Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alcohol Eases Anxiety

I have been looking for this information for a long time. Alcohol in large enough quantities is a depressant. However used in moderation it has anti-anxiety effects. Similar to anti-depressants.

Alcohol is a drug, but for many people it's also a tool.

Many people have a drink or two from time to time to feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Dr. James Bolton, a psychiatrist at Health Sciences Centre and an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, said the use of alcohol as a sort of social lubricant is nothing new.

"Alcohol is the oldest anxiety remedy known. People drink because it works," he said.

"For most people, enjoying a few alcoholic beverages as a social lubricant is fine. It's people who have anxiety disorders or other mental illnesses who are at risk."

Bolton was one of the authors of a recent paper involving people with anxiety disorders who self-medicate with alcohol.

They are more likely to use alcohol as a social lubricant and more likely to run into problems with drinking, he said.

"People use alcohol with the intention of relieving anxiety, but unfortunately the effects of alcohol seem to worsen the symptoms of anxiety and actually lead to other problems with mental illness," said Bolton.

After drinking, people who self-medicate with alcohol often feel even worse, said Bolton.

"The withdrawal effect the next day leaves people more anxious," he said. "What seems to happen over the long term with chronic alcohol use is that people have elevated rates of anxiety."
So the anti-anxiety effects are immediate and the depression doesn't set in until later and long term use as an anti-anxiety medication can lead to a worse psychological state.

Is there something better out there? You bet.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2005 (UPI) -- Scientists said Thursday that marijuana appears to promote the development of new brain cells in rats and have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, a finding that could have an impact on the national debate over medical uses of the drug.

Other illegal and legal drugs, including opiates, alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress the formation of new brain cells when used chronically, but marijuana's effect on that process was uncertain.

Now, a team led by Xia Zhang of the department of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon may have found evidence the drug spurs new brain cells to form in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, and this in turn reduces anxiety and depression.

Marijuana appears "to be the only illicit drug whose capacity to produce increased ... neurons is positively correlated with its (anti-anxiety) and anti-depressant-like effects," Zhang and colleagues wrote in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Well what do you know? Marrijuana has positive short and long term effects when it comes to treating anxiety. I also looked at the issue in Brain Growth.

In the aftermath of the American Civil War alcohol was considered an acceptable drug for treating PTSD (although it didn't have a name back then). I covered that in The Soldiers Disease. Typically we used anti-depressants these days although some doctors think Cannabis is the Best Medicine.

H/T Anxiety Insights


Eyes said...

Ya, however, I tried marijuanna a few times and it just made me paranoid... What's that all about? Also, when I was in the hospital dying of a particularly virulent strain of pneumonia, they gave me morphine... even worse results..... terrible, terrible hallucinations.... doctors murdering patients, etc....

Alcohol has never had that effect for me.... I would compare alcohol more to Xanax. Relaxing, without mind altering effects (paranoia / hallucinations)...

M. Simon said...


I think you bring up a valid point.

A given drug gives different results for different people.

southcoast said...

Hi. nice blog.Hopefully, this does not come across as spam, but rather a heartfelt reach out to the thousands of addicts/alcoholics who struggle every year with relapse and depression, which has become all too common within the recovery movement. With some hard work and self-discipline, using the program mentioned above, I feel no one ever has to relapse again.please advice them to take a drug treament program.

M. Simon said...

There is not one single drug treatment program that I'm aware of that understands the nature of addiction.

However, if you are really serious may I suggest you start with a cure for insulin addiction.

What you say? Insulin is not addicting? Well neither are drugs. People take insulin because they need it. Same reason people take drugs.

You can not fix" addiction" if you can't cure the need. So far no one has a cure for that.

So any one touting "rehab" is touting a scam.

So Southcoast - you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Ripping off the ignorant.