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Sometimes, a person is diagnosed with both a substance use disorder and mental health disorder. This is called a dual diagnosis.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and depression commonly occur at the same time. In the U.S., the prevalence of co-occurring disorders is high.
Those with depression are more likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol. Alcoholics also have a higher risk of developing depression.
It is estimated that major depression occurs in over 24 percent of alcohol-dependent men. It occurs in just under 50 percent of alcohol-dependent women.National Comorbidity Survey
Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S.
Some facts about depression include:
Depression is often characterized by the loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. The condition can be attributed to a combination of several factors such as:
There are a few different forms of depression, including:
In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, other depressive symptoms can include:
Everyone experiences ups and downs in life, which can include short periods of depression. A formal depression diagnosis means your depressive symptoms last for more than two weeks at a time.
Alcohol misuse is common in people with depression. Many turn to alcohol in order to escape feelings of sadness.
Alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and heavy use can lead to increased depression.
While drinking alcohol may provide an initial feeling of euphoria, it isn’t long-lived. Studies show that alcohol consumption and depression increase the risk of suicide.
Alcohol temporarily reduces depressive symptoms, but they intensify once the alcohol wears off. Ultimately, people consume more alcohol to continue feeling the effects. This increases the risk of developing AUD.
People with current mental health disorders consume 38 percent of all alcohol.The National Bureau of Economic Research
While many believe that depression leads to an alcohol use disorder (AUD), the opposite is also true.
Alcohol abuse significantly increases the risk of developing depression. This is common in people with a genetic predisposition to, and a family history of, depression.
When you suffer from AUD, alcohol consumption is a regular part of life.
Heavy alcohol use:
Alcohol misuse can also intensify mental health conditions such as:
Alcohol abuse often leads to:
If your depressive symptoms continue for over two weeks, a co-occurring disorder may be present.
Alcohol-induced depressive symptoms typically resolve 3-4 weeks after your last alcoholic drink. However, this also varies from person to person.
Research suggests that alcohol or substance-induced depression can turn into independent depression. When this happens, depressive symptoms persist despite cessation of alcohol or substance use.
Living with alcoholism and depression increases your risk of experiencing a constant cycle of symptoms.
Alcohol use may temporarily reduce depression symptoms. However, drinking to numb uncomfortable symptoms can be very dangerous.
Depression is also a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. When the alcohol wears off, depressive symptoms can return. As the depression increases, so does alcohol consumption.
This vicious cycle can be difficult to overcome. It requires a focused treatment plan that addresses both conditions simultaneously.
In addition to depressive symptoms, other signs of alcohol withdrawal may include:
Drinking alcohol if you have depression is very dangerous. This is on top of the adverse effects caused by either on their own.
The combination of drinking alcohol while depressed could lead to hopelessness and potential self-harm.
Drinking while on antidepressants is also harmful to your health. Alcohol can increase the side effects of certain medications, causing:
A dual diagnosis for alcohol addiction and depression presents unique challenges. It is more difficult to treat at a traditional rehab facility.
Treating only one condition often leads to relapse. If a physician treats someone with depression for AUD alone, they may successfully detox.
However, sobriety can often make depression worse. This happens when you have been masking symptoms of depression with alcohol for a long time.
When a depressive episode hits, the risk of turning to alcohol to reduce the symptoms increases. This makes relapse more likely.
There are several available options for treating depression and substance abuse. These include:
Treatment in an integrated facility begins with detox in a safe environment. Medical professionals are available to assist with depressive symptoms that occur with withdrawal. After detox, professionals evaluate for symptoms of depression.
If the depression is alcohol-induced, symptoms typically resolve on their own. This usually happens after several days or weeks of abstinence.
If there is an underlying depressive disorder, the following can help:
Depression is usually treated with a combination of therapies. This may include:
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