Alcohol is everywhere in our society, at parties, events, billboards, commercials, TV and movies. Due to the dis-inhibiting effects, alcohol is used as a social lubricant. For others, alcohol can “take the edge off.” Despite alcohol’s integration into society, it still is classified as a drug, leading as one of the most widely used drug substances in the world.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant in liquid form. Depending on one’s size, weight, age, and sex, the amount consumed varies to produce effects, or intoxication. Also, alcoholic drinks differ in alcohol amounts – beer is about 5% alcohol, wine is usually 12-15% alcohol, and hard liquor is about 45% alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant which has been found to lower serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Those already suffering from depression are advised to abstain from alcohol, especially those prescribed antidepressants. Antidepression medications enhance the effects produced by alcohol. For example, one drink may have the effect of two drinks, making one especially susceptible to intoxication. Also, alcohol prevents antidepressants from being effective.
Since alcohol temporarily dulls the effects of stress hormones by depressing the brain and nervous system, one is typically left feeling worse. One study reports on the effects of alcohol on depressed patients; they look at people who consumed one drink a day. After three months abstinence, their scores on standard depression inventories improved. The heavy hit alcohol makes on the central nervous system is damaging to the well being of depressed patients; alcohol further upsets the chemical imbalances in the brain promoting the onset of depressive episodes.
Alcohol and Depression
Depression and alcohol problems tend to go hand in hand. In a study that links depression and alcohol problems showed evidence suggesting that in men alcohol use precedes the depression, whereas in women, the depression precedes the alcohol use. Regardless of which which came first, exhibiting either of these issues, especially both, treatment should be sought out.
Extended alcohol abuse and those dependent on alcohol can have toxic effects on serotonin neuro-transmitters in the brain. Alcohol furthers depression symptoms, increasing the frequency and severity of depression episodes. However, not all heavy or long term drinkers will become depressed.
It is safe to say that alcohol contributes to the development of depression. Up to 40% of heavy drinkers display depression symptoms. And vice versa, about five to ten percent of those with a depressive illness have symptoms of an alcohol problem. New research conducted on the way alcohol affects the brain and how the brain is affected in depression has shown that some of the systems involved in producing the symptoms of low mood, anxiety, poor sleep and reduced appetite in depression are also affected by alcohol. After a long drinking career, brain chemicals can be completely depleted, taking a long time for anti-depressants to level out these chemicals. Alcohol based depression can occur in heavy drinkers and alcoholics. In a study relating alcoholism and depression based on a review of empirical studies showed that depressive moods appear with greater frequency in patients with alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
Depending on one’s alcohol consumption, cessation or reduction of alcohol intake who has been drinking heavily and has developed a physical dependence can trigger withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from alcohol is best done under medical supervision.
One of the main withdrawal symptoms from alcohol is depression. ScienceDaily reported on new research that shows stopping drinking, including at moderate levels, may lead to depression and a reduced capacity of the brain to produce new neurons. Within two weeks of abstaining from alcohol, depression-like behavior appeared suggesting that those who stop drinking may experience negative mood states days or weeks after the alcohol has cleared their systems. Because of this, depression in early recovery extremely normal.