co-occurring disorders can be treated with a supportive detoxification program, behavioral therapies and medication.
If someone you know is suffering from a mental illness as well as a substance use disorder, contact the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline for expert advice on the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in California that address the underlying problem and help reduce the risk of relapse. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online to know more about effective rehab centers in California, or in other parts of the United States.