Drinking Alcohol Can Sometimes Be Seen As Involuntary Self-medication

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Drinking Alcohol Can Sometimes Be Seen As Involuntary Self-medication
Drinking Alcohol Can Sometimes Be Seen As Involuntary Self-medication
Video: Drinking Alcohol Can Sometimes Be Seen As Involuntary Self-medication
Video: Self-Medicating with Alcohol: How to Limit Harm and Stay Healthy 2023, February
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Drinking alcohol can sometimes be seen as involuntary self-medication

When improved antidepressants hit the market in the 1980s, alcohol consumption among people with depression dropped by 22%. According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, this suggests that people who use drugs and alcohol to alleviate psychological discomfort can switch to safer methods.

Drinking alcohol can sometimes be seen as involuntary self-medication
Drinking alcohol can sometimes be seen as involuntary self-medication

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When improved antidepressants hit the market in the 1980s, alcohol consumption among people with depression dropped by 22%. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, this suggests that people who use drugs and alcohol to alleviate psychological discomfort may switch to safer methods.

“We know that depression and drunkenness go hand in hand, but so far no one has tested the idea that if a good medicine comes along, many will drink less or even stop drinking altogether. Alcoholism is usually considered a problem or a mistake, but we say that people are simply engaged in rational self-medication. In the absence of better options, people will use what is available to them,”says one of the study's authors, Nicholas Papageorge.

The research findings are detailed in a working paper released by the US National Bureau of Economic Research.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers used 40-year data from the Framingham Heart Study, in which 5,000 people reported their levels of alcohol, tobacco, and antidepressant use, as well as their diagnoses of depression.

This study found that between 1971 and the late 1980s, less than 2% of those surveyed took antidepressants. But in 1988, with the introduction of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which worked much better than previous antidepressants, the use of this group of drugs skyrocketed. At the same time, as noted by the researchers, the number of alcoholics among people with moderate depression decreased by 22%, and 12% of them stopped drinking altogether, and they were mostly men, who make up the majority of alcoholics.

The results could be even better, according to the authors, but alcoholics who become totally addicted are often unable to switch to other treatments for depression. The model, developed by the researchers, shows that up to 30% of alcoholics would switch to antidepressants if it were not for the addiction that arose after long-term alcohol use.

“When SSRIs are introduced, the ability to manage depression symptoms improves. But if you have been doing this for a long time, even with the advent of SSRIs, it will be difficult for you to switch because of the addiction that has already arisen,”says one of the study's authors, Michael Darden.

The researchers believe that self-medication theory should be taken into account when considering the issue of combating alcoholism. They suggest that instead of criminalizing self-medication, medical innovations need to be introduced to offer a better treatment option. One of the problems with such self-medication is that with restrictions on sales, price increases or criminalization, people can start using even more dangerous substances.

“We often hear about people sinking lower due to alcohol or drug abuse, but ignore the fact that many of them have started using them to relieve symptoms of depression,” says Papageorge.

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