It’s a well-known fact that many people take drugs in order to alleviate or medicate symptoms of mental illness. They take euphoric drugs to ameliorate feelings of depression, for example, or they lean on alcohol to reduce symptoms of anxiety. It might not be a helpful technique, but it certainly does seem common.
Drugs can do more than mask a simple mental illness, however, as some substances have been associated with the development of disorders. Rather than bringing relief due to an ongoing mental health problem, drugs can actually cause new problems to develop. These are just a few of the mental health concerns that could spring to life in people who use and abuse substances, along with information about how these issues are effectively treated.
Problems Drugs Can Cause
Substance abuse disorders could, in theory, ride along with almost any kind of mental illness. But according to an article produced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are nine types of mental illnesses experts suggest can stem directly from the use of drugs.
Deliriumis one such disorder. People who have this condition tend to shift between mental states with extreme speed, and they may display an inability to remember detail and pay attention to the events taking place around them. They might seem angry and irritated, or depressed and apathetic, and they might struggle to keep their arms and legs still. People like this may seem jittery, unusual and out of control, and they might be extremely difficult to handle or to talk to.
Psychosisis similar to delirium, in that people who have this particular condition also seem jittery and unreasonable. They might claim to hear voices that others cannot hear, or they might seem as though they’re looking at places and faces others can’t see. They might become angry and violent, and they might be unable to stay still and calm. People in a psychotic state can be remarkably dangerous, simply because they can’t be reasoned with.
Hallucinogen-persisting perceptual disorder is similar to psychosis, in that people who have this disorder often experience visual hallucinations, such as:
- Streaks of color
- Halos of light
- Movement trails
- Floating objects in the field of vision
These people might be able to explain what they see, and while they might be disturbed by the vision, they might not seem overwhelmed or overcome by the change in sensation. It’s that sense of calm that separates this disorder from psychosis.
Persisting amnestic disorder
often accompanies the long-term use of drugs, and it can cause an inability to put down new memories or to access old memories. The portions of the brain that control these vital processes have been damaged by drugs, and the severity of the disorder can range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of damage that has been done.
Why Do These Conditions Develop?
- The overall health of the person who takes drugs
- The substances the person takes
- The amount of drugs the person takes
- The length of the addiction
As a result, it’s very difficult to make sweeping generalizations about how all of these different disorders come to light. They may look completely different in two different people.
Psychosis and perceptual disorders might take hold in people who take in marijuana, for example, as researchers at Bristol University in the United Kingdom say that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has the ability to disrupt the chemical networks the brain uses to connect one side of the brain to another. When these pathways are disrupted or delayed, information is dropped or lost, and that can produce symptoms in some people that look a lot like a hallucination or a psychotic disorder. But at the same time, others might have compensatory brain activity that allows them to experience only transient psychosis that goes away when marijuana goes away. These two people might take the same drug, but only one might have symptoms that last when the drug wears off.
Similarly, drugs like cocaine and amphetamine have been associated with psychotic disorders in users, but they tend to take hold only when the person has taken in a large amount of the drug over a long period of time. Some people who experiment just once may not have any of these symptoms, while others who take the drugs for years might have symptoms that just never leave them.
Depression also seems to be closely linked to the amount of drugs a person takes in, particularly if that user takes in a significant amount of a euphoric drug like heroin.
Never Happy Naturally
This substance causes the brain to release augmented signals of pleasure, and in time, the brain cells might become so worn out that they simply can’t produce any more of the chemicals the brain uses to signal a happy moment.
People like this have chemical damage that often leads to depression, and that can be difficult to live with.
Since these mental illnesses can take hold in different ways in different people, it’s not surprising that the treatments used to attend to these conditions can vary dramatically. For example, some types of disorders linked to drug abuse tend to disappear when the offending item is removed. For example, a study in the journal Drugs & Aging suggests that drug-induced dementia in the elderly can sometimes spontaneously disappear when the person is no longer taking drugs. In cases like this, no therapy for the mental illness may be required. Instead, the person may need to simply stop taking drugs.
On the other hand, some mental disorders linked to addiction can resolve when people are provided with intensive therapies. People with insomnia, for example, might benefit from therapies in which they learn how to prepare the bedroom for sleep, and clear their minds before they lay their heads down for the night. These so-called sleep-training sessions often involve cognitive-behavioral techniques, and they can be remarkably effective. In one study of the technique, published in Sleep: Journal of Sleep and Sleep Disorders Research, experts found that just six weeks of therapy can bring about intense relief.
But some types of mental disorders caused by addiction don’t benefit from short bouts of therapy. Sometimes people need to stay enrolled in treatment programs for weeks or even months, so they can really get a handle on the disorders they have and the changes they need to make. People who have anxiety disorders, for example, might need to take medications to keep their nervousness at bay, and they may need to stay in therapy for a long period of time until the medications take hold. People with depression might need to follow that same path. Just as the addiction took time to develop, healing can also be a long time in coming. Recovery is definitely worth the effort of treatment, but it’s important to keep the time factor in mind.
Find Out More
Reading up on mental health disorders can be an important part of the recovery process for families touched by addiction, but sometimes it’s best to let an expert help. It’s hard to diagnose a mental illness without training, and it’s similarly hard to know how to help when the problem isn’t really clear. An expert can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, and these professionals can guide families in the steps they need to take to make healing possible.
The staff members at Foundations Recovery Network treatment programs are qualified to provide this level of care and expertise. Please call us, and our admissions coordinators can tell you more about how the enrollment process works. We’ll help you find the right facility for the person you love. Please contact us. We’d love to help.
Further Reading About Mental Disorders Caused By Addiction
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.