The Impact of Alcohol on Mental Health in Georgia

April 11, 2024

Alcohol changes lives—for the worse. Both Substance Use Disorders involving alcohol and a single night of binge drinking can hurt your mental health. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means it can make existing symptoms of depression worse. It can also cause episodes of psychosis, insomnia, other sleep disturbances, and cognitive impairment. While under the influence, you may say or do things you regret that can strain your professional and personal relationships. This can cause undue stress. This Alcohol Awareness Month, as one of the best mental health hospitals in Georgia, Time Wellness Georgia discusses the impact of alcohol on mental health and the available treatment and support options in the state.

The Issue of Alcohol Abuse in Georgia

When it comes to adults reporting excessive drinking in the past thirty days, the state of Georgia is in the top 10 of all 50 US states. As many as 15.7% of adults in the state of Georgia have reported excessive drinking in the past thirty days.

What qualifies as excessive drinking? More than five drinks in one night in the case of people with male reproductive systems, and more than four drinks in the case of people with female reproductive systems. But what is precisely the impact of binge drinking and other forms of alcohol abuse on mental health in the state of Georgia as a whole?

A young woman leaning her hand on one hand while holding a drink in the other, representing the impact of alcohol on mental health in Georgia
A single binge night of drinking alcohol can have a negative impact on your mental health. That is how strong the impact of alcohol on mental health is.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Mental Health

Alcohol abuse and binge drinking can impact the mental health of all adults. This is so regardless of whether they have a mental health diagnosis or not. However, alcohol abuse can be particularly harmful for individuals who present strong traits of mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

In the case of young adults, independent of whether a formal diagnosis has been reached, alcohol can impair the mental health of young people. Sometimes, alcohol can even stunt their intellectual growth and maturity.

The Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Depression

Given that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it makes sense that it can make major depressive disorder worse. Under the influence of alcohol, the individual will experience their symptoms more acutely. This can make the process of recovery hard. If abused in the long term, alcohol can impact brain chemicals.

The lower serotonin levels will only worsen depression symptoms. It can also interfere with other medications that may be prescribed to treat depression. It can make them less effective. Alcohol use can also make the side effects of these medications worse. Thus, the individual may have sleep issues or feel drowsy or dizzy. If the individual is already suicidal, they may start to act in risky or careless ways while under the influence. Depression treatment centers in Georgia need to be prepared for patients who may be using alcohol excessively.

The Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Anxiety

Alcohol can also exacerbate anxiety symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include symptoms that overlap with those of anxiety. If you have an alcohol addiction and also anxiety, when you are not drinking, you may find yourself:

  • agitated
  • irritable
  • more prone to panic attacks

Alcohol can also interfere with medication often prescribed for anxiety, including benzodiazepines. You may even end up hooked on both substances—alcohol and benzos. This can be deadly, as the chances of overdosing when using both increases. Anxiety treatment in Georgia should consider all of this.

Alcohol As a Negative Coping Mechanism

In both cases of anxiety and depression, alcohol can be used as a negative coping mechanism. You may turn to drinking instead of building and maintaining meaningful relationships that can provide support. You may also resort to drinking instead of walking or doing yoga. Exercise is the healthiest form of exercise to feed your body the serotonin and dopamine it needs. Binge drinking can otherwise prevent you from turning to healthier hobbies that provide much-needed rest and cognitive stimulation. This is particularly concerning in the state of Georgia, where as many as 33.9% of adults reported experiencing symptoms of either depression or anxiety in 2023.

In the case of Bipolar Disorder and schizophrenia, alcohol abuse may lead to psychosis. It can also trigger both manic and depressive episodes. Because of the impact of alcohol on neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, over time, you may experience a chemical imbalance that may trigger a psychotic episode. Individuals with bipolar disorder may often resort to alcohol to end manic or hypomanic episodes, but this is dangerous because it can cause irreversible imbalances in the brain and make the condition worse.

Young people holding shots of alcohol
Georgia is in the top 3 of all 50 states when it comes to underage alcohol use.

The Impact of Alcohol on Mental Health of Youth

The human brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. In neurodiverse adults, such as those with ADHD, the brain may take longer to mature, sometimes until the age of 35. The Prefrontal Cortex, the part of the brain in charge of decision-making, planning, impulse control, and problem-solving, continues to develop well into early adulthood.

White matter development is also happening in the brains of teens and young adults, enhancing cognitive abilities and information processing. The amygdala and the Prefrontal Cortex allow you to regulate emotionally. This, in tandem, also develops until your mid-twenties (or mid-thirties, in the case of ADHDers). Synaptic pruning and brain plasticity make the young brain more susceptible to environmental influences, so young adults have more excellent adaptation abilities than their older counterparts.

However, adding alcohol to the mix may compromise all of this growth. Alcohol impairs both cognitive function and decision-making. It may even stall the process of prefrontal cortex and white matter development. Because the brain is more plastic, you may also be more susceptible to developing a Substance Use Disorder. Sadly, when it comes to underage drinking, Georgia ranks third as a state in the whole of the USA. This is so, with as many as 7.3% of children aged 12–17 reporting drinking alcohol in the past month. Georgia is only surpassed by Utah and Hawaii. For this reason, mental health facilities for youth in Georgia should be prepared to deal with alcohol abuse and the underlying causes of underage drinking.

The Importance of Holistic Alcohol Addiction Treatment

It can be complex to address mental health when alcohol is involved correctly. This is so because, often, you not only suffer from alcohol addiction but also from other symptoms that can be challenging to diagnose. This is why it’s essential to access holistic treatment that takes into consideration any diagnoses you may have, as well as your family history, your past, and whether there’s trauma involved. At our Atlanta mental health facility, a mental health professional will assess you holistically and figure out the best treatment plan suited just for you.

How to Know If You Need Help

How does one know when to seek help for excessive drinking? You may be struggling with alcohol addiction if:

  • You are unable to limit your alcohol consumption, even though you want to
  • You are starting to see negative repercussions from excessive drinking in your work life, self-care, or relationships
  • You feel like you have to keep your drinking a secret from loved ones
  • You feel like you have to drink more than you used to to get your usual rush
  • You feel like you crave alcohol much more than usual, and you get cranky when you are not drinking
Two women hugging
There is compassionate treatment for mental health and alcohol abuse available in Georgia

Partial hospitalization programs may be a solution if you suffer from excessive alcohol consumption. PHP Mental Health in Georgia is a type of mental health treatment where you receive intensive care during the day but return home at night. It provides a structured environment with various therapies but doesn’t require an overnight stay.

As an alternative, outpatient care is less intensive than partial hospitalization. Patients visit a healthcare provider for treatment sessions but maintain their regular daily activities without the need for daily structured programs.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) offer a middle ground. They provide more support than standard outpatient care through more frequent sessions but don’t require the full-day commitment of partial hospitalization. This allows you to receive focused treatment while still engaging with your daily life.

Deal with the Impact of Alcohol on Mental Health at Time Wellness Georgia

Alcohol use hurts mental health. It can worsen the symptoms of various mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and schizophrenia. This is especially concerning with the growing number of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression in the state of Georgia. Alcohol abuse may also impact the growing brains of teens and young adults.

It’s essential to get holistic treatment if you have alcoholism. This is so because many factors may affect your alcohol use, including a dual diagnosis, your past, existing trauma, and your family history. Time Wellness Georgia approaches mental health treatment holistically, considering your entire being, not just a mental health issue. So, this Alcohol Awareness Month, reach out to us and let us guide you to a healthier and happier life. Let’s minimize the impact of alcohol on mental health together.