For many people across the U.S., drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem. Substance abuse and its effects on mental health are well-known because of their impact on a person’s family, work, and other relationships. Additionally, most people are aware that prolonged and/or careless use of drugs or alcohol can lead to physiological problems and even death. Mental health is another area that can be affected by substance abuse and stress. How a person is affected depends on the substance that is being abused and in many cases whether the individual is a chronic abuser. It is important that people understand, however, that even short-term use of certain substances may result in mental health problems or exacerbate them.
When people routinely and intentionally drink alcoholic beverages to the point that it becomes a danger to themselves and the people around them, they have an alcohol problem that is known as alcohol abuse. An alcohol abuser’s drinking can be excessive to the point that they may continue to drink even while knowing that it is dangerous to do so. The drinking often interferes with normal activities and interactions such as work, school, or family relationships. An alcohol abuser often drinks after stressful or angry situations or confrontations, using the alcohol as a way to cope and relax. Although they can put limits on their drinking, they often choose not to and are at risk of becoming alcoholics who need alcoholism rehab.
When it comes to mental health, alcohol use can cause certain problems, or it can make existing problems worse. People who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety may use alcohol as a way to self-medicate. In these cases, alcohol can make symptoms of the underlying mental health issues worse. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can also cause depression or anxiety in some people who did not suffer from these conditions previously. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that based upon evidence that the organization has collected, alcohol is one of the main factors in the beginning of depression.
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A drug abuser is a person who illegally and excessively uses one or more drug products. These products themselves may be illegal, or they may be legal when used properly. Drugs typically fall within categories that include depressants, narcotics, hallucinogens, and stimulants. When people abuse drugs, it can cause chemical changes in the brain that affect their mental health. As with alcohol abuse, some psychological problems can exist alongside the abuse and are worsened by the drug or drugs that are being used. Other mental health issues, however, are a direct result of the drug abuse. Marijuana addiction is an example of this. When a person who is suffering from psychosis smokes marijuana, it can make their symptoms worse. In other cases, it may trigger schizophrenia in those who are already at high risk of developing it. Additionally, adolescents who smoke marijuana excessively are at a greater risk of becoming schizophrenic when they are adults.
People who use cocaine risk anxiety and depression and a form of psychosis called cocaine psychosis. Cocaine is a stimulant, which is a type of drug that causes an increase in energy levels and makes people more alert. Methamphetamine, which, like cocaine, is also a stimulant, can cause anxiety, confusion, and even fits of rage. Hallucinogens are drugs that cause people to see, taste, hear, and even smell things that are not there: LSD is an example of a hallucinogenic drug. These types of drugs affect people’s mental health by causing paranoia, anxiety, and depression. People who take hallucinogens may also suffer from schizophrenic behavior or similar problems; however, knowing exactly how drugs will affect a specific individual is difficult to determine.
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By Michelle Conway