Depression and Alcohol

alcohol and depressionMood disorders and alcohol abuse or addiction very often go hand in hand, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The good news is that both issues are highly treatable and there are a number of evidence-based treatment options to help patients overcome the symptoms of both at the same time. The bad news is that too few people ever seek help for depression, and the majority of those who struggle with alcohol abuse avoid treatment as well.


Many turn to alcohol in an attempt to lift their spirits and feel better after a stressful day or when they are going through a hard time. But when a person attempts to use alcohol to relieve symptoms of depression that are chronic, the behavior can quickly turn into alcohol abuse. Continued for the long term and in increasing amounts, the abuse can turn into addiction – and the depression symptoms usually get worse in the meantime.

Though the initial effects of alcohol may be a physical and emotional relaxation, alcohol is by definition a depressant. Especially if depression is an underlying issue, it doesn’t take more than a couple drinks for the depression symptoms to return, often stronger than before. With continued abuse, mild to moderate or intermittent depression symptoms can become more severe and chronic. For those who experience depression in cycles, a drinking binge can trigger an episode of depression symptoms.

Which Came First?

Does alcohol abuse or alcoholism cause depression? Or does depression drive people to seek out alcohol in an attempt to relieve symptoms? It can happen both ways. For some, depression comes first and they seek out alcohol for relief, as described above, often to ill effect. For others, alcoholism is the primary disorder, and depression develops after months or years of continual heavy or regular alcohol use or binge drinking.

Ultimately, no matter which occurred first, when both are in evidence, the symptoms of one can trigger issues with the other. For example, those who attempt to deal with depression by drinking will continually turn to the bottle when they begin to feel sad, guilty or worthless. By the same token, symptoms of depression often follow drinking binges, and the urge to drink often comes with those symptoms.

Without treatment for both issues simultaneously, the cycle can be endless. Those attempting to seek depression treatment will find that their efforts are largely ineffective if they continue to drink, and by the same token, ignoring depression while trying to treat alcoholism is almost impossible because depression is often a trigger for relapse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The best choice when both depression and alcohol are an issue? An integrated, comprehensive treatment program that has the resources to successfully treat the symptoms of both the depression and the substance abuse issue within the context of a single program run by a cohesive team of therapeutic and medical professionals.

At The Oaks at La Paloma in Memphis, Tennessee, we can help your loved one overcome drug and alcohol abuse as well as learn how to manage the symptoms of mental health disorders like depression. Contact our admissions coordinators today at the phone number listed above to learn more.