Fact: Alcohol is a depressant and can cause depression that is mild or severe.
Abstract: Contrary to some beliefs, alcohol is a drug which is classified as a depressant. This is especially surprising to hear for those suffering from depression that used the drug in an attempt to straighten up and pull joy back into their lives regularly. For these individuals, their depression tended to significantly worsen. Alcohol is a “depressant” in that it depresses arousal levels and reduces excitability. Not only that, but alcohol is also a cause of a depression known as alcohol-induced-depression.
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“Even though I’m depressed, alcohol lets me loosen up and will always provide me with a more enjoyable life!“
For some, alcohol is used to loosen up and make life easier. However, many of those who use the drug for this purpose end up in a perpetuating cycle of depressive episodes. Mistaking alcohol as a way to combat depression is an easy way to develop dependence on the drug, often leading to alcoholism.
While it is true that alcohol is known to loosen things up with a glass of wine or a beer, a drinker who is depressed is much more likely to develop a higher tolerance for it, which results in cravings and leads to dependence.
- Tolerance: the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get high
- Craving: a strong need, or compulsion, to drink
- Loss of control: the inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion
- Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking
To read about other types of depressants, visit the Northwest Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force’s website here. They have made it their mission to educate and raise drug awareness.
Alcohol all too often is promoted as an easy fix. American culture and lifestyle promote going out for drinks, especially in moments of high stress and chaos. For the depressed drinker, the culture blindly promotes progression from depression to depressed alcoholic. You simply cannot cope with depression using a depressant.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling guilt from past actions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Turning to / avoiding food for comfort
- Pessimism about the future
- Finding a real struggle to get out of bed
- Inability to sleep at night
- Feeling drained of energy
- Sad nostalgia for the past
With these above symptoms, turning to alcohol distracts users and offers a delusion that things are better until they’ve sobered up. Only then does their depression start to kick back in and they are left with even more misery, guilt, shame, etc.
For this reason, the strategy of using alcohol to deal with depression simply is not sustainable. The fact of the matter is that alcohol is a depressant and this means gaining any momentum to a break-through with a depressed mind is nearly impossible.
When drinking, most experience impulsive behavior and make every attempt to hide from their actions rather than track them. When depressed, every inaction is an action and continues to perpetuate the cycle of depression.
Alcohol slows down vital functions and causes slurred speech, unsteady movement, an inability to react quickly and reduces the minds ability to produce rational thought/distorts judgment. Perhaps this is why there are 1.4 million drunk driving arrests every year in the United States or why a U.S. Department of Justice found that as many as 40% of violent crimes occur under the influence of alcohol.
Today an estimated 15 million Americans suffer from alcoholism and 40% of all car accidents in the country include alcohol usage.
If you are depressed and think you may have an alcohol problem, we urge you to seek professional help and also look to learn more about recovery and sustainable solutions. Get the facts about alcohol to find out the truth that you need to know.
The Foundation for a Drug-Free World provides many resources on this topic and seeks to help those struggling to fight alcoholism. Their website features a documentary titled The Truth About Alcohol that you can find here.
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