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Alcohol and Mental Health Problems Part 2

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

This is the conclusion to last week’s article in the Westmeath Examiner.


Up to 40% of alcoholics suffer from at least one bout of major depression. It is questionable which disorder comes first, the depression or the alcoholism. Studies have found that in 60% of cases, the depression is caused by the alcohol abuse, especially in men.

 Bi-polar disorder

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness. Bipolar disorder is characterised by periods of deep, prolonged, and profound depression that alternate with periods of an excessively elevated and/or irritable mood known as mania. Among patients with bi-polar disorder, 50–60% misuse or develop addictions to alcohol or other drugs.



Anxiety problems do not occur at higher rates among alcoholics compared to moderate or non-drinkers. However those with specific anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder have higher rates of alcoholism. Another disorder that has high alcohol abuse rates among suffers is panic disorder with agoraphobia. It occurs in about 6% of the general population but about 20% of alcoholics suffer from panic disorder. The immediate relief alcohol gives to anxious feelings entices the person to continue drinking even though they know it will only make them feel worse after.



Schizophrenia is a mental illness associated with symptoms which include hallucinations (can include seeing and hearing things), delusions (false ideas), disordered thoughts, and problems with mood, behaviour and motivation. Studies indicate that up to 50% of patients living with schizophrenia develop alcohol problems. This is due to a number of factors.  Firstly, alcohol is a readily available, fast-acting relief to the fears and pain that occur with symptoms like hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Secondly, alcohol use can be one of the only pleasurable social activities available to long-term schizophrenics due to the upheaval the condition creates to their private life. Drinking can give a sense of acceptance among “drinking mates”. Finally, alcohol is legal, easily obtainable, and relatively cheap, making it an attractive social lubricant.


Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a disregard for other people’s entitlements, often ignoring and violating their rights. A person with antisocial personality disorder is sometimes referred to as psychopath or sociopath in popular culture. Antisocial Personality Disorder causes the person to lack empathy and they may be callous, cynical, and contemptuous of the feelings, rights, and problems of others. Studies find that compared with non-alcoholics, alcohol dependent men are up to 8 times more likely, and alcoholic women are up to 17 times more likely, to have ASPD.  Thus, approximately 20% of alcoholic men and 10% of alcoholic women have ASPD, compared with 4% of men and approximately 0.8% of women in the general population.


See more information on medication used for alcohol withdrawal in Eamonn’s other article on the physical problems caused by alcohol abuse at


Upcoming talk on depression and mental health

Whelehans Pharmacy have organised an expert panel to discuss depression and mental health on Thursday August 6th at 7pm in the Greville Arms Hotel; some leading local experts on this subject will be talking. This talk will be open to all and will be free of charge. Keep an eye on this column in the coming weeks for more details. In order to avoid disappointment, you can put your name down on the waiting list for this event by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591.

Event Information 

 This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans

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