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Dangers of Treating Depression with Alcohol

girl and friends consider the connection between depression and alcohol

Roughly 15% of all teenagers in America are affected by major depression. Some of these teens seek professional help for their depression symptoms. However, others attempt to ease their symptoms on their own by drinking alcohol. This practice, known as self-medication, comes with some very serious risks. Not only can your child worsen the effects of depression, but they may also develop a diagnosable case of alcohol use disorder, or AUD. If your teen has overlapping problems with depression and AUD, a co-occurring treatment program can help them recover.

The Connection Between Depression and Alcohol in Teenagers

There is a known connection between depression and alcohol use. Teenagers with major depression drink alcohol twice as often as their unaffected peers. In addition, teens affected by depression have higher chances of developing AUD as adults.

The Dangers of Self-Medicating with Alcohol: Worsening Symptoms of Depression

Why do teenagers and adults affected by depression self-medicate with alcohol? There are several answers to this question. When consumed in small amounts, alcohol can potentially ease feelings of sadness. It can also increase feelings of well-being. In addition, it can help diminish any sense of social isolation.

However, these effects are only temporary. When a bout of drinking ends, your teen will once again face the symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, this scenario can lead to the recurring use of alcohol.

Recurring and/or heavy alcohol use has some well-known negative effects on people with depression. The list of these possible effects includes:

  • More frequent bouts of depression
  • An increase in the severity of depression symptoms
  • Higher odds of contemplating suicide

In addition, self-medication with alcohol can potentially reduce the effectiveness of any prescribed antidepressants.

AUD as a Danger of Self-Medicating With Alcohol

Alcohol use disorder is the modern diagnosis for all serious alcohol problems. That diagnosis includes classic symptoms of alcoholism such as:

  • Losing control over how much alcohol is consumed or how often
  • Experiencing strong cravings for alcohol when not drinking
  • Developing a rising tolerance to alcohol’s effects
  • Going through withdrawal when alcohol use ends or falls off rapidly

It also includes multiple possible symptoms of damaging, non-addicted alcohol abuse.

The more your teen drinks, the more likely they are to develop AUD. This is true whether or not they’re affected by depression. Why? Frequent drinking can lead to physical dependence on alcohol. In turn, a physical dependence can lead to psychological alcohol dependence. As a result, your teen may start compulsively seeking out and drinking more alcohol.

Co-Occurring Depression and AUD

Depression and AUD are common examples of co-occurring disorders. This term applies to any combination of a substance problem and an additional mental health issue. A second term, dual diagnosis, also describes the same combination.

Teens affected by dual diagnosis need extra support during their recovery. This support must not only address the effects of depression. It must also address the effects of AUD. This kind of specialized care can be found in a treatment program for co-occurring disorders. Such a program may provide help in the form of medication. It may also make use of psychotherapy.

Seek Help for Depression and Alcohol Problems at Imagine Spokane

Concerned your teen affected by depression is self-medicating with alcohol? Talk to the experts at Imagine. We can help you determine if this kind of behavior is occurring. We can also help you determine if your teen has diagnosable symptoms of AUD.

Need help for co-occurring depression and AUD? At Imagine, we provide the specialized care your teen needs. No matter how severely your child is affected, our customized solutions support their recovery. For more information, call us today at 888.384.3143. We’re also available through our online contact form.