Skip to main content

Substance abuse disorders (SUDs) and mental health issues are so closely related medical experts aren’t always sure if one leads to other. However, it is clear that having certain mental health disorders makes a person more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs to an effort to self-medicate. There’s also research that shows using drugs and alcohol can bring on symptoms of a mental health disorder.

Clearly, using drugs and alcohol isn’t the best means of treatment for a mental health issue. But the more we understand the connection between substance abuse and mental health problems the better we can treat them both at addiction treatment centers.

Ways That Drug and Alcohol Use Impact Mental Health

Using alcohol and drugs may be a quick fix for some mental health symptoms, but years of research has shown it’s much more harmful than helpful. Substance and alcohol abuse changes the way the brain works. That alone has a widespread impact on mental health, but there are even more direct ways that drug and alcohol use impact mental health. 

Increases Stress – Ironically, some people use alcohol and drugs as a way to escape stress only to ultimately create more stress in their life. When the affects of the drugs or alcohol wear off the person still has to deal with the stress from before, but now the shame of using alcohol or drugs as well as choices that were made while high add to the problem. Using alcohol or drugs can also be a costly habit that leads to financial stress. 

Triggers Depression and Anxiety – There’s research that strongly suggests substance use disorders trigger depression and anxiety. Since an SUD can increase stress it makes total sense that anxiety can be made worse by alcohol and drug abuse. However, it can also intensify feelings of depression as well. 

Memory Loss – Our memory is vital to our existence and how we experience life, which impacts mental health. Some studies have found that memory impairment from drug and alcohol abuse is either long-term lasting for years, or it can be permanent in some situations. 

Mood Changes – Addiction can cause noticeable mood swings that go from high to low very quickly. So it isn’t surprising to find that mood disorders and substance abuse have a high comorbidity rate. There is actually something called substance-induced mood disorder as well. This is a mood disturbance that is directly related to drug and/or alcohol use. 

Drug-Induced Psychosis – Psychosis refers to a condition in which a person processes the world around them, but it isn’t based in reality. During an episode of psychosis a person’s perception is disturbed preventing them from experiencing things as they actually are. Using drugs and alcohol can bring on psychosis and worsen symptoms if the condition already exists. 

What It Means to Have a Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis means that you are diagnosed with addition or an SUD as well as a mental health disorder. It’s also referred to as comorbility, which means having co-occuring mental health disorders. This is something that we see often at our Dallas addiction centers. 

Having co-occuring mental disorders is actually much more common than most people realize. The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 45% of those who have a substance use disorder receive a dual diagnosis. But that could be a conservative estimate. A study from 1990 discovered that 64.4% of those who experience addiction to drugs will experience a psychiatric disorder as well in their lifetime. Since addiction is a chronic disease, that means co-occuring mental health disorders will happen at some point for the majority of people with an SUD.  

Treating dual diagnosis at an addiction recovery center is different than only addressing addiction. You can’t simply treat one and then the other, acting as if they are two separate conditions. Effective dual diagnosis treatment involves creating a plan to address both disorders simultaneously, because ultimately the two issues are intertwined.  

Do you suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders? A free assessment from the trained professionals at Lighthouse Recovery addiction treatment center is the first step to understanding all of the underlying issues connected to substance abuse. If you receive a dual diagnosis know that our Dallas addiction center can provide an effective treatment plan. Lasting recovery and relief is possible when you work with addiction experts that understand how to treat comorbidity.


Learn more about our services or contact us below to discover how Lighthouse can help you on your road to recovery today. Thank you for your trust.