Finding Help for Alcoholism and Depression

It is quite common for alcoholism and depression to occur simultaneously. The first studies of co-occurring disorders (substance abuse combined with a mental health condition) examined substance abuse and depression in particular, because clinicians noted the high rates of co-occurrence. A 2007 report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health noted the co-occurrence of depression and alcohol used to be a major health concern.

How Alcoholism and Depression Interrelate

Alcoholism can lead to depression, and depression can also fuel alcoholism. Alcohol is classified as a depressant drug which lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels and can leave users feeling more depressed over time. In the short-term, however, alcohol can seem to blunt negative feelings, and those with pre-existing depression may turn to it for temporary relief. The order of appearance of the conditions varies among sufferers. A 1997 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology notes that it may be more common for alcohol use to appear first in men and depression to appear first in women.

Whatever the order of appearance, when these conditions occur together they can impair an individual’s ability to function. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration notes that a 2001 study found patients with a substance abuse and mental health condition were hospitalized 20 times more than patients who suffered from only a substance abuse disorder.

Treatment of Co-Occurring Alcoholism and Depression

Those suffering from depression, even if it is quite severe, can often find much help when their alcoholism or other substance addiction is treated. The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study found that in the year following substance abuse treatment, the rates of suicidal thoughts dropped significantly among the depressed. Study participants reported less depression in general and visited mental health clinicians less often.

The best treatment results for those suffering from co-occurring conditions occur when treatment addresses all needs simultaneously and in a coordinated manner. Treatment components vary, but may include the following:

  • Medication. Carefully selected drugs may be used to treat either depression, alcoholism, or both. It is important that medications be selected which will work together safely and effectively.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Clients can help learn to identify and modify their thought patterns, which can have a positive effect on both conditions.
  • Relapse prevention. Patients will learn to identify situations that cause them to crave alcohol. For many, depression may be an alcohol use trigger. Learning alternative coping skills is an important goal of treatment.
  • Peer support. Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have a proven track record in helping those undergoing treatment stay on course. For those who also suffer from depression, other groups may also be good choices. Options include Dual Recovery Anonymous, Dual Diagnosis Anonymous, Dual Disorders Anonymous and Double Trouble in Recovery.

We Can Help with Alcoholism and Depressed

If you or a loved one suffers from the double-edged sword of alcoholism and depression, we can help you find treatment that addresses both conditions seriously and effectively. Call our toll-free helpline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, and let us give you information, support and a helping hand. Call now.

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