Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Depression?

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause Depression

Some people say they drink alcohol to “drown their sorrows” after a bad breakup, job loss, or other major life stress. And yes, because alcohol makes you sleepy, a few beers or glasses of wine can seem to relax you and relieve anxiety.

A drink once in a while when you’re stressed out or blue is one thing, but when you need that cocktail every time a problem crops up, it could be a sign of alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder.

There’s also a strong link between serious alcohol use and depression. The question is, does regular drinking lead to depression, or are depressed people more likely to drink too much? Both are possible.

Alcohol Use Disorders

An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is defined as “problem drinking that becomes severe” by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The severity of problem drinking may differ among people.  Alcohol abuse is characterized by a pattern of problem drinking that gets in the way of your personal life and ability to function in daily life.  According to the 2016 NSDUH, 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older had AUD.


Depression can be difficult to identify because most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem.  When feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — last for many days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. It may very well be clinical depression, which is a treatable medical condition.

Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

Alcohol and Depression

What is the Connection between Alcohol and Depression?

The question to ask is can drinking alcohol cause depression?

Alcohol itself is a depressant. Any amount of alcohol you drink can make feelings more intense, whether they are joyful or sad. The reality is when you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse. As a result, you could drain your bank account, lose a job, or ruin a relationship. When that happens, you’re more likely to feel down, particularly if your genes are wired for depression.

Since alcohol is a depressant, it can have a negative effect on people who suffer from depression, When someone is suffering from depression, drinking alcohol can make problems seem worse than they actually are and can make symptoms of depression worse. Alcohol temporarily cuts off the effects of stress hormones. This can exaggerate depression symptoms because it depresses the brain and nervous system.

Alcohol can also worsen some of your depression symptoms, including thoughts of suicide. The reality is drinking alcohol can enhance the severity and duration of many common depression symptoms, including fatigue and decreased energy, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness, and insomnia or excessive sleeping.  Unfortunately, drinking, more often than not, makes depression worse. People who are depressed and drink too much have more frequent and severe episodes of depression, and are more likely to think about suicide. Heavy alcohol use also can make antidepressants less effective.

So what do you do if you find yourself not only depressed, but you realize alcohol has magnified your depression, spiraling you through a repetitive and destructive cycle?

Treatment for Depression and Alcohol Abuse

If you are struggling with depression, it is best not to exacerbate depression symptoms with alcohol. If struggling with both depression and alcohol abuse, a dual diagnosis treatment center can help make a full recovery from both disorders.  In most cases, both psychosocial and psychotherapeutic approaches are used, in conjunction with pharmacologic therapy.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is essential and has proven effective for both depression and alcohol dependence, as well as aftercare planning for transitioning into a healthy, productive, and positive life.

Alcohol abuse and depression are both serious problems that you shouldn’t ignore. If you think you have a problem with either, talk to your doctor, or reach out to someone who is familiar with treatment centers.

The bottom line…depression can encourage drinking alcohol to “numb” feelings, and drinking alcohol increases depression.  There is another option.   Step off of the merry-go-round, and get help.  Treatment for both will release you from the vicious, destructive cycle and give you renewed hope for a better quality of life.

Get help today by calling the admissions professionals at Get Treatment at 855-638-9268. We can help you find a certified alcohol treatment center that specializes in treating co-occurring disorders.

Erica Loret de Mola

Erica Loret de Mola is a communications major who has been writing about addiction treatment for approximately three years. As content manager and editor in chief of Get Treatment, she strives to provide the most accurate and current information available to our clients.


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