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Do Drugs Affect Mental Health?

By Phyllis Baker

Drugs are generally mind-altering substances that affect physical and mental functioning of the body. Substance abuse refers to continued misuse of a mind-altering drug that affects a person’s mental and physical health, responsibilities and social situations. Alcohol and tobacco are some of the most misused mind-altering substances. Other substances that are commonly abused include heroin, crack, cannabis, and cocaine.

Mental health refers to the condition of a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. When a person’s mental health is not in good condition, ramifications can be severe. That’s why it’s important to take care of your mental health. One of the best ways to take care of mental health is considering how drugs can affect it.

How Drugs Work

Severe effects of some drugs on mental health are the major reason why people call addiction help hotlines. Psychoactive drugs like alcohol, cannabis, heroin, and ecstasy can affect the mood of a person severely when abused extensively. These drugs can arouse or dampen some emotions and this is the reason why some people use them. However, their excessive use can have serious effects on the brain.

Basically, drugs work by interfering with brain chemicals. This influences the messages that these chemicals try to send. It’s important to weigh both the short-term and long-term effects of drugs on mental health.

Short-term effects of drugs may be enjoyable. However, there can also be negative short-term effects like feeling or acting strange. These are short-term effects because you no longer experience them after the drug leaves the body.

Long-term effects of drugs on mental health should be thought about seriously before taking them. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic drug use can cause mental health issues like anxiety, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and aggression.

The Link between Drugs and Mental Health

A person is said to have dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder when they have a drug abuse problem and an issue like anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression. Dealing with alcoholism or substance abuse issue is not easy. The condition is more difficult when a person has a mental health issue at the same time.

Co-occurring disorders have unique symptoms. These symptoms tend to get on the way of the ability of an individual to function at school or work. They also make handling difficulties in life, relating with others, and leading a normal home life challenging. What’s more, co-occurring disorders can influence each other, thereby complicating the situation further.

If a mental health problem is not treated, the drug abuse problem can escalate. Increased drug abuse worsens the mental health issue. In fact, increased drug abuse among people with mental health problems is another major reason why some families call an addiction help hotline severally.

Short-Term Impacts of Drugs on Mental Health

Any psychoactive drug can lead to mental health issues before it leaves the body. Common mental health issues caused by psychoactive drugs include mood swings, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, and psychosis. Here are the major short-term impacts of drugs on mental health.

  • Drug-induced Mood Disorder
    There are times when a person feels depressed, irritable, restless, sad, maniac, without pleasure, with elevated mood, racing thoughts, or impulsive behavior after using a drug. This is a mood disorder that can be caused by drugs like cocaine, heroin, methadone, and amphetamine.
  • Drug-Induced Psychosis
    Psychoactive drugs tend to cause delusions. This can be described as hallucinations or believing things that are not real. A person can hear or see non-existent things.
  • Drug-Induced Anxiety Disorder
    Some people experience panic-attacks after using some drugs. These attacks are characterized by severe anxiety accompanied by increased heart rate, sweats, trembling, short breath, and fearing that they may lose control. Some people feel like their surroundings are unreal and strange. Others feel like they have lost their reality sense and personal identity.

Long-Term Impacts of Drugs on Mental Health

Psychoactive drugs can lead to continuous mental health issues. It’s not clear yet why some people experience these ongoing problems after using some drugs while others do not. Perhaps, this can happen when a drug triggers a mental problem that a person had but they didn’t know. A drug can also change how brain functions are affected by a certain chemical. Here are some of the ways some drugs can affect mental health on long-term basis.

  • Depression and Ecstasy
    Some people become depressed after using ecstasy. Some even call overdose hotline thinking that the condition is escalating. Ecstasy is a form of amphetamine that is known to cause hallucinations. This drug makes serotonin readily available while giving the user a feeling of euphoria. Serotonin is a natural chemical found in the brain and it’s responsible for mood regulation. Some people call it a happy hormone. When a person takes ecstasy, the brain releases serotonin in an amount higher than usual. After some time, the natural serotonin stores may drop to lower levels. And because serotonin brings euphoria, lack of it can mean depression.
  • Schizophrenia and Cannabis
    Research shows that using cannabis might increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental health problem that makes a person to hear voices in their head and also believe that other people want to harm or control them. Researchers believe that schizophrenia sufferers and cannabis have a link. They believe that if a person has a pre-existing risk that they don’t know, they are likely to use cannabis thereby triggering schizophrenia. This risk is greater among the young people that use cannabis and regular smokers.

The Bottom Line

Drugs affect mental health in different ways because each drug reacts with brain chemicals differently. Nevertheless, most drugs interfere with the normal functioning of brain chemicals. If this interference is severe, some people get worried and call drug help hotline number immediately. The situation gets worse when a person uses a drug that interferes with their brain chemicals extensively yet they have a mental health issue. What’s more, using drugs to cope with a mental health issue can lead to more complications. Short-term effects of drugs on mental health can be somewhat pleasurable. However, long-term effects can be serious and detrimental to the mental well-being of a person.

About the Author:
Phyllis Baker is a healthy lifestyle blogger with an active social position. Currently, Phyllis is focused on various addictions, their effects on people’s lives, and their treatments.