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It’s not uncommon to feel depressed or anxious after drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. The initial surge of happiness is quickly replaced by fatigue and emotional instability.
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Additionally, alcohol raises blood pressure; this can intensify anxiety and depression.
Alcohol affects brain chemistry. Because alcohol interferes with the body’s natural hormone and mood regulators, it can take days to reverse the effects. Alcohol can rewire the brain in short and long-term use. After binge drinking, defined as 4 to 5 drinks in 2 hours, the brain produces lesser amounts of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good chemicals. Repeated heavy drinking or daily drinking can disrupt the natural production of the feel-good chemicals.
Alcohol also slows down the central nervous system which causes tiredness and shortness of breath. It can take the central nervous system weeks to essentially reboot and return to normal. Alcohol also disrupts neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are used to relay information to different parts of the brain. When neurotransmitters are impaired, it can lead to increased feelings of depression.
Continuous drinking can cause long-term damage to neurotransmitters and the brain's ability to adapt to change.
The connection between drinking and depression is often circular. Daily drinking can cause the brain to rely on alcohol consumption to produce dopamine and serotonin. Eventually, this can lead to a severe alcohol use disorder.
Depression may not be obvious. Here are the most common symptoms of depression caused by drinking.
The next morning after drinking alcohol, it’s a good idea to hydrate. Being properly hydrated helps your body flush out toxins. But the best way to deal with depression after drinking alcohol is to avoid it altogether and abstain from drinking. Feelings of depression negatively impact brain health. If a person has depression or other mental health disorders, then even a night of drinking can increase the likelihood of suffering from an anxiety attack or other negative emotions.
If you’re on antidepressants then it’s not a good idea to drink alcohol. This can intensify the hangover symptoms. Furthermore, the effects of alcohol counteract antidepressants.
It’s a good practice to seek out therapy as a way of coping with depressive thoughts. Therapy can be as simple as reaching out to local alcohol helplines, talking with religious leaders, or talking with friends and family.
Depression after drinking is normal. However, if you quit drinking and the depression persists, it can be a sign of alcohol addiction. Over time, alcohol causes the brain to make less of the feel-good chemicals. Alcohol also causes insomnia, which results in decreased mental function.
The combination of these effects can lead to long-term depression as the brain heals and begins to regulate hormones efficiently. Depression after alcohol is considered a sign of alcohol withdrawal. Attempting to self-medicate depression with alcohol is a sign of alcohol dependence.
It’s time to seek treatment for alcohol abuse when alcohol and the pursuit of alcohol begin to dominate your life. Alcohol use disorder affects more than the alcoholic. Relationships with friends and family become fractured. A healthy work/life balance becomes unsustainable.
Here are common signs that alcohol substance abuse has developed:
Symptoms for alcohol abuse vary in intensity based on individual health factors like age, weight, gender, etc. Seeking treatment for alcohol substance use is the first step to recovery. Treatment for substance use disorder comes in 2 main varieties; inpatient and outpatient.
Inpatient treatment involves being admitted to a facility for round-the-clock monitoring and support. Conversely, outpatient treatment involves weekly or monthly treatment sessions. Outpatient treatment often involves a long-term care plan to overcome addiction.
Reach out to your local clinics for more information.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is prevalent among all adult age groups. There are several commonly asked questions regarding its effects on the body:
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, also known as NIAAA, alcohol does not kill brain cells. However, it does disrupt the brain’s ability to communicate with itself.
Alcohol also leads to depression. Depression can cause an overabundance of amyloid proteins in the brain. An excess of amyloid proteins further disrupts the neural pathways in the brain. This process also creates grey matter, which can lead to dementia, fogginess, and other brain diseases.
In short, while alcohol may not directly kill brain cells, it does impair existing brain cells and prohibits the growth of new neural connections.
The exact time frame depends heavily on the amount of alcohol consumed, age, gender, weight, level of hydration, and other individual factors. The time can vary but on average, alcohol depression lasts for 1-2 days.
If the depression lasts longer than that or up to 2 weeks, then it’s time to seek professional help.
This varies based on individualized health factors. However, in heavy drinkers, it can take between 1-6 months to fully recover from alcohol's effects. Certain parts of the brain will heal within 2 weeks. However, the frontal lobe, development of new neural pathways, and the amount of white/grey matter in the brain may take much longer to return to normal.
In rare cases involving severe alcoholism, the brain can take years to heal fully.
Diet and exercise can improve the rate of recovery and lessen the symptoms of withdrawal. The process will still take time. Being patient with yourself and mindful of your wellness are good practices during this stage of recovery.
The intensity may vary, but depression after drinking is a guarantee. Certain habits, such as diet, exercise, and positive mental health habits, may help in the short term.
The best way to improve your mood after drinking is seeking mental health services. Therapy is a great way to uncover the cause of alcoholism, identify drinking triggers, and build healthy coping mechanisms.
If you or a loved one experiences prolonged periods of alcoholic depression, use alcohol to self-medicate, or feel alcohol cravings, then professional help is needed. Often alcoholism is allowed to develop due to denial. Not all alcoholics go through financial ruin, have run-ins with the law, or have entirely fractured relationships.
Identifying alcoholism comes down to recognizing certain habits and the frequency with which those habits occur. Frequent alcoholic depression is a serious sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Reach out to your health practitioner for more information.
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Kuria, Mary W, et al. The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. 26 Jan. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658562/
McHugh, R Kathryn, and Roger D Weiss. “Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders.” Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1 Jan. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6799954/
Seo, Dongju, and Rajita Sinha. “Neuroplasticity and Predictors of Alcohol Recovery.” Alcohol Research : Current Reviews, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4476600/