20 Jun Studies Target Links Between Alcoholism and Depression
Alcohol addiction is a devastating condition. Abuse of alcohol can wreck a person’s physical health, their career, and their important life relationships. Sadly, substance abuse rarely shows up in isolation. Many times addiction is accompanied by a co-occurring mental health condition. This is called comorbidity. A good deal of the time what shows up with alcohol addiction is depression.
Strong Link Between Alcoholism and Depression
According to one study, around 50 percent of those treated for alcoholism also demonstrate comorbid depression. On the flip side of the coin, around 40 percent of those treated for clinical depression exhibit comorbid alcohol abuse. In fact, the two so often appear hand in hand that suspicions are strong that they may even trigger one another.
To Beat Both, Treat Both
The strong connection between alcohol addiction and depression means that, to be most effective, treatment should address both problems. It’s not enough to expect that if we clear up addiction then depression will self-resolve or vice versa. It’s much more likely that if one condition is left untreated it will become a relapse trigger for the other. Renewed drinking could spark a renewal of depression and a bout of depression could lead to alcohol relapse.
Therapies That Yield Long-Term Results
A study of 1,721 subjects compared outcomes from a standard 12-Step program treatment to those from treatment based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) along with motivational interviewing (MI). During the immediate follow-up assessments, people receiving CBT and MI therapy showed minimally better results in terms of depression and alcohol consumption compared to those in the 12-Step group.
The really notable difference did not appear until the one-year follow-up assessment. At that point the positive outcomes from CBT and MI remained strong while gains from the 12-Step based treatment had largely disappeared. This is most likely because CBT and MI focus on developing coping skills and learning to identify what might trigger a relapse. The person is equipped during treatment to anticipate potential dangers and strategize how to overcome them.
Skill vs. Support
It is not yet certain, but researchers in the study say that it appeared that the CBT-MI approach impacted the depression first and that as depression resolved, problem drinking improved. The theory at this point is that removing depression creates a better environment for maintaining sobriety. Certainly a person’s support level may wax and wane, while acquired skills remain steady.
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