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Depression - Blacking Out

Question:

Hello Dr. Schwartz,

I was laid off from my full-time position as an investment banker almost one year ago. At first I was extremely happy, since I really disliked my job. I would go out on the weekends as I have done since college and get drunk with friends but without issue. On occasion I would blackout but would always end up in my bed. At the same time I was dealing with a cousin who was divorced a few years ago and has had a serious drinking problem where he was blacking out almost everytime that he drank. Also, he was only drinking beers,  no hard liquor. I wondered if there was something chemically going on in his brain that caused him to blackout so easily.

I moved to another city as I felt that my job situation and drinking with friends in New York was not the best environment for me to be in. I moved to Chicago to be closer to friends from college. As I looked for full-time opportunities, there was not much. As a result, I feel that I have been starting to get depressed. I have been drinking pretty excessively on the weekends, doing shots, and drinking a mix of rum, vodka and wine and any given weekend. Blackouts have been a more of a rule than an exception these days. However, even when I am not drinking that much…I find that my memory is still a bit hazy. Could the fact that I am feeling depressed affect how the alcohol is affecting my body and brain? Thank you very much for your help.

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Answer:

There are a number of serious issues that you need to address for the sake of your health and well being.

The fact that you are experiencing blackout is a very serious matter. Your brain is letting you know that you are drinking far too much alcohol. The type of drinks are less important than the amount of alcohol you are consuming. I do not remember the exact proportions but, for example, a regular can of beer could be the equivalent of a shot of vodka and a glass of wine equal to the same shot. Remember, its the amount of alcohol, known as ETOH that is important. It is impacting your nervous system, brain and your liver. It is in your best interests to stop drinking.

Your memory and clarity of thought is impacted by two things at the moment. First, the amount of alcohol you are drinking is impairing your memory and your ability to think clearly and make good judgements. This is true even after the alcohol has left your system.

Your memory and foggy thinking is affected by your depression. However, I must point out to you that you are drinking because you are depressed and your depression is worsening because you are drinking. The worsening depression caused by the drinking is complicating your memory problems as well as your ability to reason.

Blackouts, foggy thoughts, memory problems are all symptoms that you body is sending you to alert you that your physical health is being affected by drinking.

There are always ways to find work but there are no ways to find a new body. Stop drinking, get help for your depression by seeing a psychologist and look for a job with your brain and body refreshed.

My prescription is the following:

1. Stop drinking, 2. Get help for your depression, 3. Start an exercise program, 4. See a physician if you are concerned about your health, 5. Do not insist on the job you want but take the job you can get even at a much lower salary.

Good Luck

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