Saturday, October 19, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Increase in suicide rates, alcohol misuse, depression

Two articles from the alcohol research news archive, published three months apart, demonstrate the complex and deadly interplay between alcohol, depression and suicide.  It's sometimes referred to as a "squirrel cage" in which people use alcohol, a depressant, to treat depression...the alcohol causes more depression... which the person self-medicates with more alcohol.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that while suicide rates rose slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010. A link between depression and economic recession is assumed in a letter doctors from Britain, Hong Kong and the U.S. wrote on the new data to the medical journal Lancet Nov. 7.

There were 1,500 more reported suicides since 2007 than could have been expected using the suicide rate for the previous eight years. About 25 percent of the increase is attributable to the unemployment rate according to the lead doctor in the Lancet letter.

Alcohol use disorders, either alcohol abuse or the disease of alcoholism, are risk factors for suicide across all demographic divisions. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 96 percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their drinking right up to the end of their lives.

Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides. Approximately seven percent of those with alcoholism will take their own lives. Alcohol use when accompanied by other disorders, like depression, is one of the AFSP’s top-cited risk factors. Alcoholics, especially those with untreated alcoholism, usually fall into this last group because alcoholics use the depressant alcohol to treat their depression.
-- from (see full article)

Bouts of depression are often the direct result of alcohol intake, according to a study in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The researchers linked alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism to a third of depressive episodes. These periods of depression are different than depressive episodes caused by other life events.

Experts have long known that heavy drinking can spur temporary episodes of depression while many with alcohol use disorders use alcohol to relieve depression. They self-medicate. "I don't know that the average person realizes that heavy drinking can induce mood problems," said lead researcher Marc A. Schuckit, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Not every doctor might be aware of it, either. But it's important that he or she pay close attention to this problem, Schuckit said, because depression caused by heavy drinking has a different prognosis and is treated much differently from depression not tied to drinking. “Although the symptoms of independent and substance-induced depressions can be identical, if the sadness develops in the context of heavy drinking, the symptoms are likely to lift within several weeks to a month of abstinence and rarely require antidepressants to go away.

“It's important for doctors to consider alcohol use disorders as a possible cause of patients' depression symptoms,” Schuckit said—rather than simply "reaching for the prescription pad" and recommending an antidepressant." The patient needs to be forthcoming with information about alcohol use in order for the physician to properly diagnose the source of the depression.

The 30-year study evaluated nearly 400 men who were 18 years old at the outset. About half were at increased risk for drinking problems because their fathers were alcoholics. Over three decades, about 41 percent of the men with alcoholic fathers developed alcohol abuse or alcoholism, and nearly 20 percent suffered at least one bout of major depression. For men with alcohol problems, though, almost one third of those major depressive episodes were seen only while they were drinking heavily, not depression caused by other life events.

If alcohol is the cause, according to the journal, the depression is very likely to disappear with abstinence.
--from (see full article)

Scroll down for the replay of the Dr. Jeanette Gallagher show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud can be found on, plus the interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.  
SAVE THE DATE:  Scott Stevens will be part of the opening night symposium for the REEL Recovery Film Festival San Francisco.