Some students who struggle with depression may turn to alcohol for relief. But drinking is deceptive. At first, your mood seems to improve, and you think you’re starting to feel better. However, alcohol can trigger and worsen depression symptoms — and lead to permanent devastating consequences. Here’s more on why alcohol and depression are a dangerous combination.
Greater Risk for Depression
According to recent research, alcohol abuse or dependence may increase a person’s risk for developing depression in the first place. One explanation is that alcohol might trigger a genetic vulnerability for the disorder. Also, because alcohol is a depressant, this may lead to depressed mood among people who already abuse or depend on alcohol.
Also, having a family member who’s struggled with alcoholism or depression increases your risk for either disorder.
Alcohol can negatively affect sleep, which becomes a major problem when you’re depressed. Depression already compromises sleep quality, and you sleep too much or too little. When you add alcohol to the mix, your ability to get a good night’s rest is ruined.
In the beginning, it might seem like alcohol helps you sleep. In reality, you wake up more during the night, and alcohol doesn’t let you get to the deep stages of sleep, which is when your body receives its much-needed rest, grows and repairs tissues, restores energy to the mind and body and boosts brain processes.
Sleep deprivation can increase depression symptoms — including depressed mood, difficulty concentrating and remembering things and exhaustion — and stress and impact your overall well-being. Plus, it can even amplify alcohol’s effects.
Dangerous Drug Interactions
Medications, such as antidepressants, may be prescribed to help treat depression. If you drink and take antidepressants at the same time, the result can be dangerous. For one, alcohol can reduce the beneficial effects of the antidepressant. Secondly, alcohol may affect you more than usual, impairing your behavior. It can also aggravate side effects like drowsiness — potentially risky if you’re driving.
If you’re taking a medication from a group of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), the interaction can be fatal. Some alcoholic beverages like beer and wine contain tyramine, an amino acid that controls blood pressure. When these drinks interact with an MAOI, your blood pressure can shoot up, and it can trigger a stroke.
In addition to exacerbating depression symptoms, alcohol increases impulsivity, decreases inhibitions and impairs judgment, so you’re essentially not thinking straight — or like yourself. You’re unable to make informed and rational decisions. This can put you in dangerous situations, and lead you to do things that you later regret which only serves to deepen depression symptoms.
Abusing alcohol when you’re depressed increases the risk for suicide attempts — and for completed suicides. It’s also been associated with suicidal overdoses and car crashes.
When you aren’t thinking clearly because alcohol has clouded your mind and you’re more impulsive, that’s when dangerous things that you can’t take back can happen. In fact, alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death among college students.