Much of the talk around alcoholism and risks, especially given to younger people like high school and college students, center around the physical world. Advice typically given involve very surface level warnings such as ‘don’t drink and drive’, ‘drink a glass of water with each drink’, ‘don’t go to parties alone if alcohol is being served’ and other tips that speak to very specific immediate safety concerns with use. Rarely discussed are mental health issues and how they can lead to excessive alcohol use, dependency and addiction. While warnings about binge drinking and sexual assaults are important to discuss, so are warnings about recognizing reliance on alcohol to deal with traumatic events, depression and anxieties.
Research into alcoholism has revealed that 20 percent of people with a history of substance abuse disorder suffer from at least one mood disorder and 18 percent suffer from at least one anxiety disorder, according to a federally funded study. Long term alcohol use contributes to a decrease in the brain’s serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter responsible for the feelings of pleasure and happiness, which can further fuel use. Drinking also lowers blood sugar and causes dehydration, both which can mimic symptoms of anxiety. Due to the loss of inhibition along with impaired judgment, alcohol use also contributes to depression fueled impulses, such as those of suicide, studies have shown.
Along with these issues, people who are on psychiatric medications are also at risk when using alcohol at the same time since many medicines prescribed have effects which become negated or blocked when alcohol is also consumed. The reasons largely stem from the fact that the same neurotransmitters the medications target are also affected by the alcohol, such as those in antidepressants. Other risks include more serious health concerns. Some antidepressants inhibit the ability of the body to break down tyramine, an amino acid found in certain types of alcohol, which can result in high spikes in blood pressure, a cause of stroke and heart attack.
The relationship between substance abuse and mental health varies between person to person. Some people will turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with pre-existing mental health issues while others will develop mental health issues after use due to losing jobs or friends. It’s becoming more and more common to take a holistic approach to treating alcoholism and substance abuse. The mental health, chemical effects and behavioral patterns that make up the totality of addiction are seen as inseparable in modern treatments. Drug rehab centers in PA like the Philly Counseling Center treat patients individually, tailoring their recovery to the individual.
If you or someone you know might be suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse disorder, addiction treatment in Pennsylvania is available. Call 610-298-1999 to speak confidentially with a trained professional about diagnosis and addiction treatment in PA.