Many recreational and prescription drugs can have serious side effects like depression and anxiety. Learn how different drugs impact mental health.
The effects of drugs on mental health are often underestimated. As a teen, I didn’t think twice about trying drugs for fun at parties.
I never imagined innocent experimenting could spiral into full-blown depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, my story is all too common.
Drugs impact mental health in a variety of ways depending on the substance.
Even legal prescription pills carry risks like suicidal thoughts and behaviors when misused or combined with other medications.
According to a 2019 study, over 30% of American adults struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders.
Many experts believe the opioid epidemic and rise in prescription drug use have contributed to this upward trend.
How Stimulants Can Trigger Anxiety or Paranoia
Stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs for ADHD increase dopamine levels in the brain leading to a temporary “high.” But what goes up must come down.
When dopamine plummets, it can leave you feeling on edge, anxious, paranoid, or even full-blown panicked. It’s like your brain’s alarm system gets stuck in overdrive.
I’ll never forget the night I tried cocaine with friends. I ended up alone, pacing around my apartment, pulse racing, thinking the police were outside. My heart was practically beating out of my chest for hours.
Stimulant withdrawal can also cause depression when someone stops taking them after heavy use. It’s like you lose your ability to feel pleasure at all.
Sedatives and Opiates: From Bliss to Blackness
On the opposite end, downers like tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and opiates slow brain activity, bringing initial relaxation and euphoria.
But ongoing opiate or sedative use often leads to depression as it dulls motivation, happiness, and sex drive. It’s like falling into a dark black hole.
I was prescribed Xanax for anxiety a few years ago. At first, I felt amazing, like all my worries melted away. But I started needing higher doses to get the same effect.
Without even noticing, I slipped into a months-long deep depression and stopped caring about anything at all – my job, friends, and family. Getting off Xanax was a painful battle that took over a year.
Hallucinogens and Dissociation from Reality
Hallucinogens like LSD, magic mushrooms, and Special K distort reality and can cause feelings of disconnection for some.
I’ll never forget the last time I dropped acid. The trip started out fun with vibrant colors and patterns.
But then I looked in the mirror and felt completely detached from my body and life.
It triggered an existential crisis and month-long bout of depersonalization derealization disorder where nothing felt real. It took therapy and time to recover.
While hallucinogens don’t typically cause addiction, they carry serious psychological risks, especially for those with underlying mental illness.
What You Can Do If Drugs Impact Your Mental Health
If you notice mood changes like depression or anxiety after using drugs, don’t just brush it off.
Seek medical help to treat mental health symptoms and potentially get into a rehabilitation program.
With therapy and support, you can get to the root cause of why you’re using and regain control. It’s not easy, but you don’t have to go through it alone.