Substance abuse and mental health are linked because the psychological effects of drug addiction, including alcohol, cause changes in your body and brain. A careful balance of chemicals keeps the cogs turning inside your body, and even the smallest change can cause you to experience negative symptoms. Because the risk factors for mental health and substance abuse are comparable, this may be attributed to the fact that drug addiction can cause or worsen mental health conditions.
Excessive alcohol and drug use sends your nervous system into disarray, rewires your brain, and causes inflammation—all of which can cause mental illness. Read on to find out more about the emotional effects of substance use disorders.
Drug Abuse Rewires Your Brain
One of the most profound changes that occur in people who struggle with drug abuse and addiction is in the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of motivation, pleasure and reward—and alcohol, prescription medications and illegal drugs all hijack this pathway. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, you’ll have noticed a shift in priorities. Illicit drugs’ chemical compounds rewire brain chemistry and push for the need to feed on more drug use.
As an addicted person needs an increasing amount of their substance of choice to get the same high, they become more and more preoccupied with procuring and using substances. This is what leads to the most damaging effects of addiction. Friends, family, work, and being an upstanding citizen become less important than inebriation. More importantly, the cause and effects of drug addiction create new mental health issues that can affect the user and the social network around them.
Often, people in addiction treatment centers are recovering from experiencing an endless cycle of guilt, emotional pain and short-term relief from substances. This negative feedback loop can eventually lead to mental health issues and other side effects.
Health Problems Associated With Addiction
In addition to the psychological effects of addiction, drug and alcohol abuse have the potential to lead to an array of other health consequences and conditions. Chronic substance use is a risk factor for the following illnesses:
Disorders that affect decision-making
Heart disease including high blood pressure
Reduced immune function
Five Psychological Effects Of Drug Addiction
Dopamine isn’t the only neurotransmitter that affects your mood and mental state; serotonin, norepinephrine and many more play a part. Just like addiction, mental disorders aren’t usually the result of one trigger or cause. Not everyone will experience the following mental illnesses, but many people do.
Anxiety is best described as a disorder of the fight-or-flight response, where someone perceives danger that isn’t there. It includes the following physical and mental symptoms:
Rapid heart rate
An impending sense of doom
Restlessness and agitation
There are a lot of similarities between anxiety and the effects of stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Conversely, using central nervous system depressants can also increase the risk of a person developing anxiety. Although they calm a person’s nerves while they’re intoxicated, they intensify anxiety when the effects wear off.
Additionally, many addicts experience anxiety around trying to hide their habits from other people. In a lot of cases, it’s difficult to tell whether anxious people are more likely to abuse substances or if illicit drugs and alcohol cause anxiety.
2. Shame and Guilt
There’s a stigma attached to addiction in society, and there’s a lot of guilt and shame for the individuals who struggle with the condition. Often, this is adding fuel to a fire that was already burning strong. People with substance use disorders tend to evaluate themselves negatively on a regular basis, which is a habit that has its roots in childhood experiences. Continual negative self-talk adds to feelings of shame and guilt.
When you constantly feel as if you’ve done something wrong, it’s tempting to try to cover up these challenging emotions with drugs and alcohol. These unhelpful emotions contribute to the negative feedback loop that sends people spiraling into addiction.
3. A Negative Feedback Loop
From an outside perspective, someone with an addiction looks like they’re repeatedly making bad choices and ignoring reason. However, the truth is far more complicated and nuanced—so much so that it can be very difficult for people to overcome a substance use disorder without inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. This is partly due to a negative feedback loop that occurs in the mind.
When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they feel a sense of comfort they haven’t been able to get elsewhere. Inevitably, this feeling is replaced by guilt and shame as they sober up and face the consequences of their actions. However, the weight of these feelings forces them to seek comfort in substances.
Another mental illness strongly associated with addiction is depression. Like anxiety, it’s not clear whether the depression or substance abuse problem comes first—but there is a clear link. The main symptoms associated with depression are:
Lack of motivation
Loss of interest
Weight gain or loss
Some withdrawal symptoms overlap with the signs of depression, which can make diagnosing coexisting addiction challenging before the substance use disorder has been treated. Most people require ongoing therapy to help them overcome depression.
5. Loss of Interest
Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy is a key symptom of both addiction and depression, but overcoming the former makes it much easier to gain control over the latter. It’s such a destructive symptom because of how demotivating it is to feel there’s no joy in the world. Everyone has passions and interests, but getting back to finding them isn’t easy for someone with these conditions.
Treatment programs help you unravel the reasons behind your unhealthy substance use so you can find new coping mechanisms and address any underlying issues in therapy.
Get Help for the Emotional and Psychological Effects of Drug Addiction
If you think the behavior of a loved one is a sign of a serious problem, call our New Jersey addiction treatment center today at 856-644-6929 for more information about our drug addiction treatment and the emotional effects of drugs. Start your addiction recovery today.
By Staff Writer, Recovery at the Crossroads