How to Cope with Addiction and Depression

The relationship between addiction to alcohol and drugs and depression is a complex one. Studies have shown, for instance, that people suffering from depression are about twice as likely to be alcohol-dependent – i.e. if you don’t consume a regular supply of alcohol you suffer from symp­toms of withdrawal – than the rest of the population. This, again, does not mean that alcohol or drug abuse causes depression, but it certainly complicates it. The difficult thing about alcohol is that we are all very unrealistic about how much we drink.

  • ‘I only had a couple of glasses’ means you’ve probably had three or four.
  • ‘I don’t drink very much’ means you don’t get drunk very often, but you still drink often and more than just a glass.
  • ‘I’m sober enough to drive’ means you shouldn’t!
  • ‘I’m a social drinker’ means that you think drinking a lot is fine as long as someone else is doing it with you.
  • ‘Did you see how much so-and-so drank?’ means you’re in denial about the fact that you had almost as much.
  • ‘I never drink on weekdays’ – except for the office lunch, that supper with friends, a drink with your sister . . .
  • ‘He insisted I have a drink’ means you’re blaming someone else.


This common denial about our intake of alcohol is not usually a problem. We have times when we rein ourselves in, others when we are a bit more indulgent, but our drinking can become dangerous to ourselves and others if we are under strain from external circumstances, and we are using alcohol in a vain attempt to cope with that strain. This is where depression comes in. If we begin to use alcohol inappropriately, then it can impact on depressive symptoms.

  • A depressed person can begin to abuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to relieve their low mood.
  • Alcohol and drugs can make the symptoms of depression worse.
  • Substance abuse can mean that the symptoms of depres­sion are masked and therefore not treated.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse are not compatible with the successful treatment of depression, and therefore recovery, because many antidepressant drugs interact badly with alcohol and recreational drugs, and also people drinking heavily will not take their medication reliably.
  • Substance abuse raises the chances of suicide in a depressed person.
  • Thirty-two per cent of people suffering from a mood disorder also show some form of substance abuse or dependency.

All these social factors linked to depression can only pose a threat to a person if for some reason they are already suscep­tible. Remember that different life events affect people in different ways, and any reaction should be respected. So you might feel a friend is making a bit of a meal of her old cat dying, but for the friend her animal’s death seems emotion­ally overwhelming. Whether you understand or not, you will not help your friend by trivialising her problem.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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