Does Alcohol Cause Depression?


Drinking alcohol is a ubiquitous part of socializing in the modern world. It’s pretty hard to avoid, but having a drink here and there isn’t such a big deal.

It’s when you are drinking hard enough to blackout several times a week that you need to reevaluate. 

But what is the relationship between alcohol and depression? And is alcohol a depressant? It definitely is. According to the stats, 30-50% of people who have excessive alcohol use, are also depressed

Let’s read on to see the relationship between alcohol and depression.  

Are You Drinking To Make Yourself Feel Better?

Many people who are depressed drink to lift their depression. They drink because it makes them feel better about themselves and their situation in life, at least temporarily.

If we look at what comes first, the drinking or the depression, it would depend on the person. Even though you might imagine that alcohol is going to help you feel better about your life, it doesn’t do that.

Alcohol can actually end up doing the opposite, wherein all those pent-up emotions that you were holding in your heart and mind, like anger or frustration, become even more intense, and more pervasive causing a huge dent in your mental health. 

Not only that, but because alcohol has a whole lot of negative effects on your brain chemistry, it can result in increased levels of anxiety, and panic attacks. 

Alcohol and depression are intricately related. 

Alcohol Is a Depressant, Which Exacerbates Your Unhappy States

If you know anything about the brain, you know that it’s a sensitive and highly calibrated biological machine, which is affected by small changes in your daily lifestyle habits. Habitual drinkers will tend to have desensitized GABA receptors.

GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, and its activation leads to sedation and relaxation. Alcohol does the same, which means that alcohol ends up taking over certain GABA receptors in the brain. 

Over time, this can lead to the overstimulation of GABA pathways. Alcohol also inhibits glutamate which results in memory loss and impaired brain functionality. 

Finally, alcohol releases dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for feeling pleasure and reward. That means that binge drinkers will need to drink more and more to feel any pleasure at all.

And without alcohol, because all these pathways for relaxation, and pleasure are disrupted, it’s harder for binge drinkers to feel relaxed and pleasurable without alcohol.

All this can worsen depression and feelings of sadness and despair, effectively answering the question ‘is alcohol a depressant.’

Side Effects of Depressant Abuse

There are many side effects of depressant abuse, many of which are listed below. Remember that this is not a comprehensive list.

  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Death

The problem with depressants such as alcohol is that the more you use them, the more depressant effects will develop. The more alcohol that is in your system, the worse the symptoms tend to be. 

Not only that, but your body also tends to get used to the alcohol after a long time of the abuse, which means that you need more and more alcohol to feel pleasure, relaxed, and the positive feelings of being drunk. 

Also, one major problem with depressant abuse is that your body can no longer process anti-depressant medication properly. So if your doctor puts you on a regime, it will not be able to get you out of your mental funk. 

Alcohol Is Tough on the Body and Causes Many Physical Effects

Alcohol doesn’t only affect your brain’s neurochemistry but every single aspect of your physiological structure.

You feel more anxiety and panic attacks. You also have a hard time falling asleep, and more insomnia episodes results. The less you sleep, the more depressed you feel about it all. 

Most importantly, alcohol usage reduces the amount of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is rejuvenating for the body and mind and results in reduced concentration, reduced energy, and other ill effects.

Alcohol is also dangerous as drunk drivers have slow reaction times, which means they might end up causing accidents and resulting in financial problems and further mental distress, which increases depression. 

It takes your body a long time to recover from a night of heavy drinking. But it can recover if you give it enough time. Unfortunately, long-term heavy drinkers do not give their body time to recuperate from the harmful effects of alcohol. 

This results in a negative effect on all your organs, especially the liver, and kidneys. The dangers of alcohol are many.

You End up Making Bad Decisions Which Increases Depressant Effects

One of the main reasons people who drink heavily are depressed is because excessive alcohol use can result in the person making terrible decisions in their life.

This ruins their financial standing, can result in them losing their jobs or relationships, or even causing harm or injury to people around them.

It’s no wonder that people who are heavy drinkers are depressed. They have caused trouble in their work, relationships, and home, which causes them to drink even more, which causes even more problems in their lives. The cycle repeats viciously.

Also, excessive alcohol use can result in a situation where you don’t ever learn any healthy coping mechanisms because you always rely upon alcohol to get you out of tough mental or physical situations. This is a terrible side-effect of drinking heavily.

Is Alcohol a Depressant? 

The question ‘is alcohol a depressant’, can be answered in the affirmative. The more you drink, the more you change your neurochemistry and biochemistry resulting in you becoming more prone to depression.

But it doesn’t have to end there. Your body is sensitive to excessive alcohol use, but it’s also highly resilient.

If you can get help and stop alcohol abuse, the dangers of alcohol on your body will recede, and you can go back to living a normal healthy life. 

Check out our website to learn more about Laguna Shores’ personalized alcohol rehab program to overcome alcohol abuse and start afresh.