Uncovering the Impact of Alcohol and Depression Medicine & How Dual Diagnosis Can Help
If someone is dealing with anxiety or depression and takes medication to treat it, one of the worst things that they can do is to turn to alcohol. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (1), about 20 percent of people with a social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence. What many soon realize is that alcohol and depression medicine don’t mix and can lead to a dual diagnosis that requires professional help. Not seeking help can create multiple problems, especially because of the effects that the combination of alcohol and depression and anxiety medication can have.
Why Do People with Anxiety or Depression turn to Alcohol?
People with anxiety or depression may turn to alcohol to try to relax and de-stress. Alcohol is known as a sedative and depressant that affects the central nervous system. At first, it may make you feel relaxed. However, when you continue to drink, your body builds tolerance against the de-stressing feelings, causing you to drink more. When this begins to happen, an addiction can form.
Many people with anxiety may turn to alcohol because it has many of the same calming effects as an anti-anxiety medication. When you drink, your blood alcohol level rises, which makes you feel good and calm. (2) But, as those levels drop, you begin to crash and become depressed.
Alcohol also changes the levels of serotonin in the brain which can worsen anxiety. Once the effects of the alcohol wear off, you may feel more anxious than you did before you started drinking. This, combined with the depression and anxiety that is already occurring, is a recipe for disaster.
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The Dangers of Alcohol and Depression Medicine
Studies (3) show that 12% of adults have reported taking antidepressants. When someone who is taking medication for depression and anxiety begins to drink as well, they are taking a dangerous risk that can be deadly. Some antidepressants cause drowsiness on their own – as does alcohol. When you combine the two, the effect is greater and dangerous.
There are many drugs used to treat depression, including one popular drug, Lexapro. It is prescribed to treat major depressive disorders and general anxiety disorders. Mixing Lexapro with alcohol (4) can cause the following in some patients:
- Decreased effectiveness of the drug
- Increased anxiety & depression
- Liver problems
Lexapro can also increase the risk of suicide, especially in children, teens, and young adults. Since alcohol can also make people feel depressed when the effects wear off, it may also lead to increased suicide risk if you choose to drink while taking Lexapro.
Drinking while taking anti-depressants and medication for anxiety can affect your thinking and alertness and can be a deadly combination. Antidepressants and alcohol not only affect judgment, but also motor skills, coordination, and reaction time. (5) This can impair your ability to drive and do other things that require you to focus.
The Importance of Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Those with Anxiety and Alcohol Addiction
When someone is dealing with a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety and battling an addiction, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that 17% of American adults have co-occurring disorders that fall under the umbrella of mental health and substance abuse.
It is crucial to treat mental health and substance abuse issues at the same time to achieve a long-lasting recovery in both areas. If a patient is only receiving treatment for a mental health condition, they will continue to deal with their addiction. Any treatment to ease the mental health issues won’t last long.
Those who only receive treatment for their addiction and not their mental health issues run the risk of those mental health issues remaining. This increases the chance of a relapse. When people only focus on getting treatment for the addiction without looking at what led to it, they will never learn to battle those demons and will continue to abuse alcohol.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, patients receive the tools they need to deal with their mental health and addiction issues. We use an integrated approach that combines the most effective parts of the 12-step program with many innovative treatments. Since each person’s addiction is different, their course of treatment will differ as well.
The Collaborative Treatment Program at Ocean Hills Recovery is a comprehensive method to address many symptoms and obstacles that a patient with a dual diagnosis must face. By giving patients a warm and nurturing environment and the support they need, they can learn to face their diagnosis and overcome it.
If you’re ready to take the first step in battling your mental health issues and addiction, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today or send us a message online. There are staff members on hand 24/7 to take your calls and help you begin your road to sobriety.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.