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Navigation: Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Opioids, Hallucinogens, What is Dual Diagnosis?


Mental health is just as important to your overall well-being as your physical health. And just like your physical health, it can be greatly impacted by the use of certain drugs and substances.

People have many different reasons for taking drugs. Some take it out of curiosity or because of peer pressure. Others have experimented and ended up enjoying the experience. There are also those who take drugs whenever they are stressed or unhappy. [1]

Those who have mental health disorders in particular are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to try and cope with their condition.

But while some substances can give you temporary relief or pleasure, they can also have long-lasting negative effects on your mental health.

Substance abuse can lead to both short-term and long-term mental health issues. Initially, drugs might induce feelings of euphoria or relaxation, but they can also cause adverse psychological effects. For instance, stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine can lead to increased anxiety, paranoia, and even psychosis with prolonged use. Similarly, depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines can exacerbate symptoms of depression and lead to cognitive impairments.

Drug abuse can even heighten the risk of developing mental health disorders. People with pre-existing conditions like anxiety or depression might experience worsening symptoms due to drug use. In people without a prior history of mental illness, substance abuse may contribute to the onset of mental health issues.

Meanwhile, long-term drug abuse can alter brain chemistry, leading to changes in mood, behavior, and cognition. For instance, chronic marijuana use in adolescence has been linked to an increased risk of developing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia in some cases.

In this article, we will discuss the list of drugs that have a negative impact on mental health, specifically the harmful substances that have the biggest impact on mental health. We will also discuss the potential adverse reactions they can cause. Let’s take a closer look.


Alcohol is one of the most widely used substances in the world. In fact, drinking is a very common form of socializing, and alcohol is even celebrated in many cultures around the globe. However, we need to keep in mind that it can also have a significant impact on mental health.

In fact, research shows that people who drink alcohol are more likely to develop mental health problems. It also goes the other way around that people with severe mental health disorders are more likely to have alcohol problems. [2]

Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, altering brain chemistry and affecting neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation. While initial consumption might induce feelings of relaxation or euphoria, excessive or prolonged use can lead to anxiety, depression, or exacerbate existing mental health conditions.

Alcohol’s impact on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine can disrupt their balance, contributing to mood swings, irritability, and emotional instability.

When people start abusing alcohol, it leads to poor sleep patterns, disrupting the body’s natural sleep cycle. And because proper sleep is crucial for emotional regulation and cognitive function, sleep disturbances can exacerbate mental health issues.

Chronic alcohol consumption can even impair decision-making abilities and worsen feelings of stress. Some would go on to develop alcoholism due to this unhealthy cycle of stress and self-medication.

Regular heavy drinking has also been linked to depression. People suffering from depression who drink alcohol often begin to feel better within the first few weeks of quitting alcohol. [2]


Also known as cannabis, marijuana is another commonly used substance that can have negative effects on mental health.

Marijuana is often perceived as a harmless drug. However its use has been linked to an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It can also worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in those who are already struggling with these conditions.

Marijuana is known for its recreational and medicinal uses. But while users may initially experience feelings of relaxation or euphoria, others may experience feelings of paranoia, heightened anxiety, or even panic attacks, especially in high doses. This effect is attributed to the way marijuana interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, altering neurotransmitter levels and impacting mood regulation.

Another mental health issue associated with marijuana use is the risk of psychosis, especially in those with a predisposition or family history of psychotic disorders.

Marijuana, when taken frequently and in high doses, may also cause disorientation and unpleasant thoughts.

Long-term or heavy use of high-potency cannabis has been linked to an increased risk of developing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia. The psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in marijuana can disrupt the brain’s normal functioning, potentially leading to hallucinations, delusions, and impaired thinking. [3]

Those who take marijuana use during adolescence, when the brain is still developing, may suffer from more pronounced and lasting effects on their mental health. Early exposure to this substance may affect brain development, altering its structure and function.

Marijuana use has even been linked to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. [3]


Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that can have severe consequences on mental health. It can cause intense feelings of euphoria and confidence, but these effects are short-lived and often followed by a crash that can lead to depression and anxiety.

One significant concern is its ability to affect and alter brain chemistry, leading to increased levels of dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

This dopamine surge creates an intense euphoria. However, as the drug wears off, it can result in a profound crash. During this crash, people feel depressed, anxious, and irritable.

Over time, repeated use of cocaine can disrupt the brain’s natural reward system. Eventually, it becomes challenging for people to experience pleasure without the drug. In the process, this may trigger or exacerbate underlying mental health conditions like depression and anxiety disorders.

Cocaine abuse can also heighten the risk of psychiatric disorders. Prolonged usage can increase susceptibility to conditions like paranoia, hallucinations, and psychosis.

The drug’s effects on the brain’s reward pathways can also lead to addictive behaviors. When addiction develops, the person will keep taking the drug even when they are already experiencing its harmful effects.

Other psychiatric disorders that may accompany cocaine addiction include cocaine dependence, cocaine withdrawal, cocaine-induced sleep disorders, and cocaine-induced psychotic disorders. [4]


Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant. It is one of the most dangerous drugs here due to its devastating effects on mental health.

Similar to cocaine, its use significantly alters brain chemistry, influencing a person’s neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. It can impact their cognitive abilities and emotional regulation. Chronic use may result in memory loss, decreased ability to experience pleasure, and difficulties with decision-making and impulse control.

The intense highs and subsequent crashes associated with meth use can contribute to mood swings and exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder or other mood-related conditions.

But one of the most significant risks is the development of addiction. It is very easy to get addicted to this drug. Methamphetamine addiction can lead to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and severe depression. Prolonged use can also exacerbate existing mental health conditions or trigger the onset of new ones.

Once a person is addicted, it becomes their main priority in life, becoming more important than other activities. This often leads to poor physical health, poor hygiene, financial problems, and strained relationships. [5]

Long-term effects include depression, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, poor memory, homicidal or suicidal thoughts, and violence. [5]

Overall, the toll meth takes on mental health can be profound and enduring, requiring comprehensive treatment and support to address both the addiction and the resulting mental health challenges.


Opioids, while effective for pain management, can significantly impact a person’s mental health. Typically used as painkillers, prolonged opioid use can lead to chemical changes in the brain. This can affect mood regulation and the person’s overall mental well-being.

Opioid dependence and addiction are also very real possibilities. Opioids activate the brain’s reward system, leading to a cycle of craving and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. This addiction can exacerbate mental health conditions or trigger the onset of new ones, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and even psychosis in severe cases.

Just like with other types of substance addiction, opioid use disorder can quickly take over a person’s life. Addicted individuals may prioritize obtaining opioids over other aspects of their life, like their relationships or career. They may even neglect self-care, leading to poor health and hygiene.

Additionally, opioid misuse can contribute to cognitive impairments. Prolonged opioid use may affect attention, memory, and decision-making abilities.

The combination of addiction, cognitive impairments, and the toll opioids take on daily life can significantly worsen mental health, creating a complex web of challenges that most individuals struggle to overcome.


Hallucinogens, despite their potential for expanding consciousness and inducing altered states of perception, can pose significant risks to mental health.

These substances, such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and DMT, alter neurotransmitter activity, particularly serotonin. So while their effects vary widely from person to person, there are several ways in which hallucinogens can have negative effects on mental health.

People with a predisposition to or with a history of mental illnesses like schizophrenia or severe anxiety may experience exacerbated symptoms. Hallucinogens may even trigger these latent conditions.

These substances induce an altered perception. This can intensify existing psychological vulnerabilities. Some people experience panic attacks, paranoia, or psychosis.

Even in those who don’t have these preexisting conditions, they may experience a “bad trip”. This is an overwhelmingly negative experience while under the effects of hallucinogens.

There’s also the fact that a lot of these substances are unregulated, meaning they may vary in potency. This can contribute to their unpredictable effects. The lack of control over the intensity and duration of hallucinogenic experiences can lead to profound disorientation and feelings of losing touch with reality.

Even if a person experiences a euphoric trip, they may experience depression, anxiety, and panic attacks once the hallucinogen begins to wear off. Some people even have flashbacks, which may occur days, weeks, months, or even years after taking the drug. [6]

What is Dual Diagnosis?

When a person has a dual diagnosis, it means they have both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Some treatment facilities specialize in dual diagnosis treatment. [1]

Treating dual diagnosis requires a comprehensive approach that addresses both conditions simultaneously. Here are some treatment options commonly used:

Integrated Treatment Programs: These programs offer simultaneous treatment for addiction and mental health issues. They incorporate therapies specifically designed for dual diagnosis, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Integrated Group Therapy.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Certain medications can help manage both substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. For instance, medications like Suboxone, Methadone, or Naltrexone might be used for opioid addiction, while psychiatric medications like antidepressants or mood stabilizers can address mental health concerns.

Individual Therapy: One-on-one counseling sessions with a therapist trained in treating dual diagnosis can be immensely beneficial. Therapies like CBT help individuals identify triggers, manage cravings, and develop coping strategies.

Support Groups: Participating in support groups like Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) or Double Trouble in Recovery provides a sense of community and understanding among those who are facing similar challenges.

Family Therapy: Involving family members in the treatment process can enhance support and understanding. Family therapy sessions can address relationship issues, communication problems, and educate loved ones about the disorders.

Holistic Approaches: Practices such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and nutrition can complement traditional treatments by promoting overall well-being and aiding in stress reduction.

Continued Care and Aftercare: Long-term recovery often requires ongoing support. After initial treatment, continuing therapy, support group attendance, and regular check-ins with healthcare providers are vital for maintaining progress.

Dual Diagnosis Residential Treatment: For severe cases, a residential program that provides 24-hour care and intensive therapy might be necessary to stabilize both conditions.

Remember, the treatment plan should be tailored to each patient’s specific needs. Some patients may also go through a period of medical detox to lower the impact of these harmful substances on their physical and mental health.

Some treatment programs may use a combination of these approaches. It’s essential to seek treatment from professionals experienced in managing dual diagnosis cases for the best outcomes.

In conclusion, while drugs and substances may provide temporary relief or pleasure, they can also have long-lasting negative effects on mental health. Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, and hallucinogens are some of the most commonly used substances that can have a detrimental impact on mental health.

It is important to be aware of the potential harmful effects of these substances and seek help if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and its impact on mental health. Look for a rehab near you today to get started on your road to recovery.









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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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