Health & Fitness

Depression, alcoholism often an unbearable combination

Chronic alcoholism is known to cause depression, as well as worsen existing depression. Many people with depression resort to heavy drinking to “drown out” their sorrows.
Chronic alcoholism is known to cause depression, as well as worsen existing depression. Many people with depression resort to heavy drinking to “drown out” their sorrows. Miami Herald file

Clinical depression and alcohol use disorder — commonly known as alcoholism — are among the most frequent mental disorders seen in patients.

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Dr. Ihsan Salloum is chief of the division of alcohol and drug abuse: treatment and research within the University of Miami Health System’s Department of Psychiatry, as well as a professor of psychiatry within the Miller School of Medicine.

Often the same individual suffers from both problems at the same time. The symptoms and suffering caused by either condition alone can be daunting, but when an individual is dealing with both conditions, the suffering and burden on the patient and their families becomes unbearable.

These dual disorders are associated with the highest occurrence of dysfunctions, need for hospitalizations and complications such as suicidal behavior. They are also less responsive to available treatment.

The exact cause of why so many people develop both problems is still unknown.

Chronic alcoholism is known to cause depression, as well as worsen existing depression. Many people with depression resort to heavy drinking to “drown out” their sorrows.

Studies have also pointed to the significant role of heredity in developing these conditions.

Recent scientific evidence has highlighted the role of inflammation and alterations to the immune system in both clinical depression and chronic excessive alcohol drinking. Studies suggest that inflammation plays a bidirectional role in both depression and alcoholism. On one hand, inflammation seems to cause depression and increases the propensity for drinking alcohol. On the other hand, both depression and excessive alcohol use, through different mechanisms, increase the level of inflammation in the brain.

Stem-cell therapy holds great promise for decreasing inflammation in the body as studies have shown that one session of this treatment can decrease inflammation over a one-year period. Stem-cell therapy may undercut a major mechanism underlying the dual disorders of depression and alcoholism and provide new hope for people suffering from these disabling disorders.

The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Miami’s Stem Cell Institute, is conducting a new study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Health, to test the usefulness of stem cell therapy for people suffering from the “double trouble” of clinical depression and alcoholism.

Dr. Ihsan Salloum is chief of the division of alcohol and drug abuse: treatment and research within the University of Miami Health System’s Department of Psychiatry, as well as a professor of psychiatry within the Miller School of Medicine. For more information, visit umiamihealth.org/psychiatry.

If you go

In early 2019, The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine will hold an informational seminar that will delve deeper into the relationship between depression, alcohol use, and inflammation.

The seminar is free to the public and will include mental health screenings in addition to opportunities for participation in innovative stem cell research.

Individuals who are interested in attending the seminar should contact the UM Department of Psychiatry at 305-243-5840.

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