Uncovering the Link: How Do Drugs Affect Mental Health?

Drug abuse has become a global health crisis, with the World Health Organization estimating that 1 in 20 people suffer from substance use disorder. With this widespread issue comes an important question: do drugs affect your mental health? The answer is yes – and it’s not just about physical addiction. Drug use can have serious implications for our emotional and psychological well-being too.

How Drugs Affect the Brain

Psychoactive drugs have a powerful effect on the brain. When drugs are taken, they interact with the brain’s chemistry to produce changes in behavior, mood, and cognition. Different types of drugs affect different parts of the brain in various ways.

Effects on Physical Health

Drugs can cause physical changes to the structure and function of the brain. These changes can be long-lasting or even permanent depending on how often and for how long someone has been using drugs. Common physical effects include an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, body temperature, pupil dilation, tremors or shaking hands/feet/body parts as well as impaired coordination and balance due to drug use over time.

Mental health Problems

Drugs alter levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which control our emotions and feelings of pleasure or reward when we do something enjoyable like eating food or engaging in activities that make us feel good about ourselves. This is why people become addicted to certain substances; they get a rush from it that makes them feel better than normal life does without it. However, their bodies eventually become dependent on the substance for survival, and if they try to quit suddenly without medical help or support from loved ones, withdrawal symptoms occur. Repeated substance abuse can have a detrimental effect on existing mental health problems.

Relationship Between Addiction and Mental Health

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction “as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.”

The relationship between drug use and mental health is complex. Co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, are when an individual has both a substance use disorder and a mental health problem at the same time. This can include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and more. It’s important to note that one condition does not necessarily cause the other; rather they often coexist in individuals who have experienced trauma or difficult life circumstances.

Risk factors for developing a mental disorder in addicts vary depending on the type of drug used and how long it has been abused. Stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines can increase the risk of paranoia, mania, and psychosis due to their effects on dopamine levels in the brain. Depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines can lead to increased feelings of depression or anxiety over time due to their effect on serotonin levels in the brain. Hallucinogens such as LSD or PCP can also increase the risk of psychosis due to their ability to alter perception and reality-testing abilities temporarily while under their influence.

The impact of substance misuse on mental health is significant because drugs interfere with normal functioning within the body’s systems, which can result in changes in mood regulation, thought processes, and behavior patterns that may be hard to control without professional help. When these neurotransmitters become imbalanced it leads to further disruption of normal functioning, potentially leading people down a path toward addiction if left untreated for too long. Additionally, prolonged use increases tolerance meaning larger doses must be taken over time; this can trigger mental health problems making recovery even more challenging than before.

Types of Recreational Drugs That Affect Mental Health


Stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, are drugs that act on the central nervous system to increase alertness and energy. They can cause feelings of euphoria, increased heart rate and blood pressure, decreased appetite, insomnia, paranoia, anxiety, and aggression. Stimulants also have a high potential for abuse and addiction due to their powerful effects on the brain’s reward system.


Depressants are drugs that slow down activity in the central nervous system by reducing nerve cell activity. Common depressant drugs include alcohol and benzodiazepines (such as Valium or Xanax). Depressants can produce feelings of relaxation or sedation but they also carry a risk of overdose when taken in large doses or combined with other substances. Long-term use of depressants can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly.


Hallucinogens are psychoactive substances that alter perception by producing vivid sensory experiences such as visual distortions or auditory hallucinations. Examples include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and PCP (phencyclidine). Hallucinogens interact with serotonin receptors in the brain which can result in changes in moods, thoughts, emotions, and behavior that may last long after taking them. In large amounts, they could throw the user into drug-induced psychosis. In addition to these psychological effects, hallucinogens can cause confusion, disorientation, and impaired judgment leading to risky behaviors like driving while under the influence or engaging in unprotected sex activities which could put someone at risk for contracting an STD/STI.

Best Resources for Treatment of Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

Inpatient rehabilitation programs are an intensive form of treatment for individuals struggling with addiction or mental health issues related to drug use. These programs provide a safe and structured environment where individuals can focus on their recovery without the distractions of everyday life. Inpatient rehab typically includes individual therapy, group counseling, medical care, medication management, and other services that help individuals address underlying causes of addiction while learning how to cope with cravings and triggers in a healthy way.

Dual-diagnosis outpatient treatment centers offer another option for those who need more flexibility in their treatment plan. Outpatient centers provide similar therapies as inpatient programs but allow clients to continue living at home while attending regular appointments at the center. This type of program is often used by people who have already completed an inpatient program or those who cannot commit to full-time residential care due to work or family obligations.

Support groups are also important resources for those seeking help with drug abuse and mental health issues related to substance use disorders. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a safe space where members can share experiences, receive encouragement from peers, learn new coping skills, and find support during difficult times. Additionally, many communities offer specialized support groups tailored towards specific populations such as women-only meetings or LGBTQ+-friendly groups which may be beneficial depending on individual needs.

Structured sober living for young men in addiction recovery provides long-term support for young adults struggling with mental illness and substance use disorders. The long-term effects of drugs and alcohol on mental health can be devastating, so it is vital that we support those struggling with substance use disorders by providing them with a safe and supportive environment to start their new life free from substances.

Drug Addiction and Mental Health: Where to Start

It is clear that drugs have a significant impact on mental health. The relationship between addiction and mental health is complex, with different types of drugs having varying effects on the brain. It is important to seek out professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse and/or mental health issues. With proper treatment under the supervision of a mental health team, it is possible to manage both conditions effectively and live a healthier life. Ultimately, understanding how affects mental illness can be the first step in finding successful solutions for those affected by substance abuse disorders.

At New Life House, these individuals will have access to comprehensive mental health services as well as counseling, job training programs, and other resources needed for successful sobriety and overall well-being. Our community has stood strong for over 35 years and has provided structure, accountability, guidance, and supervision for thousands of young men as they have rebuilt themselves. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many people affected by drug abuse! Reach out to us today to help your loved one start on the path to recovery.

Last Updated on January 18, 2023


Contact Us

    Call Us Now: (888) 357-7577

    Call Us Now: (888) 357-7577