Drugs, Alcohol & Mental Health

Drugs and alcohol alter the way your brain and body work, and can affect our mood and anxiety. They change the balance of chemicals that help your brain to think, feel, create and make decisions. Substance use may impact our daily lives in different ways.  

Life can bring about different stressful situations, leading to changes in our mood and anxiety levels. We may want to feel better, and thus, it can be appealing to use drugs and

alcohol as a way to cope through these challenging situations. Research shows that such substances may easily become addictive, can trigger symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and can make an already existing problem worse. One’s recovery is often more difficult when using drugs and alcohol.

Individuals who are experiencing depression and/or anxiety and make use of drugs and alcohol, are more likely to experience a decrease in their mental well-being. The recovery process is not always straightforward and takes a lot of time, effort and support from those around you. However, it possible. Help is available and different services are there to offer guidance on changing alcohol habits and drug use. A positive recovery can lead to an improvement in one’s physical and mental well-being. 

How Drugs & Alcohol Affect Your Mind

Drugs and alcohol affect the chemical messaging processes in your brain, so it’s difficult to predict how you will respond to them. Everyone is different and every drug is different. And with illegal drugs you never quite know exactly what’s in them. Some people use drugs or alcohol because they think they will make them feel better, but they can actually leave you feeling worse – anxious and agitated, or flat, unmotivated and moody. Your sense of reality can be affected too.

These reactions may be short term but they can still affect the way you think, make decisions and behave. There is a risk that while intoxicated you might act in ways that are out of character and that you may later regret. For example: you might act aggressively, take unnecessary risks or attempt to hurt yourself and/or others. Regular use can create health problems, affect your relationships with your friends and family, as well as causing potential problems for you at home or work.

If you’re taking prescribed medication for anxiety or depression, it’s also important to remember that alcohol and most illegal drugs interact with your medications and can reduce their effectiveness or increase the chance of side effects. If you’ve been drinking large amounts of alcohol or taking other drugs, tell your doctor so that they can assist you to get appropriate treatment.

Having a strong support network is really important if you have decided to take action to change your drug and alcohol habits. Support from friends and family is essential; they will provide reassurance and encouragement when you need it most.

You may need professional support to help you reduce your drug or alcohol use. A General Practitioner (GP) is a good place to start. They can give you information and refer you to other services for treatment, such as counselling or drug rehabilitation. You can also self-refer to some services.

Drug and alcohol services are available online, over the phone or in person, so you can access support in any way you feel most comfortable. Many people find it helpful to share their experiences with others going through the same thing, and may be beneficial to join a group in your local area.