How alcohol and depression are linked

Alcohol and depression are often closely linked. Find out how you can get support if you're finding things difficult.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health condition involving long-lasting, persistent feelings of sadness and low mood.

Regular alcohol use and depression often go hand in hand.

Depression affects people of all ages and backgrounds, including people who drink alcohol and people who don’t.

However, regularly drinking alcohol can make depression more likely.

People with depression may be at more risk of developing challenges with alcohol, especially if they drink to relieve their depression.

How alcohol and depression can be linked

Alcohol and depression can be closely linked:

  • Regularly drinking alcohol affects your brain chemistry in a way that can lead to feelings of depression
  • Some people with depression drink alcohol because in the short term, it makes them feel better
  • In the longer term, this can create a damaging cycle. People may drink alcohol because they feel depressed, but heavy use depresses their mood further, which leads to more drinking, and so on
  • As well as increasing the risk of depression, drinking alcohol to feel better can exacerbate challenges in other areas of your life. For example, drinking to cope with financial worries could put more strain on your finances if you’re spending money on alcohol

Getting help with alcohol and depression

If you’re depressed (or you think you may be) speak to your GP. They will be able to suggest treatments that could help, including antidepressant medicines, talking therapies and self-help approaches

As alcohol can make antidepressants less effective, your doctor may not prescribe them if you’re drinking heavily.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to try cutting down the amount of alcohol you drink before seeking help with depression.

Mental health and wellbeing do tend to improve when you’re not consuming alcohol, so cutting down or stopping drinking is a great way to try and ease your symptoms.

If you're alcohol dependent...

or think you might be, it’s important that you don’t stop drinking suddenly, as this could lead to very dangerous alcohol withdrawal complications.

For support with cutting down your alcohol intake safely:

Find a service near you

Seeking extra support

Support from our services could help you manage your drinking and break the cycle that may be making your depression worse.

If you have stopped drinking alcohol for a few weeks but are still feeling depressed, psychological treatments or Talking Therapies may help.

This involves working with a trained therapist to overcome depression. Speak to your GP to find out more.

Mixing alcohol with antidepressants

Although alcohol makes antidepressants less effective, it’s normally safe to drink small amounts of alcohol while taking them.

However, some medicines, known as monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) antidepressants, are very dangerous to mix with alcohol.

These medicines include:

  • tranylcypromine
  • phenelzine
  • isocarboxazid

If you’re taking these medicines, don’t drink any alcohol at all. Doing so causes serious side effects, including dangerously high blood pressure.

If you’re not sure what kind of antidepressant you’re taking, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist.

Stopping antidepressants suddenly can be dangerous

Whatever medicine you're taking, stop drinking alcohol and speak to your doctor if you feel unwell, feel unexpectedly drunk, or have any other side effects.

You should also speak to your doctor if you have any alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Reach out to us today

If you're experiencing challenges with drugs, alcohol or mental health and you'd like some extra support, we're here for you.

Search for your local service to see how we can help you.

Or talk to us online seven days a week

1-2 miles - Considered within walking distance threshold, however, cycling, public transport, or a personal vehicle is advised if no safe walking routes.
10-15 miles - Generally between a minimum of 30 mins to 1 hour travel time expected via public transport or personal vehicle. This may depend on form of transport, time of day and/or road layouts.
20-25 miles - Generally between a minimum of 50 minutes to 1.5 hours travel time expected via public transport or personal vehicle. This may depend on form of transport, time of travel and/or road layouts