In truth, there are many ways substance abuse affects mental health. But the question arises – do certain effects pose a more serious threat to our mental health than others?
What is the Link Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health?
Substance abuse and mental health are very closely linked. In fact, about half of all people with mental illnesses also have problems with substance abuse. This is often known as a dual diagnosis.
There are a number of ways in which substance abuse and mental health can interact. For example, people with mental health problems may use substances to self-medicate their symptoms. Substances can also worsen the symptoms of mental health problems and vice versa.
Some of the most common mental health problems that co-occur with substance abuse include:
- Bipolar disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Psychotic disorders (e.g. drug-induced psychosis).
The link between mental health and substance abuse is complex, and there is no single cause. However, some of the factors that may contribute to this link include:
- Environmental factors.
- Substance use during adolescence
If you are struggling with substance abuse and mental health, it is important to seek help. There are many resources available to help you get the treatment you need.
Three Ways Substance Abuse Affects Mental Health
Addiction can affect co-occurring disorders in a number of ways. For example, it can:
- Exacerbate symptoms: Substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of mental health disorders, making them more difficult to manage. For example, someone with anxiety may experience more panic attacks, or someone with depression may become more suicidal if they are also abusing substances.
- Make treatment more difficult: Substance abuse can make it more difficult to get treatment for co-occurring disorders. This is because people who are abusing substances may be less likely to seek help, and they may also be more likely to drop out of treatment if they do start.
- Increase the risk of relapse: Substance abuse can increase the risk of relapse for people who are also struggling with mental health disorders. This is because substance abuse can trigger symptoms of mental health disorders, which can then lead to a relapse.
Impact on Brain Chemistry
Addiction is a complex disease. It is characterised by compulsive drug use, despite negative consequences. It is caused by changes in the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory circuits.
When someone uses drugs, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in pleasure, reward, and motivation. Drugs can cause a surge of dopamine, which can lead to some feelings of euphoria and wellbeing.
Over time, the brain will adapt to the presence of drugs and needs more and more of the drug to achieve the same level of pleasure. This is known as tolerance. When a person stops using drugs, the brain’s dopamine levels drop, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
In addition to changes in dopamine, addiction can also cause changes in other brain chemicals, including:
- Serotonin: Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that plays a role in sleep, mood, and appetite. Addiction can lead to low levels of serotonin, which can contribute to depression and anxiety.
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in calming the brain. Addiction can lead to low levels of GABA, which can contribute to anxiety and irritability.
- Noradrenaline: Noradrenaline is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in attention, arousal, and stress response. Addiction can lead to low levels of noradrenaline, which can contribute to fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
The changes in brain chemistry that happen with addiction can be long-lasting. This is why it can be so difficult to quit using drugs.
Poor Emotional Wellbeing
Addiction can have a significant impact on emotional wellbeing. People with addiction may experience a range of negative emotions, including:
- Shame: People with addiction may feel ashamed of their addiction and their behaviour. This can lead to certain feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Guilt: People with addiction may feel guilty about the negative consequences of their addiction, such as the impact on their relationships, finances, or work. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.
- Anger: People with addiction may experience anger as a way to cope with the negative emotions associated with addiction. This can lead to outbursts of anger, which may damage relationships and can make it difficult to maintain employment.
- Anxiety: People with addiction may experience anxiety about the future and the possibility of relapse. This can lead to feelings of fear and worry, which can then make it difficult for you to relax and enjoy life.
- Depression: People with addiction are at an increased risk of depression. Depression can make it hard to cope with the challenges of addiction and can lead to thoughts of suicide.
Treatment for Substance Abuse and Mental Health
There are many different treatment options available for people with dual diagnosis. The best treatment will vary depending on specific needs and circumstances.
Some of the most common treatment options include:
- Individual therapy: Individual therapy can help people to understand their addiction and mental health problems, develop coping skills, and make changes in their lives.
- Group therapy: Group therapy can provide support and encouragement from others who are going through the same thing. It can also help people to learn new skills and to feel less alone.
- Family therapy: Family therapy can help families to understand addiction and mental health problems and to develop strategies for coping with them.
- Medication: Medication is often used to treat the symptoms of addiction and mental health problems and to help people to manage withdrawal symptoms.
- Residential treatment: Residential treatment programs provide a safe and supportive environment for people to get treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment allows people to receive treatment while living at home. This can be a good option for people who have jobs or other commitments.
The length of the treatment will vary depending on the individual’s needs. Some people may need only a few weeks of treatment, while others may need months or even years.
Find Help Today
There are many ways substance abuse affects mental health, but you don’t have to suffer alone. Recovering from substance abuse and mental health problems is a process. There will be ups and downs, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to achieve long-term recovery.
At Action Rehab, we’re dedicated to helping people find their way out of addiction by finding the best treatment programmes for them. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one struggling with substance abuse, reach out today.