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Mental Mondays: Understanding The Relationship Between Drug Abuse And Mental Health

Mental Mondays: Understanding The Relationship Between Drug Abuse And Mental Health

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Drug and substance abuse is highly linked to mental health. In most cases, a person gets overwhelmed with his or her thoughts and current situation then gradually starts to lean on drugs, alcohol or even prescription drugs for temporary relief. More often than not, this goes south and inevitably spirals out of control and a dangerous cycle is born. 

Let’s digest this cycle again: a mentally stable or unstable individual, in a bid to find temporary relief any life issue turns to drugs and / or alcohol, which exacerbates any existing or dormant mental health issue. The result is an increased dependence on substances for a relief that only seems to exist in a delusional state. This is an unending cycle, many drug and substance abusers are all too familiar with.

Like Bruno Mars sang; “one shot for my pain, one drag for my sorrow. I’ll get messed up today, I’ll be okay tomorrow…” until tomorrow begets next week and you’re stuck and can’t help yourself out of the unending sorrow.

“One shot for my pain, one drag for my sorrow. I’ll get messed up today, I’ll be okay tomorrow…”

-Liquor Store Blues lyrics by Bruno Mars


So what are the early signs of drug abuse to look out for?

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Every now and then, life happens to us. Sometimes its impact tells greatly on our mental health. Some decide to find solace in alcohol while some turn to prescription or street drugs like marijuana, cocaine or meth. It usually starts with just a little quantity then graduates into something uncontrollable.

While symptoms may vary from one person to another, if you notice any of these signs, this is your cue to stop before your drug problem gets worst.

  • The use of drugs/alcohol to self medicate the symptoms of difficult situations or mental health issues instead of address the underlying problem.
  • The need to use drugs to evade responsibility.
  • The need to take drugs/alcohol as a motivation to carry out a normal day to day task or something challenging. This is otherwise known as physical dependency.
  • Cravings for drugs/alcohol that you can’t shake off.
  • Developing unhealthy relationships with drug abusers probably because of drug accessibility and zero judgement.
  • The carefree approach of spending all your money just to get that instant gratification.


How drug abuse affects your mental health

#1. Paranoia

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With each passing sip and/or drag goes the blurriness of reality as hallucinations set in. Sometimes in trying to fight our demons, we further strengthen them. Most times a person suffering from the effects of drug abuse becomes delusional, “seeing things that are not as though they were…” This gets them paranoid as they begin to lose grip of reality.

#2. Poor decision making

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For starters, there are more drunk drivers than should be rationally possible. One would wonder if it’s the magnified urge to pull a 007 stunt in real life or if it’s just for the fun of it. Whichever it is, you can agree with me that it doesn’t make enough sense to lose your life for. This is just one out of a million poor decisions a person under heavy influence of drugs or alcohol makes all the time.

#3. Depression

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It’s clear that high intake of drugs is usually to escape or numb unresolved issues but this only adds salt to injury by leaving the person more drug dependent and more depressed.


#4. Violence

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It’s been reported that drug abuse is associated with outbursts of anger, irritability and rape. It’s easier to become irritable and lash out on the ones closest to you or even random people when you’re under the influence of a substance foreign to your body; especially one which alters your mental state.

#5. Isolation

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It is common for a person suffering from the effects of drug abuse to distance themselves from others, especially those closest to them. This voluntary social distancing could lead to even more substance dependence and debilitating mental health.

If these symptoms persist even after the drug wears off then it might be a case of dual diagnosis. What exactly is that? Dual diagnosis, also referred to as co-occurring disorders, is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder at the same time. More on that here.

What can I do to handle drug abuse better before it further deteriorates my mental health? 

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Here are three strategic steps to take when you realize a growing drug problem:

  1. The first and hardest stage of handling a problem is admitting to yourself that it is indeed a problem and you’re in dire need of help.
  2. Fill up your free time with productive activities and get yourself an accountability partner that will help keep an eye on you.
  3. When those drug cravings seem insurmountable and you’re giving away to drugs the power to remain in control, seek professional help ASAP.

It is usually hard to detect if drug abuse is the cause of a mental health issue or vice versa but they are obviously closely linked and are not very great partners because their union only cause more trouble. Simply put, don’t do drugs! But if you’re already sinking deep, reach out and seek professional help.

You might not be able to physically get in touch with a therapist at this time but the internet bridges this gap and telecounselling is still as effective. Take control of your mental health and consider getting online counselling through telemedicine companies like Rave Psychiatry.

Photo Credit: Getty Images | Cover illustration: Instagram: @lord_kpuri


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