admin May 30, 2019
Updated 2023/01/23 at 4:08 PM
Substance Abuse

What is substance abuse?, is it really worth the risk? Is the excessive use of substance really worth it? In this article, we will shed more light on how much harm the abuse of substance can cause to our mental health.


Substance abuse otherwise known as drug abuse is the excessive, illegal, inappropriate use of a substance, such as drugs, alcohol or any other form of chemical such as inhalant, especially when one becomes addicted. It is also referred to as “chemical abuse”.

Substance abuse is often referred to as the use of drugs without medical justification. A patterned use of drug where the user takes the drugs in methods and ways that can be harmful to themselves or others. Drug abuse can be regarded as the regular use of drugs which is unneeded for any purpose and is used primarily to alter one’s mood, affect one’s state of consciousness or to affect a body function unnecessarily. The most common drugs often abused include alcohol, barbiturates, cocaine, cannabis, nicotine, marijuana, tobacco, methaqualone, amphetamines, ketamine, phencyclidine, benzodiazepines, and anabolic steroids. Drug abuse may cause negative effects on one’s mental health such as organ damage, addiction and disturbed pattern of behavior. However, the use of illicit drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide, heroin, and phencyclidine hydrochloride have no therapeutic effect in humans but the use of these drugs often incur criminal penalty in addition to the potential for physical, psychological and social harm.

Drug abuse which includes alcohol and prescription drugs can induce symptomatology which resembles mental health condition. This is likely to occur both in the intoxicated state and also during the withdrawal state. However, in some cases, these substances induce psychiatric disorders which can persist long after detoxification, such as prolonged depression or psychosis after cocaine or amphetamine abuse. The abuse of hallucinogens can also trigger delusional and other psychotic phenomena long after cessation of use. Even both barbiturate, benzodiazepine as well as alcohol withdrawal can potentially be fatal. The abuse of cannabis may induce panic attacks during intoxication and with continued use. The daily cannabis use and high use of cannabis are independently associated with a higher chance of developing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. More often severe anxiety and depression are commonly induced by sustained alcohol abuse.

Substance is said to be abused when you take drugs too much, in the wrong way or the consumption of drugs that are not legal. However, substance abuse differs from substance addiction. People with substance abuse problems are able to quit or change their unhealthy behavior of consuming drugs. However, people with substance addiction, on the other hand, cannot stop consuming even when their condition causes harm to their physical, emotional and social well-being. Substance abuse usually occurs with other mental problems. It often occurs with people who are diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders which is high and different, compared to the general public.


Substance addiction is said to be a relapse, chronic disorder which is characterized by compulsive drug seeking, incessant use despite the harmful consequences, and prolonged change in the brain. Drug addiction practically the compulsive seeking of drugs despite knowing the negative consequence. However, being addicted to substance is the most severe form of full spectrum of substance use disorders and is a medical illness induced by repeated misuse of a substance(s). It’s considered to be both a complex brain disorder and mental health condition. Directly or indirectly all addictive drugs target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is neurotransmitters which are present in regions of the brain and regulate movement, motivation, emotion, cognition, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors


Yes, substance addiction qualifies to be a mental health condition. This is because being addicted to some substances is as a result of distinct brain changes which can disrupt a person’s “hierarchy of needs and desires, which may lead them to prioritize drug use above all other things. An individual’s ability to control their compulsion to use substances becomes significantly diminished as a result of all these. Brain changes occur, which in turn promote frequent drug or alcohol use despite knowledge of the harm it can cause to their mental health. The compulsive behavior which is associated with substance use addictions bear similarities to other mental problems.

The important characteristics of substance use disorder are said to be an underlying change in brain circuits which persist beyond detoxification. Just like other illnesses, addiction may require long-term treatment approaches. Which goes against the ideas that addiction is a condition with the potential to be remediated just by saying no or simple issue of willpower. Addiction is now seen as a relapse and chronic brain disease which requires specialized treatment. In fact, genetics is shown to play a critical role in an individual’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. A person’s vulnerability to substance abuse is said to be genetic.

People diagnosed with antisocial personality or conduct disorder are more likely to abuse substances. Gender also plays a major role in co-occurring disorder or dual disorder. For example, males are more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder while women are more likely to suffer from mood, depression and anxiety disorder. People who have substance use disorders, as well as mental health disorders, are diagnosed as having Dual disorder or co-occurring disorder. The dual disorder can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of substance abuse or substance addiction can sometimes be the same as symptoms of mental illness same to symptoms of mental illness which can also be confused with symptoms of addiction. It can also be impossible or difficult to determine the causality whether it is substance abuse or mental health condition; even if the symptoms of one condition appeared first, it may not cause the other to appear. However, substance abuse may worsen or bring about symptoms of mental health condition. As a matter fact people with mental health condition sometimes do not address their substance use because they don’t believe it is relevant to their problems. For example, marijuana has been shown to increase the risk of psychosis for some consumers.

Adolescents who abuse drugs are more vulnerable to developing mental health condition and addiction. When an individual is young, the important parts of their brain, such as their prefrontal cortex, are still developing. However, exposing a still-developing brain to certain drugs can cause harm and long-lasting effects. Apart from causing brain damage, it may also have a negative impact on the affected adolescence’s academic work, emotional and social well-being and adjustment to life.

Substance abuse and mental health condition have overlapping risk factors such as:

  • Some certain types of neurological deficits, such as lower-than-normal activity in certain brain circuits
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Epigenetic
  • Adverse childhood experience

People who are genetically vulnerable to some types of mental health condition may increase their risk with the abuse of certain drugs. For example, heavy use of marijuana may increase the risk for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in people with particular gene variants. People who consume marijuana on a daily basis have increased risk of psychotic symptoms compared to non-cannabis users. Methamphetamine abuse is a risk factor for schizophrenia and brain abnormalities associated with methamphetamine use may contribute highly to the development of schizophrenia. There are certain substances which are commonly abused by people with schizophrenia and they include alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.


The negative mental and physical effects of the use of alcohol and other drugs are well known. The abuses of these drugs may result to poisoning, overdose and death; psychological and physical dependence; damage to important organs such as the brain, heart, kidney, and liver; inability to learn and remember information; and psychological problems such as psychosis, depression and severe anxiety. The abuse of substance such as alcohol and other drugs are associated with ungodly behavior such as assault and rape; reckless sex, which increases one’s chances of getting infected with sexually transmitted infections like  HIV and other kinds of unplanned or unwanted sexual experiences.

The chronic use of some certain drugs can result to both short and prolonged changes in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, hallucinations, aggression, and other mental health problems. People who are drug addicts are also often diagnosed with other mental health disorders. Compared with the general population, people who are addicted to drugs often suffer from mood swing and anxiety disorder more than other people.

Drugs that can cause mental health condition:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogen
  • Methamphetamine
  • Depressant
  • Prescription stimulants
  • Heroin
  • Steroids
  • Ketamine


The abuse of alcohol is a progressive disorder in which physical dependency can develop. Alcohol is also capable of making an individual more aggressive and violent, potentially leading to more violent crimes. In terms of health risk, even low dose of alcohol impairs brain function, alertness, judgment, reflexes, and coordination. Alcohol can also lead to extensive damage of the organ especially the liver, heavy dose of alcohol can cause suppression of respiration and death. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to sexual impotence, dementia, heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol can also increase the danger of other drugs. Alcohol can interact with antidepressants to severely hinder a person’s reflexes and it can also increase the risk of cardiac arrest or stroke when mixed with cocaine. However, sudden withdrawal can produce severe anxiety, hallucinations, tremor, and life-threatening convulsions.


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The effect of alcohol depends on how much you consume. These effects may range from loss of inhibition with just a drink to making someone stumbling drunk to acute alcohol poisoning with difficulty in breathing and loss of consciousness. Acute alcohol poisoning often occurs in a situation of heavy alcohol intake such as funneling, shots, keg stands and drinking games. Even after the individual becomes unconscious, their blood alcohol concentration can continue to rise due to the presence of alcohol in their stomach. Medical attention might be necessary to prevent serious injury or death.

Alcohol and drugs are usually used to self-medicate the symptoms of mental health condition. People usually abuse alcohol or drugs in other to ease the symptoms of undiagnosed mental disorder, to temporarily change their mood and to cope with difficult emotions. Unfortunately, substance abuse cause side effects and in the long run often worsens the symptoms they initially helped to relieve or get rid.

Alcohol and drug abuse can lead to an increase in the underlying risk of mental health disorder. Mental health disorders are caused as a result of the complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other factors. When an individual is at risk of mental heart disorder, abusing substances such as alcohol or drugs may push you over the edge. For example, people who abuse marijuana have a high risk of psychosis while the abusers of opioid painkiller are at greater risk of depression.

Alcohol and drug abuse can worsen the symptoms of mental health condition. Substance abuse may rapidly increase the symptoms of mental illness or even trigger new symptoms. Abuse of alcohol and drugs can also have a negative effect on medication such as anti-anxiety pills, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective at managing symptoms.

The effect of alcohol on women is greater than that of men. Women become more impaired than men when they consume the same amount of alcohol this is because women tend to have a high percentage of body fat than men and alcohol is soluble. This leads to a greater concentration of alcohol in a woman’s bloodstream after drinking. Because women tend to be smaller than men and women absorb more alcohol into their bloodstream they lack the enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomach, which is present in men and helps break down alcohol before it is absorbed.

Apart from normal alcohol intake, alcohol is also used for medical and hygienic purposes, such as to clean wounds and hands.


The concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) varies greatly in marijuana. Tetrahydrocannabinol is a fat-soluble substance which is the active chemical in cannabis that can remain in the lungs, reproductive organs, liver and brain tissues for up to 21 days. Smoking or ingesting marijuana can elevate and relax a person’s mood. This can be accompanied by drowsiness and sedation. A high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol may produce a hallucinogenic response. However, the effect of marijuana on an individual’s mental health may vary based on the expectation of the user, prior experience of the user, social setting, and genetic vulnerability of the user. The use of marijuana may also aggravate some underlying mental health condition.

Marijuana can be used through inhaling and ingesting. There are certain discomforts faced when smoking marijuana such as dry eyes, dry mouth, increased heart rate and very clear signs of intoxication such as puffy eyelids and bloodshot eyes. Some other problems include facing difficulty in thinking properly and solving problems; anxiety attacks or feeling paranoid; increase susceptibility of infections; impaired memory and ability to learn and dangerous impairment of driving skills.

Taking marijuana and other drugs including alcohol and prescription drugs can cause unwanted reactions. Marijuana has addictive properties which make users become dependent. However, withdrawal from marijuana will cause the following: irritability, insomnia, restlessness, nausea and intense dreams.


Cocaine is temporary high which makes users more energetic, attentive and focused. Cocaine also promotes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is responsible for pleasure and movement and inhibits the reabsorption of it, overstimulating the brain. Cocaine tends to increase blood pressure and heart rate, thereby raising the risk of cardiac arrest or stroke. The use of cocaine can cause severe depression, euphoria, confidence, and alertness. Whenever cocaine’s pleasurable effects wear off or an individual attempts to withdraw, one may be faced with symptoms such as; irritability, restlessness, physical pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression, paranoia or aggression. Cocaine can have a terrible reaction when used with some other drugs. For example, alcohol and cocaine when mixed in the liver form a chemical known as “cocaethylene” which can increase the ability of cocaine to cause cardiovascular attack. Cocaine can also cause psychotic episodes making someone temporarily paranoid or violent.

Cocaine is considered to be extremely addictive and is considered as one of the most powerful reinforcing drugs. Cocaine has a negative effect on heart rate, blood pressure and increasing the risk of respiratory arrest, seizure, stroke, cardiac arrest, and death.


Methamphetamine is associated with several short-term health and behavioral risks. Methamphetamine increases heart rate and blood pressure, potentially raising the risk of a cardiac arrest or stroke. Meth also makes people aggressive and makes users act out through violence and crime.

Methamphetamine can also make it more difficult to sleep which can lead to mental health conditions including high risk of heart disease, mood swing, and cognitive deficits. Meth may also cause mental and physical health issues.


The two most common depressant drugs are barbiturates and benzodiazepines. Barbiturates include Seconal, Phenobarbital and Amytal. Benzodiazepines include Librium, Xanax, Halcoin, Restroril, Ativan and Dalmane. These drugs are often used for medical purposes to relieve anxiety and to induce sleep. Psychological and physical dependence can occur when the drugs are used for a long period of time or at higher doses than prescribed. Benzodiazepine’s use can cause disorientation, slurred speech and lack of coordination. However, when benzodiazepine is taken with alcohol, it can lead to coma and possible death.


Ampthetamines and other stimulants such as ecstasy and methamphetamine as well as prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall. The visible or physical effects produced are elevated heart and respiratory rates, insomnia, increased blood pressure and loss of appetite. Sweating, blurred vision, anxiety, headaches, and dizziness may also result from its use. Excessive use can cause rapid or irregular heartbeat, loss of motor skills, tremors and even physical collapse. However, prolonged use of excessive doses can result in amphetamine psychosis which includes delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.


The most fatal risk of heroin is an excessive overdose. Heroin becomes more dangerous when mixed with other drugs, like cocaine and alcohol. Although other drugs are mixed into heroin without the consumer’s knowledge. Injecting heroin is also dangerous since the needles used may be dirty and this may result in some disease conditions like hepatitis and HIV. People who use heroin get addicted and heroin doesn’t possess the same prolonged health risks of tobacco. However, it is dangerous in the short- term due to the chance of excessive use.


The appropriate treatment for dual disorder is an integrated approach, where both substance abuse disorder and the mental health condition are treated simultaneously. However, whether your mental health condition or substance abuse problem came first, long- term recovery depends on getting treatment for both disorders by the same treatment provider.

Treatment for your mental health condition may include individual or group counseling, medication, peer support, and lifestyle changes.

Treatment for your substance abuse may include behavioral therapy, detoxification, managing withdrawal symptoms and support groups to help maintain your sobriety.

For quick recovery, keep the following in mind:

  • It is important to get and stay sober during the treatment. When you are under therapy it is important you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This will enable your doctor to prescribe medication for your mental health condition.
  • Relapse is also one of the recovery processes. Slips and setbacks happen however don’t be discouraged with that. Always work hard towards your recovery.
  • Peer support can also keep you going. Join a self- help support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. This will motivate you.
  • Also, have in mind that there is always light at the end of the dark tunnel. There is always hope.


Recent News

Share this Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *