I Heard Somewhere That Drinking Is Bad for You
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I Heard Somewhere That Drinking Is Bad for You


This post was originally published on April 1, 2014.

Psych Central’s recent blog by Dr. Jesse Viner, Executive Medical Director of Yellowbrick, explains why alcohol isn’t good for your mental health. Which is great information but kind of made me think, “Well, duh!”

Maybe We Do Need to be Told

But then it occurred to me that maybe I am wrong. Alcohol is such a widely accepted vice that maybe people really don’t know that it’s a chemical depressant which can cause or exacerbate depression, even when used moderately. Come to think of it, when I was younger, I’m pretty sure that even after numerous breakdowns and month-long tear-fests, I still didn’t quite make the connection that booze was to blame. How could it be? Drinking is an American right, not some privilege of a certain class of non mentally ill people. Everyone “normal” drinks so it didn’t occur to me that my erratic mood swings and debilitating self-hatred had anything to do with it.

It also never occurred to me at the time that the medication I was taking to combat my depression was rendered ineffective and dangerous by drinking on it. Yeah, I know the label said not to mix with alcohol but c’mon, I figured, no reasonable person expects a 24-year-old not to have a good time. Besides, I knew plenty of people on anti-depressants who were still drinking so I assumed the “do not consume alcohol while taking this medication” was more of a suggestion than a warning.

During this time in my life, something like Viner’s referenced Ten Good Mental Health Reasons Not to Drink would have had no impact on me whatsoever. I divided people into two categories: people who knew how to have a good time and people who were uptight and boring. Throw a “Dr” in front of anyone’s name and (ironically) it immediately discredited any advice they give me about drinking. From where I was sitting, doctors were overly educated, overly cautious fuddy duddies who didn’t get me.

Let’s Find a New Way

Which is where I think we are falling short with alcohol and drug education amongst the younger crowd. Materials like AA’s 20 Questions are overly basic and antiquated. When I was 16, I looked at that questionnaire and scoffed. It wasn’t that I couldn’t answer yes to three or more questions; it was that anyone could—the questions themselves are too broad and gave a budding alcoholic like me a reason to close off to the adults who were trying to help me.

I am 100% behind further education and awareness about the risks of drinking and drug use. If we are lucky enough to get the attention of someone who has yet to experiment, providing accurate information seems like the best defense against abuse. Large-scale national campaigns also seem to have been effective in changing societal attitude about things like smoking cigarettes and drunk driving; most people I know now collectively frown upon both of these things, something that wasn’t the case just 15 years ago (most people I know are also over 25, so that could have something to do with it). But I think it’s important to recognize that we do have some power in terms of making a difference in the way alcohol and drugs are viewed in our society as a whole, which could end up having a trickle-down effect to the young people who are already partying. Fingers crossed, anyway.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.