Alcohol can cause a person to become depressed and even trigger or worsen depression.
Alcohol use is also a risk factor for depression, as people who feel depressed may use alcohol to relieve their symptoms.
Several studies, including one that used a representative sample, found that people who drink to manage a psychiatric disorder are more likely to abuse alcohol.
Links and interactions
Alcohol and depression interact in several harmful ways:
Alcohol can cause or worsen depression
Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for new and worsening depression.
A 2012 study found that 64% of people who are dependent on alcohol are also depressed. The study, however, did not test whether alcohol consumption causes depression.
Research from 2011 found that having an alcohol use disorder significantly increases a person’s risk of depression.
Alcohol may even increase the risk of depressive symptoms in babies exposed to alcohol in the womb. Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are more likely to develop depression later, according to an earlier study from 2010.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down the activity of the central nervous system. It can temporarily make a person sleepy, tired, or sad.
Chronic alcohol consumption can alter brain chemistry in ways that increase the risk of depressive symptoms.
Alcohol can increase the risk of dangerous symptoms
Alcohol use in a person with depression can intensify depressive symptoms and increase the risk of adverse and life-threatening consequences.
A 2011 study of teens seeking treatment for mental health issues such as depression found that over the one-year follow-up, teens who drank alcohol were more likely to try to commit suicide or engage in other forms of self-harm.
Research from 2013 also supports the link between alcohol consumption and self-harm. The study found that teens with depression who drank alcohol were much more likely to act out suicidal feelings.
Depression can increase alcohol consumption
Some people with depression drink alcohol to relieve their symptoms. Over time, this can lead to addiction and alcohol abuse.
People who drink to cope with psychological distress may drink more over time, especially when they wake up feeling anxious or depressed.
Alcohol and Depression Treatment
Many doctors recommend avoiding alcohol while taking antidepressants.
Both substances can make a person less alert and therefore can be dangerous if a person takes them together. This is especially true for those using other medications or who have a chronic illness.
Some doctors advise drinking in moderation if a person must drink, which means no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
The specific effects of alcohol on antidepressants depend on the antidepressant a person is taking. It is essential to discuss the risks and possible interactions of each drug with a doctor.
A person should also monitor their reaction to alcohol when using antidepressants. Some people who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can become severely intoxicated.
People who use other medications or who use non-traditional antidepressants should be especially careful about drinking alcohol.
Benzodiazepines , a class of anti-anxiety drugs that some people with depression may use, can help with alcohol withdrawal . When combined with alcohol, however, they can cause life-threatening poisoning.