Why alcohol makes you depressed

For the past few weeks, I’ve been drinking a lot and it’s left me with the blues. Shots of Jameson on the night shift, followed by more shots after the night shift in a bartender’s bar. It’s often daylight out by the time I make it home, which doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep. I wake up feeling rough and depressed.

Lack of sleep is a big no-no for someone with a history of mental illness, so I need to stop it. No more drinks in the middle of the night but straight home to bed. When I feel blue, I tell myself that it’s just a case of biochemistry which makes me feel better. The world is exactly the same, and the only thing that’s different is in my head. Namely, serotonin. When you drink alcohol, your serotonin levels get a temporary boost, which explains why you feel happier after a drink or two. However, long-term alcohol use can lower serotonin levels and cause depression.

It also plays a potential role in hangovers. As alcohol stimulates the release of both dopamine and serotonin in the nucleus accumbens, you get hyperactivity in the synaptic pathways. The next day, these pathways are a bit worn down from excessive firing. You end up feeling depressed. That is why, if you’re prone to depression, you want to avoid alcohol. It’s too easy to get stuck in a downward spiral where you drink to alleviate depression when in fact, your drinking is what’s making you depressed.

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