A lot of people turn to alcohol to relieve stress, or drown their sorrows, but what if drinking alcohol actually had the opposite effect? What if binge drinking, though intended for fun, is actually contributing to depression? If someone you care about drinks too much, there’s hope to help them quit, and with the right guidance they can get sober.
Definition Of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 grams percent. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours. Binge drinking is essentially drinking to get drunk.
Who are the ones binge drinking though? The primary audience of binge drinking is college students, teenagers, and young adults who pick up the first drink with one intention—to get drunk.
Depression and alcohol use are often found in college students, particularly during their first year (National Library of Medicine)
Binge drinking isn’t exclusive to young people. Statistics show that one in six adults binge drink four times a month, still its most common for young adults between 18 and 34 years old.
Alcohol is a depressant, so regardless of whether your loved one is drinking to calm their nerves, deal with stress, or have fun they’re changing the way their brain works. Alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry by altering neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters transmit signals throughout the body that are responsible for thought processes, behaviors, and emotions.
So at the end of the day one of the worst parts about binge drinking is that it costs people their mind, as they put themselves at a much greater risk for disorders like depression or alcoholism. Of course that’s not the only consequence.
Here some of the other risks of binge drinking:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning.
- Violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Sudden infant death syndrome.
- Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Memory and learning problems.
- Alcohol dependence – Alcoholism
Excessive alcohol use (including binge drinking) can also increase a person’s risk of developing serious health problems, which include brain and liver damage, heart disease, and hypertension (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – SAMHSA).
What can you do to help someone quit drinking? Well the signs of drinking too much aren’t always blatant, but it’s important to know that there are things you can do to save a person from alcohol. Efforts can start small, but by suggesting that someone seeks help, you open up a new idea that they can in fact quit.
Understanding the relationship between alcohol and depression is a pretty good place to start.
Depression is a pretty common mood disorder, but it’s serious nonetheless. It affects a person’s life in a lot of different areas—from sleep patterns, eating habits, and work. Depression is frequently caused by a chemical imbalance in a person’s brain, but it’s more complex than that.
Interestingly enough, from a publication by Harvard Medical School,
There are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.
There isn’t just one type of depression either, and appropriately there are different causes of depression. Depression can stem from environmental, genetic, social, and other surrounding variables.
Some examples of depression include: alcohol-induced depression, perinatal depression, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar disorder, and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.
If you experience the symptoms of depression every day for at least two weeks, you could very well be suffering from a depression disorder.
Here are a few symptoms of depression provided by the National Institute on Mental Health:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
How Does Binge Drinking Contribute To Depression?
Binge drinking accelerates an alcohol use disorder (AUD) such as alcohol abuse or alcoholism. If you have a problem quitting drinking, you’re not alone. There are an estimated 16 million Americans with an AUD.
When alcohol use disorders are coupled with a depression disorder, it’s referred to as a type of co-occurring disorder (or dual diagnosis). These complex disorders require often require an integrated treatment with a medical detoxification followed by behavioral therapy.
Remember that alcohol use disorders don’t always precede depression, and the fact is that both disorders often contribute to the other. Thus binge drinking and depression become a sort of vicious cycle. In other words, a lot of people drink because they’re depressed, but actually intensify their depression in the process.
According to SAMHSA;
people with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of symptoms, as both may vary in severity.
To determine an AUD, you may need ask yourself if when the effects of alcohol are wearing off, you experience withdrawal symptoms, like trouble sleeping, fatigue, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, nausea, restlessness, hallucinations, or sweating. The bottom line is that the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol often mirror those of depression.
One of the biggest problems is that a lot of people will attempt to treat their depression, but don’t stop drinking, or stop drinking but don’t treat their depression. What can happen? The depression and alcohol use disorder remain untreated, and people end up relapsing.
How Can I Avoid Alcohol-Induced Depression?
The safest way to avoid alcohol-induced depression is to practice moderate drinking—which is defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans as “up to one (standard) drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age. This is not intended as an average over several days, but rather the amount consumed on any single day.”
If you’re unable to drink moderately, you may need to stop drinking altogether. This proves to be difficult for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the comprehensive care offered at an alcohol rehab center, a lot of people are able to stop drinking. Then after treatment they lead a productive life in recovery.
What If I Can’t Stop Drinking When I Try To?
If you’re struggling with depression and alcohol, but unable to stop drinking, contact us today to talk to a treatment specialist. Our mission is to free you from the bondage of alcohol, and guide you into a plan for recovery.