5 Psychological Effects Of Drug & Alcohol Abuse

In addition to the common physical side effects, extended drug use can have psychological and mental health related impacts.

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Substance abuse can lead to short and long-term adverse health effects. These effects can be physical or mental and can be mild to severe.

The effects of drug or alcohol abuse depend on the length of use, the type of drug abuse, and other factors.

There are five common psychological side effects caused by drug abuse, including cognitive impairment, mood disorders, psychosis, personality changes, and anxiety disorders.

The Common Effects Of Drug Abuse On The Brain

Drugs affect the way neurons send, receive, and process signals through neurotransmitters.

Some drugs can activate neurons when their chemical structure mimics the neurotransmitter in the body, which then allows the drug to attach to the neuron.

Other drugs can cause neurons to release large amounts of neurotransmitters or prevent normal recycling of these chemicals, disrupting normal communication between neurons.

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1. Cognitive Impairment

Altered cognitive function is a key indication of a substance use disorder. The altered functions often include attention, inhibition, regulation, working memory, and decision-making.

Some studies have found that long-term illicit drug abuse is associated with impairment of short-term memory, word fluency, attention span, and cognitive flexibility.

In addition, a drug’s effect on inhibitory control may account for the difficulty in resisting drugs, leading to increased use and relapse.

Poor inhibitory control may also account for common behaviors in substance use disorders, including increased impulsivity and poor decision-making.

2. Mood Disorders

Substance abuse and mood disorders are closely related. Abusing substances such as methamphetamine can cause prolonged psychotic reactions or worsened depressive symptoms.

Substance abuse makes changes to brain composition and can often cause chemical imbalances, which can lead to the development of mood disorders.

Substance-induced mood disorders may develop during intoxication or withdrawal and often mimic the original disorder.

If someone is experiencing substance-induced depression, they may experience insomnia,
sadness, irritability, hopelessness, helplessness, and other common depressive symptoms.

3. Psychosis

Drug abuse of illicit substances or prescription medications can cause psychosis. It has been found that psychosis can be caused by drug use without the involvement of genetic factors.

Individuals with psychosis often present with hallucinations, an inability to feel pleasure, and disrupted executive functions, such as trouble managing thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Drugs found to cause psychosis include amphetamines, ketamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

For example, amphetamines increase dopamine levels through inhibition of dopamine reuptake, which is thought to cause amphetamine-induced psychosis.

4. Personality Changes

Someone who is abusing drugs often displays different personality traits than before they started abusing drugs.

Addiction changes brain structure and how it operates to cause these personality changes.

These changes can cause risky behaviors, the inability to inhibit drug abuse, aggression, deception, mood swings, paranoia, etc.

5. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder (PD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), have the highest associations with substance use disorders.

Substance-induced anxiety disorders feature nervousness or panic caused because drug abuse affects the balance of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Common drugs associated with substance-induced anxiety include cocaine, LSD, alcohol, stimulants, and steroids.

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  1. American Journal Of Psychiatry https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.158.9.1519/
  2. Cambridge University Press https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/specific-effects-of-ecstasy-and-other-illicit-drugs-on-cognition-in-polysubstance-users/8515A3E317E07632DB83FC858CDD3B0B
  3. Cleveland Clinic https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/23224-executive-dysfunction/
  4. National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain/
  5. National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/13597/8/NIDA_Drugs_Brains_Behavior.pdf/
  6. National Library Of Medicine: Bookshelf https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555887/
  7. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1237006/
  8. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904966/
  9. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5326711/
  10. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6599555/
  11. Science Direct https://doi.org/10.1016/S0376-8716(02)00012-1
  12. Tufts Medical Center https://hhma.org/healthadvisor/aha-saanxiet-bha/

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: November 21, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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