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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


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 for 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 drugs, 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?

Photo: | Pexels

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. For instance, marijuana, also known as cannabis—is the most commonly used street drug in the United States, with an estimated 48.2 million people using it in 2019. According to the United Nations, 158.8 million people around the world use marijuana—more than 3.8% of the planet’s population. While marijuana is considered relatively harmless when used in moderate or prescribed amounts, abuse and overdosage can lead to mental health issues such as drug-induced psychosis and even fatal consequences. According to research-based marijuana usage statistics, next to alcohol, marijuana is the second most frequently found substance in the bodies of drivers involved in fatal automobile accidents. This is proof of how drug and alcohol abuse can easily alter our mental state.

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 judgment.
  • The carefree approach of spending all your money just to get that instant gratification.

How drug abuse affects your mental health

#1. Paranoia

Photo: Anna Tarazevich | Pexels

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

Photo: Maria Orlova | Pexels

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 the heavy influence of drugs or alcohol makes all the time.

#3. Depression

Photo: Alex Green | Pexels

It’s clear that a 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

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 at 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

Photo: Nandhu Kumar | Pexels

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? 

Photo: Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

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 causes 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 SouthEnd Psychiatry.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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