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Depression and Alcohol Abuse

When combined, alcohol abuse and depression affect nearly 30 million Americans every year – and countless others who may be victimized by their destructive powers. Science and medicine play an important role in helping people manage the symptoms of both and repairing damage from either but defeating both require compassion and commitment. Both of these addictions can occur separately or together, but thankfully there are treatment options for them, including individual and group therapy and a drug called ketamine.

Alcohol And Your Brain

Northwestern Medicine spells out all the damaging effects alcohol can wreak on the brain:

  • Releasing more dopamine to create euphoria, a pleasurable feeling.
  • Depression, disorientation, memory loss.
  • Exhilaration. A blood alcohol content (BAC) of between 0.09 to 0.25 means that you are legally drunk.
  • Confusion. A BAC of 0.18 to 0.3.
  • Stupor. A BAC of 0.25 to 0.40 can result in a diagnosis of alcohol poisoning.
  • A high BAC boosts the chance of a coma thanks to weakened respiration, circulation, and motor reflexes and responses.
  • A high BAC could strip your brain of its means to manage bodily functions, leading to death.

Consuming alcohol changes the levels of neurotransmitters, which transmit signals body-wide and play a role in controlling emotion, behavior, and physical activity.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterized by any one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Tearfulness, emptiness, sadness,
  • Anger, irritability, or frustration
  • Problems sleeping
  • Low energy
  • Reduced appetite, weight loss
  • Bigger appetite, weight gain
  • Agitation, restlessness, anxiety
  • Slowed speaking or thinking
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixation with past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble with decision making, problems thinking or concentrating
  • Persistent thoughts of suicide attempts, death, or self-harm
  • Baffling physical illnesses, such as headaches, back pain, nausea, diarrhea

The Connection Between Depression and Alcoholism

Depression and alcoholism often coexist in the same body with devastating consequences. In fact, about 30 percent of people with depression also abuse alcohol. In many cases, the depression appears first, though both conditions seem to take their time before fully gaining control. Studies prove that depressed kids are more susceptible to have problems with alcohol within a short time of the first symptoms. Teens with major depression are two times more likely to start drinking compared to those who are not depressed. The numbers for women are as significant, especially if there is a history of depression among blood relatives.

When you consume too much alcohol, you are at greater risk of making bad decisions or acting impulsively. This can lead to ruinous decisions, financial disasters, unemployment, or broken relationships. All of this means you are more likely to feel sad, especially if your genes are hard-wired for depression.

How To Treat Alcoholism

The best-known methods to treat alcoholism are multi-day rehabilitation or 12-step programs that get pitched on cable television, but there are others:

  • Behavioral programs built to alter drinking behavior with therapy. Sessions are led by health professionals and confirmed by studies proving they are helpful.
  • Medications “prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.”
  • Lesser-known and local mutual-support groups and other similar programs.

Treating Depression

The symptoms of depression and its effects are routinely ignored for one reason or another, often due to lack of healthcare, shame, or the belief that it is a sign of weakness that will go away on its own. But it will not, and many people who suffer from it enjoy productive lives thanks to getting help when needed – either professionally or through self-help groups. Treatment options like – ketamine infusion therapy to control symptoms, psychotherapy, self-help – should only be decided on after research, assessing risks and benefits, and talking to a doctor or mental healthcare provider for guidance.

Will Ketamine Help With Depression?

The benefits of using ketamine or ketamine derived drugs to treat symptoms of depression are entering the mainstream, as infusion therapy and recently introduced nasal sprays are shown to be effective in helping patients manage their symptoms. Now, the drug is showing promising results for treating alcoholism because one of its side effects is making the brain forget that it is addicted to alcohol. The drug, however, is most effective when combined with traditional psychotherapy in many cases.


Alcoholism affects up to 14.4 million Americans, but depression even more – about 15 million people every year. When combined, the damage is disastrous. In certain patients, one condition can lead to or make the other worse. People who are prone to anger, sadness, health, and personal problems can be hit by both concurrently. If you experience symptoms of either, contact us today to learn more about the innovative new treatment options we can offer.

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