Substance use disorder occurs when a person uses alcohol or another substance (such as opiates, prescription medication, or marijuana) to function. Missing school or work, losing interest in hobbies, thinking about the substance, and increasing irritability could indicate problem use. For people who become dependent, abruptly stopping the use of the substance may lead to discomfort and other withdrawal symptoms.
Call 911 for emergency care or
go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
Learn About Common Substances
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How Substances Affect Mental Health
See the individual effects of some substances.
Alcohol overuse can cause depression, irritability, and sleeplessness.
Opioid misuse can lead to dependence because the body needs more and more to feel normal.
Meth decreases dopamine levels, which can make it harder to feel any emotions.
Mental Health Challenges and Substance Misuse
What to Know
- “Dual diagnosis” is when a mental health challenge and an alcohol or drug misuse disorder happen at the same time. These challenges are best addressed together in order to get well.
- Mental health challenges and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in the brain, genetic vulnerabilities, exposure to stress or trauma, and environmental factors.
- People with mental health challenges may have untreated—or undertreated—conditions, such as anxiety or depression, that may “feel better” when the person is high on drugs or alcohol. These substances do not treat the underlying challenge and almost always makes it worse.
- Misusing substances can cause someone to have one or more symptoms of a mental health challenge because of the effects drugs have on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry, and behavior.
How Can You Help Yourself?
- Read up on symptoms and treatment options. Remember, help is available and recovery is possible. As a first step, become informed. Learn the symptoms for both mental health challenges and substance misuse.
- Ask to be screened for both alcohol and drug use and mental health. You can get a screening at a family health center or your primary care provider. You can also call the Access and Crisis Line to talk to someone for a referral that works with your insurance or if you don’t have insurance.
- Never mix your medications with alcohol or other drugs, including marijuana. Mixing alcohol or other drugs with some medication can cause serious side effects, including overdose.
- Don’t share your medications. Your medication is just for you and sharing even just one pill with someone else can lead to serious health problems for them—even death.
Ways to Support Others
- Offer to listen
- Ask open-ended questions
- Reassure the person you are there for them
- Share what has worked for you