The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
Good mental health is an integral component of general health and well-being, allowing a person to fully realise their abilities. Alcohol can contribute to the development of mental health problems as well as intensifying pre-existing mental health difficulties.
Some people self-medicate with alcohol to help their ability to cope, manage and overcome pressures and worries in life like career stresses, financial worries, bereavement. Others believe that alcohol will help to temporarily relieve the symptoms of more serious mental health problems but it can exasperate existing mental health problems and make them worse.
There is evidence from Mental Health Ireland, which shows that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental ill health and it can be a contributory factor in some mental illnesses, such as depression. Ranges of mental health disorders were associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs. The Hospital In-Patient Enquiry (HIPE) data reported that between 2012 and 2014 there was a significant increase in the number of cases diagnosed with mental health disorders associated with drug use.
Consuming alcohol may alter moods and could cause underlying feelings to surface, which is why some people get aggressive or upset after a few drinks. When alcohol hits our blood stream it alters our mood and our behavior. It can make us less inhibited or numb emotions. These moods and subsequent actions all impacts on our mental health.
Service providers in Dublin 15 reported limited access to psychiatric services for people with substance use and mental health disorders. Access to services was even more limited where problem drugs included alcohol, cannabis, benzodiazepines and z-drugs. In addition, waiting lists for access to detoxification services were reported to be too long. It was also reported that there were insufficient detoxification units for people who also had mental health issues.