Substance Use and the Effect on Your Mental Health

September is Recovery Awareness Month; and the goal of mental health clinicians and substance abuse counselors is to inform everyone of the negative effects that substance use can have on an individual’s mental health.  Individuals who live with a mental illness such as depression can further complicate their mental health and be at a higher risk for suicide if they abuse alcohol and drugs.  Many people who have depression try to cope with their pain by numbing with drugs and alcohol; however, this is a dangerous combination because drugs lower a person’s inhibitions.  Two common substances; alcohol and marijuana, can exacerbate a person’s depression if used in excess because they are depressants.  Additionally, other misused psychotropic/prescription medications can have the same effect; such as:  Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Prozac, Cymbalta, Adderall, and Ritalin.

Addiction is highly stigmatized in our society; as is mental illness, because some people still believe that a person who is an alcoholic should just “stop drinking” just like a person with depression should just “be happy”.  The two aspects are seen as choices; when in actuality if the feelings of confidence, happiness, love, stability, self-worth/value, and safety were readily available then many would not develop an addiction or experience such crippling mental illness.  Addiction is also a chronic disease; however, learning how to manage stress, anxiety, fear, and disappointment is crucial in remaining clean and sober.

There are many people in popular culture who have previously battled, are currently struggling with, or have since succumbed to the addiction of substances.  Most recently, Pittsburgh-born rapper Mac Miller passed away as a result of a suspected overdose and had been vocal about his difficulties with depression and substance-use.  Other notable celebrities in pop-culture are Demi Lovato, Lil Wayne, Chrissy Teigen, Columbus Short, Michael Phelps, Shia LaBeouf, Zac Effron, David Cassidy, Justin Bieber, Trace Adkins, Matthew Perry, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Lamar Odom, Lindsay Lohan, Bobby Brown, Bruno Mars; and the list goes on and on.

While I have mentioned depression numerous times in this post, substance abuse/misuse adversely effects all mental illness categories and puts the individual at higher risk of harm.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and/or mental illness, it is essential to seek out qualified help and support.  If you notice a drastic change in someone’s appearance, demeanor, social engagement, etc.; this could be a sign that they are having difficulty self-regulating and managing their symptoms and could benefit from therapy.  Compounded with that, if someone engages in more risk-taking behavior, use of substances increases, and they show an inability to take care of daily living responsibilities; the individual may also be struggling with substance abuse/dependence.  The most important and life-saving task is to get help.  Here are some places where you can start:

Mental Health Resources:

  • NAMI – 1-800-950-NAMI or text “NAMI” to 741741
  • National Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – 1-888-333-2377
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Substance Abuse Resources:

  • National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • SMART Recovery
  • The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • Nar-Anon
  • Al-Anon

Survivors of Suicide:

  • Survivor of Loved Ones to Suicide (SOLOS) –

Live Well, Be Well…~NB