Alcohol and Depression


The numbers

     In a world that is falling apart at the seams it is no wonder that that so many people fall into clinical depression.  For example “depression affects 17 million Americans a year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health” (Washington Post Health, Oct. 7, 1997)


     It is no wonder with such staggering statistics that the many people who struggle with depression also try to self-medicate.  However, the alcohol only tends to make things worse.  "Alcohol is a depressant. People with depression shouldn't drink alcohol", says Sherry Rogers, MD, in her 1997 book on "Depression." She says that studies show that doctors miss diagnosing over 66% of the people who are depressed.


The solution that brings the problem

     How counterproductive it is that the very thing that many use to combat depression actually brings it on.  Stress, or drugs such as alcohol or cocaine, can activate a gene that is linked to depression and other mental problems. The result can give rise to seizures, depression, manic-depressive episodes and a host of mental problems, says Robert Post, chief of the biological psychiatry branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH).  (Washington Post Health, Aug. 31, 1993)


     God gives us some wonderful advice through the author of Proverbs 23:31-35,

31 “Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; 32 At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.  33 Your eyes will see strange things, And your heart will utter perverse things.  34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:  35 “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.  When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?”

Since alcohol biologically alters our body and changes the way we think and interact in a negative way, we cannot glorify God by its consumption. 


Ceasing alcohol use helps depression

     Interestingly enough, not only does alcohol make things worse, in the area of depression, but ceasing alcohol use actually improves the state of depression.  “Alcohol temporarily blunts the effects of stress hormones. It typically leaves you feeling worse than ever because it depresses the brain and nervous system. One study looked at people who consumed one drink a day. After three months [of] abstinence, their scores on standard depression inventories improved.”
{The Brain, "You Can Control Your Emotional Wellness," USA Weekend, Jan. 3, 1999, Jim Thorton, health reporter}


Alcohol’s effect on your sex life

     Since men and women were created equal in the eyes of God, but different in their psychological and emotional roles, it is no surprise that the alcohol/depression relationship effects the sexes in a different way.  “Depression and alcohol problems often go together, but the evidence suggests that in men alcohol use preceded the depression, whereas in women the depression precedes the alcohol use.”  (American Journal of Epidemiology, "Study Links Depression and Alcohol Problems," Washington Post Health, Dec. 16, 1997)


     This is helpful in that it leads us to understand, not only our own well-being, but the health of our relationships as well.  Are you in a struggling relationship right now?  Is alcohol a factor in your relationship?  As if alcohol’s effect in the emotional stability of a relationship isn’t enough, it also effects the sex life.  Alcohol is responsible for “fewer erections… delayed ejaculation… and dehydration… as manifested in vaginal dryness” (What Alcohol Really Does to Your Sex Life by Petra Zebroff, Huffington Post 01/07/2013).  Needless to say an inhibited sex life is another factor that can lend to discouragement and depression.  In this case it is, sadly, the result of alcohol.


There is hope and there is help

The toll that alcohol takes on one’s life is detrimental to say the least.  How do you find peace through the depression/alcohol relationship?  The answer is simple, the two need to part ways.  The first step is to recognize that we are powerless, in and of ourselves, to break the addiction (see Jeremiah 13:23, Psalm 130:7, Hebrews 13:20, 21).  We are in need of a Higher Power (God). 

By using the following principles you will find peace and strength:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

(Philippians 4:6-9)


            If you have a problem with alcohol and would like help; first, take it to God.  Second, get help right away by speaking with your pastor, a good Christian counselor, and/or by calling the toll free hotline 1-800-253-3000 (It Is Written) to speak with a chaplain.


Written by Brandon Senior

Edited by Pr. Preston Monterrey

Contributing research by Megan Smith