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Mental Health, Mood and Alcohol - What You Need to Know

Mental health and alcohol are two of the most important issues facing society today. The relationship between alcohol and mental health is complex, with both positive and negative effects. Studies have shown that while moderate drinking can have beneficial effects on mental health, excessive drinking can lead to a range of negative impacts.

Alcohol consumption is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and other mental health problems. Furthermore, Australian alcohol statistics show that the nation's drinking habits are putting individuals at risk for poor mental health outcomes.

Based on the most current scientific evidence, the National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol were updated in December 2020.
“In summary, while alcohol might be a common coping strategy, it is not an effective solution. Alcohol is a depressant drug that can affect our mental health and wellbeing and damage our bodies over both the short and long-term.” (Alcohol Think Again)

Alcohol is a powerful drug which should not be used as an escape from life's problems. Dependency on alcohol can lead to more complex issues in the long run and we must be aware of this. Taking refuge only in alcohol can provide us with temporary relief from our woes, but it isn't a lasting solution.

How Does Alcohol Negatively Impact Thoughts, Feelings and Actions?

Alcohol consumption has been linked to a range of negative impacts on thoughts, feelings and actions. While it is true that drinking can be enjoyable in moderation, excessive drinking can lead to serious mental health issues. It is important to understand the effects of drinking on mental health so that we can make informed decisions about our alcohol consumption.

How can alcohol affect mental health?

The effects of alcohol on mental health are complex, but the substance has been linked to many negative behaviours and outcomes. Alcohol consumption is linked to a range of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. In addition, alcohol seems to have a direct effect on the structure and function of the brain. Recent studies have shown that alcohol has long-term impacts on the structure and function of the brain, leading to impaired cognitive abilities and behavioral changes in the areas of emotional decision-making, impulse and judgment.

The effects are often most pronounced in people who have a vulnerability to mood disorders or alcoholism. Research also shows that people with depression tend to have increased risk for relapse after going through abstinence.

Alcohol consumption is also a factor in suicide rates: over one third of all completed suicides were related to alcohol consumption

The same neural pathways controlling addiction are also responsible for sexual addiction. When someone engages in an activity that is rewarding or pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine – a hormone and neurotransmitter. Dopamine levels then trigger a desire for more of the same activity, an effect that explains why substance abusers often escalate their drug use over time. In addition to increasing dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (a brain area associated with reward), alcohol also lowers inhibitions and slows down cognitive processes.

It may seem counterintuitive to think that drinking alcohol could be addictive, but it can have similar effects on mood as other substances such as opioids, marijuana, and nicotine, leading to dependency and cravings for more to achieve a desired level of intoxication. With long-term use, the body can become physically dependent on the substance, making it hard to quit without help from medical professionals

Alcohol Use and Suicide

Sadly, in Australia, alcohol use and suicide are major public health concerns. Alcohol harm is known to be associated with an increased risk of mental health problems, including suicide. There is a need to better understand the relationship between alcohol use and suicide in Australia in order to develop effective strategies to reduce the impact of alcohol on mental health.

Drinking alcohol can take a serious toll on your mental health and increase your risk of suicide. Research has shown that one's risk of attempting suicide is seven times higher soon after consuming alcohol, and it goes up to 37 times when more is consumed.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44 years. Mental health issues are one of the most concerning and significant risk factors for suicide. However, if someone who is already struggling with a mental health issue also has an alcohol dependency, then the risk of suicidal behaviour increases significantly.

Recent studies have suggested a link between alcohol and suicidal ideation, especially in those without past mental health issues. The intoxicating effects of alcohol can reduce levels of inhibition which could lead to drastic decisions being taken. Sadly, this may lead to suicidal ideation and even the risk of impulsively acting on these thoughts. It is important that we recognise the warning signs and get support for those who are struggling.

Taking Steps Towards a Healthy Relationship with Alcohol and Improved Mental Wellbeing

The relationship between alcohol and mental wellbeing is complex. While drinking can sometimes be a way to cope with stress or anxiety, it can also have serious consequences for our mental health. It is important that we take steps to ensure that our relationship with alcohol is healthy and does not lead to negative consequences for our mental wellbeing. The most effective way to reduce alcohol misuse is through education, community support and policy.

Education can help to raise awareness of the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption, while community support can provide additional resources such as counselling and treatment options.

Finally, whilst not always a popular debate, policy changes such as increased taxes on alcoholic beverages or restrictions on advertising can help to reduce access to alcohol and discourage its misuse. Together, these strategies are essential in creating a healthier environment for everyone.

Alcohol consumption is linked to depression and anxiety. Counselling can help you understand the underlying causes of your drinking and provide support to help you make healthier choices. Take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle by seeking professional counselling today.



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