Mental health refers to the condition of the psychological and emotional well-being of a person. The NHS defines mental health as, “The emotional and spiritual resilience which enables us to survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a fundamental belief in our own and others’ dignity and worth”.
Poor mental health obviously has implications, so it is important that people take care of it. One way of maintaining positive mental health is by taking in to consideration the effects drugs (and alcohol is a drug) can have on you. People who repeatedly misuse substances can severely impact their mental well health. The short-term effects on someone of substances may initially bring about a pleasurable experience but this impact is short-lived and in the long-term can cause serious issues, causing disruptions in people’s lives and are linked to causes of stress, anxiety, depression, memory loss, illness and in some cases death.
A drug is a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when introduced into the body.
Substance abuse can interrupt the normal function of the human brain. Alcohol for instance, is a depressant which will cause disruptions to the part of the brain that affects thoughts, feelings and actions, producing chemical changes that create stimulation, weakening the part of the brain associated with inhibition leading to over-confidence, creating mood changes, which can lead to aggression, anxiousness or depression. So, it’s clear to see that the effects of substance abuse on your body can be very negative.
Psychoactive drugs such as cannabis, alcohol, heroin and ecstasy, have the potential to affect your mood rousing certain emotions or suppressing others. This of course is why we may choose to use them. The mood or behaviour changes caused by drugs are the result of changes to your brain chemistry in the same part of the brain that manages your mental health, interfering with the natural chemicals in your brain and affecting the messages those chemicals are trying to send and receive.
The short-term effects of drugs (short-term because they pass as the drug leaves your body) may well be something you find enjoyable but often only if they meet your expectations of them. However, you may also have unwanted short-term drug-induced side effects, such as feeling or acting strangely.
Drugs can also have a longer-lasting bearing on your mental health too and its best to think seriously about your individual strengths and vulnerabilities before taking them. Take into account whether you are using drugs as a way of making bad feelings go away and whether you are in control of their use. Even if you begin using drugs with a clear mind and a full understanding does not mean they can’t affect your mental health. Drug use may simply uncover bad feelings you never knew you had.
The unwanted effects of drugs can also stay with you if you have a pre-existing mental health condition, one that you were not aware of. It’s also possible to get a dose very wrong and disrupt permanently a chemical balance in your brain. With a drug-induced anxiety disorder for example, you may feel like your surroundings are strange or dreamlike, or that you are losing your personal identity and your sense of reality. You might experience panic attacks, your heart rate might surge, and you might get sweats, shortness of breath, or a fear of losing control.
You may also experience a drug-induced psychosis, whereby psychoactive drugs cause delusions and you believe things that aren’t true, or hallucinate; see or hear things that are not there.
Another effect could be a drug-induced mood disorder which canbe caused by drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, heroin or methadone amongst others and you may feel depressed, sad, restless, and irritable, or tired and can’t seem to find a sense of pleasure in anything or have manic, elevated moods, delusions, impulsive behaviour, racing thoughts etc.
Without doubt the long-term effects of drugs on mental health are serious and ongoing. Psychoactive drugs may cause ongoing mental health problems and it’s not clear why this happens to some people and not to others, it could be that using a certain drug has triggered an underlying mental illness, or it might be that a drug has changed the way a certain chemical affects your brain functions.
Drug consumption can not only be dangerous to the user, but to their families, work colleagues and friends also.