Alcohol is commonly called a “depressant”. It would seem that people who are depressed should abstain from alcohol if they feel at zero. But, as life and pop culture often show us, many people, trying to manage the pain, lack of feelings, anxiety or other symptoms of depression, too often resort to alcohol.
Why do people drink during depression?
According to George Cube, director of the US National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, this form of self-medication for depression is common, and perhaps even more than is commonly believed. This is not strange or paradoxical behavior. As experts point out, alcohol is a complex and multifaceted substance, and simply calling it a depressant may be wrong. Its short-term effect seems to ease the episodes of depression.
However, alcohol also has many quick and long-term negative effects that can exacerbate depression, which in many ways outweighs the short-term subjective benefit.
It’s difficult to figure out exactly how alcohol interrelates with depression because there exist many forms of depression. Some people are depressed — they have no energy, they lie in bed all the time, they eat nothing. Other people have more agitated depression.
Each person can look for his own, unique comfort, or react in his own way to any type of self-treatment. However, alcohol has a wide range of effects on the mind and body. It does not attract everyone suffering from depression. But someone who is looking for relief from the various symptoms of depression can theoretically find something attractive in a pair of shots.
Why alcohol during depression helps to feel better?
The main reason for the attractiveness of alcohol for many people is that alcohol leads to the release of neurotransmitters that improve well-being and dulls, at least for a while. It also inhibits activity in the part of the brain responsible for deep thought and planning. For some people, it helps to disconnect from negative feelings that are usually scrubbing somewhere on the verge of consciousness. Negative memories and emotions may fade. As a result, many people feel relief from pain and complexes, carefree euphoria.
A little alcohol can also help people with social anxiety cross the barriers that bother them. When anxious forms of depression, all the experts interviewed indicated, alcohol often relaxes the body and leads to an early sleep. The quality of this dream is poor, but for people who are tormented by depressive insomnia.
There are common effects of the initial stages of alcohol consumption. But people feel them differently. We don’t know why one person can get a greater euphoria when using the same amount of alcohol than another, with the same type of body build or metabolism. All that scientists know is that the “anti-depressive” qualities of alcohol are more attractive and “effective” for some people who are depressed than for others.
But it does not fully explain why so many people with depression resort to alcohol. People with anxious depression may just need relaxation, not the euphoria of the drink. Those who feel apathetic and lack of feelings may need the opposite. But each person may need a little bit of both. Sedative drugs such as alprazolam may be better suited for the first, and drugs such as cocaine – for the second, they have more targeted physiological effects.
All the experts interviewed noted that, indeed, many people use other substances to cope with depression. But the peculiarity of alcohol is that it is legal in most countries of the world. You do not need a prescription to buy it, you do not need to look for a draggier. Most people in drinking countries are familiar with the effects of alcohol more closely than they may be familiar with the effects of controlled substances, and consider it safe and acceptable.
Many people trying to cope with depression like the fact that alcohol is a multifunctional remedy that acts on many aspects. It works faster than other substances. This, in particular, explains why alcohol use is common even in cultures where it is considered illegal – people are particularly attracted to this substance.
Can alcohol exacerbate depression?
Unfortunately, for those who resort to alcohol to cope with depression, its various effects are a double-edged sword. Alcohol slows down mental processes, metabolism, breathing and other functions. For some people, the symptoms of depression are just that, so they may feel their condition getting worse. These effects, scientists suggest, may intensify after the initial peak of euphoria.
In addition, when the alcohol content in the blood begins to decline, the body begins to experience a kind of withdrawal syndrome. It is not necessarily a terrible hangover. Even after a small amount of alcohol, a person may experience – at least to some extent – mental and physiological symptoms resembling a hangover.
The body begins to cope with overloading. Moreover, neurotransmitters associated with stress are beginning to release. Also, neurotransmitter dynorphin is released, because of which a person feels disgusting. The intensity of this sudden reduction in pleasure and stress, like other effects of alcohol, varies from person to person. But for someone who is going through an active phase of depression, they are likely to be increased. It is almost impossible to say how long this “low” phase will last after drinking alcohol.
When a person moves from an initial withdrawal syndrome to a real hangover, he feels physical symptoms – dehydration and indigestion. This, for most people, only supplements all neurochemical problems, because, the scientist notes, if you do not feel well physically, the mood is unlikely to be better. This physical poor health can prevent you from controlling your depression on the day after alcohol – eat well, not smoke, do physical exercises.
How does alcohol interact with antidepressants?
If a person takes antidepressants, there is credible evidence that an evening spent with alcohol will temporarily reduce their effectiveness. The combination of alcohol with antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors can cause negative side effects – for example, an increase in blood pressure, which can only enhance the general feeling of stress and anxiety a day after excessive alcohol consumption.
As already mentioned, alcohol is quite attractive for people who are depressed and are looking for quick relaxation. After some alcohol, many people feel better for a couple of hours. But long-term effects only increase the symptoms of many forms of depression, affect pleasure centers, increase stress levels and worsen physical condition the next day. It does not help with depression, and even probably worsens it.
Because of alcohol, they feel worse and more desperate for relief. So they drink alcohol again, hoping for its short-term antidepressant effect. And again they are in distress. Not every person with depression moves along this spiral but for some, this cycle will eventually transform into alcoholism. The person will be addicted to alcohol, which provides temporary relief, with more severe brittleness and more severe depressive episodes in the process.
Tags: alcohol, depression