Study Examines Surprising Link Between Depression and Alcoholism

3 min read  |  April 04, 2018  | 

Studies find that both hard-to-treat depression and alcohol abuse may have a common trait: inflammation.

Depression hurts. In some cases, it can lead to suicide – now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.- or alcohol and drug abuse in an attempt to find relief. Over the last two decades, a new possible culprit has emerged that might have a hand in both the depression and the alcohol abuse: inflammation.

Only about a third of clinically depressed people respond to treatment with antidepressant medication. Many of those people experiencing depression also don’t have access to effective psychotherapy treatments for treating depression. For the ones who do have access, medication and psychotherapy may prove to be ineffective for them. This new discovery could potentially help these hard to treat patients.

A growing body of research studies shows inflammation as having an important role in several medical disorders like heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes. It appears that a significant subset of depressed patients and alcoholics independently exhibit marked increases in biomarkers of inflammation, called inflammatory cytokines.

Both laboratory animal studies and clinical studies have shown that treatments that reduce inflammation may possess antidepressant properties in both patients with depression and those with alcohol abuse and dependence.

Dr. Charles Nemeroff, chair of the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Health System, has received funding for his team to conduct a clinical trial at no cost to participants to study the effects of intravenous stem cell therapy on reducing inflammation in two different patient populations:

  • Those who have failed other treatments for depression and who exhibit increases in inflammatory markers
  • Those who suffer with both alcohol abuse/dependence and depression who have elevated inflammatory markers.

Says Dr. Nemeroff, who is also a clinical and research psychiatrist with the University of Miami and Miller School of Medicine, “This is great news because if we can confirm the effectiveness of intravenous stem cell therapy on depression and alcoholism, it will give us a valuable tool for treating those patients who haven’t responded to conventional therapies.”

For more information on these studies, or a telephone screening to check for study eligibility, call 305-243-5840.

Mary Jo Blackwood, RN, MPH, is a freelance medical and consumer health writer for UMiami Health News, based in St. Louis, MO, and Colorado, who desperately believes if we can get enough Baby Boomers onboard, we can get the law of gravity repealed.

Tags: alcohol, behavioral medicine, clinical trials, depression, Dr. Charles Nemeroff, inflammation, psychiatry, study

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