Many people who suffer from anxiety disorders frequently resort to alcohol as a way to treat their anxiety. It is often seen as a way to cope with various social stressors in someone's life. This short term solution seems to help reduce their anxiety, but unfortunately, chronic alcohol use then becomes a problem of its own. Often, tolerance, where higher amounts of alcohol are needed to produce the same effect, leads to chronic health problems such as cirrhosis, anemia, nutritional deficits, etc. It is imperative in these cases to treat the anxiety and the alcoholism sufficiently so that patients do not put their lives and other people's lives in danger (such as through impaired driving). Additionally, alcohol is a depressant and can lead to depression, and even worsened anxiety. Many patients who use alcohol at night, use it to reduce their anxiety, feeling it helps them to fall asleep. Continued daily and heavy alcohol use increase the risk of alcohol addiction. Although it may seem like an effective sedative for sleep, it unfortunately leads to poor deep sleep (stage 4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep), leaving the body less rested than expected. Drinking alcohol can be especially dangerous when combined with other medications, especially sedatives.
Dr. Chung is a Fullerton psychiatrist, and will post blog articles about all things related to mental health.