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The Effects of Alcohol and Drug Use on Mental Health



The Effects of Alcohol and Drug Use on Mental Health

Alcohol and drugs may temporarily make a person feel relaxed, confident, energetic, or a plethora of other effects. However, drug and alcohol abuse can lead to more problems and negatively impact mental health. Sometimes, therapy can be an effective way to treat addiction. This is especially true when the addiction is related to anxiety or depression. Check out this great article about cognitive behavioral therapy and anxiety.

Alcohol and the Brain 

Since alcohol is the most widely abused substance, it is important to look specifically at the way it can impact mental health. Heavy alcohol consumption can interfere with brain chemicals and contribute to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, it can make it harder for a person to manage stress. 

In order to function properly, the brain requires a balance of different chemicals. Alcohol is a depressant and can disrupt the balance of chemicals and make it harder for the brain to do its job. This can affect our long-term mental health.


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As a person continues to drink, the impact on the brain steadily increases. Sometimes, when drinking the negative emotions will take over and impact mental health in the short term. Sometimes these effects will carry over to cause long-term mental health issues as well. Alcohol makes some people angry, aggressive, depressed, or anxious. 

Alcohol and Anxiety

Someone who has anxiety may consume alcohol to lower inhibitions and reduce symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. However, these effects are only temporary. In addition, someone may become dependent on alcohol in order to properly relax. This can make it harder to stop drinking. As tolerance increases, alcohol consumption will have to increase in order to achieve the same relaxing affects. 


A hangover caused by alcohol can lead to feelings associated with anxiety and stress. When alcohol is processed through the body, we may feel anxious or agitated. As the effects of the alcohol wear off, a person who suffers with anxiety may feel increased severity in their symptoms. 

In some instances, alcohol consumption may make a person feel more anxious. When we consume alcohol, we do not always respond adequately to the situations that we experience. This can lead to a perception of danger which can trigger anxiety. 

There are healthy ways to reduce anxiety without consuming alcohol. Meditation is a popular way to relax. In addition, exercise can help overall wellbeing. Finally, if anxiety is severe, then you may benefit from therapy. 


Alcohol and Depression

Heavy alcohol consumption is often associated with depression. However, it is sometimes difficult to see if the depression was causing the alcohol use or if the alcohol use caused the depression. 

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Alcohol use contributes to depression because it effects the chemical systems in the brain. This means that a reduction in the amount of alcohol that you drink may help to improve symptoms related to depression and other mental health issues. 


Alcohol can lower inhibitions and cause people to behave in a different way than they usually would. It can cause risky and impulsive behavior. Sometimes it can even lead to suicide. There is a connection between heavy drinking and suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide. 

Alcohol consumption, especially heavy drinking, can cause psychosis in some people. This can lead to delusions and hallucinations. In addition, alcohol withdrawal may cause similar symptoms. 

It is important to note that medications that are prescribed to treat depression or anxiety should never be mixed with alcohol. Some anti-depressants can cause people to drink heavily. Anxiolytics can contribute to shallow breathing that can be increased with the use of alcohol and can even lead to death. 



Cannabis is one of the most commonly used and abused drugs around the world. It is often referred to as bud, pot, weed, or marijuana.  Some people consume cannabis to relax or provide a feeling of euphoria. However, it can cause others to feel anxious or paranoid. 

Cannabis enters the blood stream when consumed and it is usually smoked but can also be consumed in other ways including orally. It contains a lot of different chemicals that are called cannabinoids. 

Cannabis can cause hallucinations and depersonalization. In addition, there is a risk of psychosis with marijuana use. Many people find that cannabis affects their ability to concentrate. It may also be linked with poor memory. Some people who consume cannabis find that their motivation is affected. 


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Regular consumption of cannabis has be linked with anxiety and depression as well. Even though many people can consume cannabis without these mental health effects, consumption of cannabis may exacerbate mental health symptoms that were not severe before. 


Amphetamines are stimulants and can make a user feel energized. They can lead to alertness and heavy concentration. This can even contribute to insomnia and drug-induced psychosis. Amphetamine use can make it very difficult to properly relax and release the stressors that affect a person on a daily basis. Not only that, but they can increase negative thought patterns associated with anxiety. Some people find that they feel depressed when they no longer consume the drug and still find that they have trouble getting and staying asleep. 



Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers that are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety. Common types are Xanax and Valium. They have also used a muscle relaxant. They are only used in the short term for anxiety and can be very addictive. 

People also consume benzodiazepines illegally because they provide a feeling of relaxation. In higher doses they can cause effects similar to alcohol. Also, they can cause “blackouts,” or extreme memory loss. They can also cause a person to feel overly sleepy and should never be taken when driving or completing any task that requires concentration or reflexes. 

Long-term consumption of benzodiazepines can impact mental health in a number of ways. It can affect memory and cognition. It may also lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of symptoms related to anxiety. This is called “rebound anxiety.” 



Cocaine is a stimulant that makes the user feel confident. When cocaine wears off, the user may feel a hangover. This can cause the person to feel overly tired and depressed. Long-term cocaine use is even worse for overall mental health. Not only that, but it can negatively impact relationships and is very addictive.  

Cocaine can lead to several mental health problems over time. These include depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Not only that, but it can also lead to strokes and heart attacks.


Heroin can take away pain and cause relaxation, but there is a high risk of overdose that can lead to brain damage or death. Heroin can be very addictive and harm a person’s ability to properly function in society. This can cause them to lose their job and negatively affect their relationships. This can all impact our overall mental health and wellbeing. 


Also, heroin use can cause someone to lose interest in the things that they used to enjoy. This can be similar to some of the symptoms of depression. The addiction can also cause someone to feel hopeless in a similar way that depression does. 

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Alcohol and drugs can seem like a good way to relieve symptoms associated with mental illness or just to relax or achieve other effects. However, the negative effects that these substances can cause on mental health can cause an increase in symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses. Sometimes, drugs and alcohol even lead to the development of a new mental illness. If you or someone you love suffers from drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness, seek the help of mental health professional. 


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.