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Alcohol and Depression: Connections and Treatment Finding the Road to Recovery

The intricate relationship between alcohol use and depression remains a topic of significant concern in the realm of mental health and addiction. Notably, research reveals a startling connection: more than one out of every three alcoholics has experienced episodes of intense depression and/or severe anxiety, as indicated by studies from Cox et al. (1990) and Wilson (1988). This statistic underscores the complex interplay between alcohol abuse and mental health disorders.

In this article, we delve into the bidirectional nature of alcohol and depression, exploring how each influences and exacerbates the other.

What Is The Connection Between Alcohol and Depression?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and depression often go hand in hand, creating a complex web of challenges for those affected. According to a 1993 study by Brady KT, Lydiard RB in Psychiatric Quarterly, as a typical depressant, alcohol affects the brain in many ways, and high doses will likely cause feelings of sadness (i.e., depression) during intoxication that evolve into feelings of nervousness (i.e., anxiety) during the subsequent hangover and withdrawal. AUD is a mental disorder characterized by an inability to cease or moderate alcohol use, despite the negative consequences on one’s life and health. Alcohol abuse often coexists with depression, necessitating a specialized approach to treatment.

A popular Reddit forum called /r/stopdrinking/ shared a response from user blackcat3334 clarified that alcohol is a depressant and can be a contributing factor to depression but it does not definitively cause depression:

“Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant making you sluggish, slurring words, sleepy—basically acts like a sedative. When you stop drinking, you get anxiety, heightened heart rate, etc. It’s a common misconception that it acts like a depressant, as in it gives you depression.

But it does hijack your dopamine receptors and to some extent opioid ones, which makes it harder over time to find pleasure in other things. This can lead to depression or anhedonia in some. And it does exacerbate preexisting mental health issues, which makes it harder to recover from those as well.”

Is Alcohol A Depressant?

Can alcohol make you feel depressed?

Alcohol can make you feel depressed because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means it can slow down brain functioning and alter the brain’s neurotransmitter balance. These changes can affect mood and behavior, leading to feelings of sadness or depression, especially in individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol or drink regularly.

The impact of alcohol on mood is complex and can vary from person to person. For some, moderate alcohol consumption might initially create a sense of relaxation or euphoria. However, as the effects of alcohol wear off, it can lead to negative emotional states, including feelings of depression.

Moreover, chronic alcohol use can lead to physiological changes in the brain that may exacerbate depressive symptoms. It can also interfere with the effectiveness of antidepressant medications, making depression harder to treat.

It’s important to note that if someone has a pre-existing mental health condition, such as depression, alcohol use can worsen their symptoms. Therefore, individuals with a history of depression are generally advised to limit or avoid alcohol consumption. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol-related depression, it’s important to seek professional help.

How long does depression last after quitting drinking?

The duration of depression after quitting drinking can vary significantly from person to person, as it depends on several factors including the individual’s physical health, the severity and duration of their alcohol use, their mental health history, the presence of a support system, and whether they are receiving any treatment for depression.

For some individuals, depressive symptoms may begin to improve within a few weeks of quitting drinking, as the body and brain start to recover from the effects of alcohol. However, for others, especially those who have been drinking heavily for a long period or have a history of mental health issues, depression can last longer.

It’s also important to note the phenomenon of “post-acute withdrawal syndrome” (PAWS), which can occur in some individuals who have stopped drinking. PAWS can include prolonged withdrawal symptoms, including depression, that can last for several months or even up to a year after quitting alcohol.

What Treatment Options Are Available For Individuals Struggling With Alcohol Use Disorder And Depression?

A variety of treatment options are available to cater to the individual needs of those suffering from alcohol addiction and depression. Some of these options include:

  • Inpatient addiction treatment: This is the ideal choice for confronting severe cases of AUD or any other concurrent mental health disorders. It involves staying at a treatment facility for a specified period to receive intensive therapy and support.
  • Outpatient treatment: This is suitable for less serious diagnoses that can best be managed with regular visits to a treatment center. It allows individuals to continue living at home while attending therapy sessions and receiving support.
  • Support groups: These can be a valuable resource for individuals in recovery. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous provide a supportive community and a structured program to help individuals maintain sobriety.
  • Aftercare services: These services are pivotal in long-term recovery. They provide ongoing support and resources to individuals after they have completed a treatment program, helping them to maintain their sobriety and prevent relapse.

By exploring these treatment options and utilizing the support available, individuals can find the help they need to overcome alcohol addiction and depression.

Treatment centers that specialize in both alcohol addiction and depression, as well as drug rehab, provide comprehensive care that addresses the root causes of each condition. Drug and alcohol rehab centers (links to article on “drug and alcohol rehab centers”) tailor treatment plans to the unique needs of each individual, promoting successful recovery and long-term sobriety.

Essential Components of Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

A Group Of People Getting Help For Alcohol And Depression

Dual-diagnosis treatment centers treat substance use disorder and mental health conditions simultaneously. The combination of substance use disorder treatment and depression treatment work together to create a solid foundation for recovery, addressing the complex needs of individuals with co-occurring conditions.

Integrated Care

Integrated care is a treatment approach that combines medical and mental health services, including mental health services administration, to tackle both addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders simultaneously. This approach is key to enduring recovery, acknowledging the interconnected nature of alcohol addiction and depression, and offering comprehensive support for individuals seeking help.

Examples of effective integrated care approaches in dual diagnosis treatment include Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment (IDDT), which combines pharmacological, psychological, educational, and social interventions, and the holistic approach, which treats symptoms of co-occurring disorders while addressing their root causes. Integrated treatment offers comprehensive and coordinated care, helping individuals attain fuller recovery and reduce chances of relapse.

Evidence-Based Therapies

Evidence-based therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), are crucial for addressing the underlying issues contributing to both alcohol addiction and depression. CBT focuses on identifying and altering negative thought patterns and behaviors, helping individuals develop healthier coping strategies and improve their emotional well-being. In the context of alcohol addiction, CBT can help individuals recognize and modify the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their drinking, as well as address underlying issues like stress, anxiety, or depression.

DBT is another evidence-based treatment that combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices. It is effective for dual diagnosis treatment, as it helps individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders develop skills to manage intense emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and regulate impulsive behaviors. By providing a comprehensive approach to address both addiction and mental health issues, DBT leads to better outcomes in dual diagnosis treatment.

Medication-assisted Therapies (MAT) are also known to be effective in treating substance abuse, including drug and alcohol addiction, and depression. These therapies at an alcohol rehab involve the use of medications to address substance use disorders, helping to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and promote long-term sobriety. For depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed. A consultation with a healthcare professional is necessary to determine the most suitable medication-assisted therapy for an individual’s needs.

Multidisciplinary Team Approach

A multidisciplinary team approach is an integral part of dual diagnosis treatment centers, as it ensures that all aspects of a patient’s needs are addressed, including medical, psychological, and social factors. This approach involves a team of professionals from diverse disciplines collaborating to deliver comprehensive care for addiction and the associated mental health disorder.

The multidisciplinary team in dual diagnosis treatment centers typically consists of:

  • Integrated treatment specialists
  • Counselors
  • Case managers
  • Clinicians
  • Occasionally family members

Each professional brings their expertise to the team, working together to provide comprehensive and holistic care for individuals with dual diagnosis.

Best Alcohol And Depression Treatment Centers

Top Alcohol and Depression Treatment Centers in the US

Several top alcohol and depression treatment centers in the US, including a renowned alcohol treatment center, are known for their comprehensive dual diagnosis programs and high success rates. These facilities offer tailored treatment plans that address the unique needs of each individual, ensuring a solid foundation for long-term recovery.

While all the mentioned centers are paid advertisers, researching each facility to see if it aligns with your specific needs and preferences is important. Factors to consider when selecting the right treatment center include:

  • Accreditation
  • Staff credentials
  • Treatment approaches
  • Insurance coverage
  • Aftercare support

Keep in mind that the most effective course of recovery treatment will vary from person to person and depends on the degree of AUD. Exploring your options and selecting the right treatment center can help you find the necessary support and guidance for your recovery journey.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

A Group Of People Discussing The Factors To Consider When Choosing A Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

When selecting a dual-diagnosis treatment center, it is important to consider several factors to ensure the best possible care. First, examine the accreditation of the facility, as reputable rehab facilities and treatment centers typically hold accreditations from organizations like The Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Next, verify the credentials and licenses of the clinical staff at the addiction treatment center, as addiction treatment professionals, including addiction treatment providers, should hold credentials such as LADC, LPC, CAC, and CCDP. Also, consider the treatment approaches offered by the addiction treatment program, including the use of evidence-based therapies, integrated care, and a multidisciplinary team approach led by a qualified treatment provider.

Lastly, check if the treatment center accepts your health insurance plan and offers aftercare support, as ongoing assistance is crucial for long-term recovery. Considering these factors can help you make a decision and find the right alcohol rehab center for your needs.

Alternative Treatment Options for Alcohol and Depression

In addition to traditional treatment approaches, alternative options for alcohol and depression recovery, such as holistic therapies, support groups, and outpatient programs, can complement and cater to individual needs and preferences. Holistic therapies, for example, may include family therapy, alternative medicine, meditation, yoga, and herbal remedies.

Support groups are also known to be effective in alcohol and depression recovery, offering a peer-oriented social model and a supportive environment for individuals in recovery. These groups offer guidance, promote sobriety, and help individuals form positive connections, making them an integral part of addiction treatment programs and long-term recovery.

Outpatient programs offer numerous advantages, such as flexibility in scheduling, the ability to continue with daily responsibilities, and cost-effectiveness compared to inpatient treatment. By providing access to a supportive community and ongoing therapy, outpatient programs assist individuals in maintaining their recovery in the long run.

Success Stories: Real-Life Experiences Overcoming Alcoholism and Depression

Success stories from individuals who have undergone dual diagnosis treatment for alcohol use and depression provide inspiration and hope for those seeking help for alcohol addiction and depression. These stories demonstrate the transformative power of comprehensive treatment and the resilience of the human spirit.

For example, Lisa Vreeland’s Rehab Success Story shares the journey of an individual who successfully overcame drug addiction and achieved success at a rehab center.

“My husband entered the doors of rehab after spending time in the hospital, ready to face the demons that caused him to turn to alcohol and fall into depression. From my first tearful phone call asking for help, we were met with compassion, kindness, humanity, and grace.
As my husband went through the program, my son and I were continually kept informed and part of the process. We were welcomed into “the house” to visit, enabling my young son to continue his bond with his dad. The house managers and other clients in the house were all kind and very welcoming to both my son and I, weekly. We felt we were visiting extended family for Sunday dinner.

The therapists and staff at Valley Spring offered services to my son and I as we prepared for my husband to transition back home. They continued to touch base, ask of our concerns, and offer support.
When my husband returned home, his hard work was truly evident. The entire dynamic in our home had changed for the better. The skills and knowledge he gained while living in the house and attending Valley Spring Recovery are amazing. His passion for life is back, and I am forever grateful! This program is unlike any other in our area. It is a true blessing to those in need in their darkest days.
Thank you to all who played such a role in his recovery!”

Lisa Vr

Sharing these inspiring stories can help us offer encouragement and support to those dealing with the challenges of alcohol addiction and depression.

What are tips for finding help for alcohol abuse?

Finding help for alcohol abuse is a crucial step toward recovery, and there are several avenues you can explore to get the support you need. Firstly, consider speaking with a healthcare professional, such as your primary care doctor. They can assess your situation, provide guidance, and refer you to appropriate resources. Another valuable resource is addiction specialists or mental health professionals who specialize in substance abuse disorders. They can offer personalized treatment plans, which may include therapy, medication, or both.

Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), provide a community of individuals who understand the challenges of overcoming alcohol abuse. These groups offer peer support, shared experiences, and strategies for staying sober. For more intensive treatment, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs can be highly effective. These programs provide structured treatment, including medical supervision, counseling, and support for long-term recovery.

Don’t overlook the importance of a strong support system. Friends and family can offer emotional support and encouragement, which is invaluable during recovery. Additionally, online resources and helplines can provide immediate assistance and information about local treatment options.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Overcoming alcohol abuse is a journey, and finding the right help is the first step towards a healthier, sober life. Each person’s path to recovery is unique, so it’s important to find the treatment and support that work best for you.

Recommended Reading: Tips For Choosing An Alcohol Rehab

What is the success rate of Betty Ford Clinic?

The Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation states that 89% of all those completing alcohol treatment remain sober for the first-month post-rehab, while 68% remain sober when detoxing before treatment.

How many rehabs are in the United States?

There are 16,066 substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States. Around 1.46 million patients enroll in substance abuse clinics annually, while 1.36 million enroll in outpatient services according to SAMSHA.

What is the success rate of rehab in the US?

Rehab success rates of rehab in the US range from 68 percent to 95 percent, with an average of 89 percent staying sober in the first month after treatment and 80 percent benefiting from improved quality of life and health after completing rehab according to the Butler Center for Research.

What is the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcohol addiction and depression?

Inpatient treatment is typically recommended for more severe cases of alcohol addiction or co-occurring mental health disorders, while outpatient treatment is suitable for less severe diagnoses that can be managed with regular visits to a facility.


  1. Schuckit MA. Alcohol, Anxiety, and Depressive Disorders. Alcohol Health Res World. 1996;20(2):81-85. PMID: 31798156; PMCID: PMC6876499.
  2. /r/stopdrinking/ comments/x48g19/can_drinking_cause_depression/
  3. Cox BJ, Norton GR, Swinson RP, Endler NS. Substance abuse and panic-related anxiety: A critical review. Behavior Research and Therapy. 1990;28(5):385–393. [PubMed[] [Ref list]
  4. Brady KT, Lydiard RB. The association of alcoholism and anxiety. Psychiatric Quarterly. 1993;64(2):135–149. [PubMed[] [Ref list]

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