Alcohol Abusers’ Depression Often Related to Drinking

Alcohol Abusers’ Depression Often Related to Drinking

Alcohol Abusers' Depression Often Related to Drinking

Bouts of depression often have a cause, whether traumatic or psychological. For those who have a history of heavy alcohol consumption, the substance itself may be the root of the disease, according to a study in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Experts have long argued that heavy drinking leads to temporary depression. Often referred to as “substance-induced depression,” this condition is not always readily apparent to a treating physician, which can hamper treatment.

The average person may not realize that heavy drinking is directly related to mood problems. Likewise, some physicians are also unaware of the connection. As depression caused by heavy alcohol consumption can have a different prognosis and receives much different treatment than one not related to alcohol intake, this gap in information is critical to address.

“If you’re an alcoholic, you’re going to have a lot of mood problems,” said lead researcher Marc A. Schuckit, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine “And you may be tempted to say, ‘Well, I drink a lot because I’m depressed.’ You may be right, but it’s even more likely that you’re depressed because you drink heavily.”

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the symptoms related to substance-induced and independent depressions can be identical. If the individual develops a sadness related to heavy drinking, the symptoms are likely to go away within a certain amount of time of abstinence. Antidepressants are rarely required to address the depression.

This data is based on a study of almost 400 men spanning 30 years. These individuals were 18 years old at the onset of the study and half were identified as at higher risk for drinking problems due to having alcoholic fathers.

Over the course of the study, about 41 percent of the sons of alcoholic fathers developed a dependence or alcohol abuse problem, with nearly 20 percent suffering from at least one episode of major depression. These episodes were only seen when these men were drinking heavily.

This research points to an important question to ask any time a physician is treating a patient for depression. Medications may not be needed, unless they can curb the drinking.

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