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Do not drown your sorrows in alcohol – let’s talk

Today (7th April) is the World Health Day with the focus this year on depression. Alcohol consumption is associated with depression and anxiety disorders.

According to the World Health Organization: ’sufficient evidence now exists to assume alcohol’s contributory role in depression’.

Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from the WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

Although depression can and does affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, the risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.

Alcohol is a depressant. That means any amount one drinks can make one more likely to get the blues. Drinking a lot can harm the brain and lead to depression. People who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental health and ill-health. At the more sever end of the spectrum, the co-existence of alcohol problems and mental ill health is common and referred to as ‘dual diagnosis’. People sometimes ‘self- medicate’ their mental health problems using alcohol. The basic premise is that the psychopharmacological properties of alcohol help individuals deal with negative effect of mental ill-health by altering the chemistry of the brain, which in turn counters the negative feelings.

There are problems in using alcohol as coping mechanism to relive anxiety and depression. Self-medicating with alcohol can become self-perpetuating. Underlying anxiety leads to increased alcohol use, which changes the physiology of the brain and leads to depletion of the neurotransmitters that it needs to reduce anxiety naturally. Therefore, one feels more anxious and needs more alcohol to ‘numb’ the anxiety. Furthermore, it is difficult to maintain exactly the amount of alcohol needed to reduce the negative feelings.

World Health Day is the highlight of a one-year campaign "Depression: let's talk", the goal of which is that more people with depression, in all countries, seek and get help.

European Alcohol Policy Alliance strongly supports the World Health Organization’s campaign as the best way to help yourself and those around you, is to talk – not drown your sorrows.

Visit the WHO campaign website