5 Devastating Psychological Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

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5 Devastating Psychological Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
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Last Updated on March 24, 2022 by Randy Withers, LCMHC

Substance misuse and mental health are related since the psychological repercussions of drug and alcohol addiction induce changes in your body and brain. 

The cogs inside your body are kept turning by a delicate balance of chemicals, and even the tiniest disruption can induce undesirable symptoms. You need to be careful about adding drugs and alcohol into the mix.

Excessive alcohol and drug consumption disrupts your neurological system, rewires your brain, and creates inflammation, all of which can lead to mental illness. 

Once you fall victim to addiction, the only way to climb out of that deep hole is treatment and support.

This post is sponsored by Infinite Recovery San Antonio, a drug rehab program in San Antonio, Texas.

5 Devastating Psychological Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
5 Devastating Psychological Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Drug and Alcohol Addiction’s Effects On The Brain

All drugs affect the limbic system’s reward circuit. This part of the brain influences instinct and emotion. 

Drugs work by flooding the brain with huge levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps control emotions and feelings of pleasure. A surge of dopamine causes a high. It’s one of the most common reasons for drug abuse.

Drugs can affect brain chemistry, even if initial usage is seemingly inconsequential. They can alter how the brain functions and impair a person’s decision-making capacity. In addition, prolonged use can lead to severe cravings and dependence. 

It’s difficult to parse the difference between addiction and dependence, so for the purposes of this conversation, consider the two terms as interchangeable..

Alcohol has both short- and long-term impacts on the brain and disrupts communication routes in the brain. These can impact one’s mood, conduct, and other cognitive abilities.

Alcohol-induced nutritional deficiencies, alcohol-induced convulsions, and liver disease can cause brain injury. Alcohol exposure during pregnancy can affect the brains of unborn babies, leading to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

With adequate therapy, it has been proven through research that alcohol-induced brain disorders can often be resolved. Abstinence from alcohol for months or years can aid in the partial recovery of cognitive capacities such as memory and concentration. It just takes time.

These side effects of drug and alcohol addiction have major ramifications, such as missed employment, criminal charges, accidents, and injuries. In fact, alcohol and drugs are thought to be a factor in almost 80% of all offenses that result in jail time in the United States. 

Domestic violence, driving while inebriated, and property damage violations are among the incidents. 

5 Psychological Effects Of Drug and Aclohol Addiction

Both legal and illegal drugs are involved in around 16% of all car accidents, excluding alcohol. Almost 12 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year, and nearly 4,000 fatally wounded drivers tested positive for drug use.

Let’s find the psychological impacts of: 

1. Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition of the fight-or-flight response, in which a person senses danger when none exists. The following physical and mental symptoms are included:

  • Excessive worrying.
  • Sweating.
  • Mood swings.
  • Agitation and Restlessness.
  • Tension.
  • Insomnia.

Anxiety shares many parallels with the effects of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. 

Using central nervous system depressants, on the other hand, can raise a person’s risk of getting anxiety. This is because they calm a person’s nerves when inebriated, but when the effects wear off.

Additionally, many addicts are anxious about concealing their addictions from others. It’s impossible to say if nervous persons are more likely to abuse substances, or whether drugs and alcohol create anxiety in many cases.

RELATED:  10 Strategies to Prevent Relapse When Life Suddenly Changes

2. Depression

Depression is another mental disease closely linked to addiction. It’s unclear if depression or substance addiction starts first, as it is with anxiety, but there is a strong correlation. The following are the most common signs of depression:

  • Hopelessness.
  • Insufficient motivation.
  • Emotional dysregulation.
  • Loss of enthusiasm.
  • Disruptions in sleep.
  • Irritability.
  • Gaining or losing weight.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Some withdrawal symptoms coincide with depressive symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose coexisting addiction before treating the SUD. To overcome depression, the majority of people require continued therapy.

3. Shame And Guilt

Addiction carries a stigma in society, and those who suffer from it are often filled with guilt and shame. 

Frequently, this is only pouring fuel to an already raging fire. People with substance use problems tend to evaluate themselves negatively, which stems from early experiences constantly. 

Shame and guilt are exacerbated by constant negative self-talk.

When you frequently feel like you’ve done something wrong, it’s easy to use drugs and alcohol to mask your emotional difficulties. Unfortunately, these unhelpful emotions exacerbate the negative feedback loop that drives people spiraling into addiction.

4. Loss Of Interest

Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities is a common symptom of addiction and depression, but overcoming the former makes controlling the latter much easier. Clinically, this is referred to as anhedonia.

Because it’s so demotivating to feel like there’s no joy in the world, it’s such a terrible symptom. Everyone has hobbies and interests, but it’s difficult for someone with these conditions to rediscover them.

Treatment programs assist you in identifying the causes of your harmful substance use so that you can develop new coping skills and address any underlying issues in treatment.

5: A Negative Feedback Loop

It appears like someone with an addiction is always making poor decisions and rejecting logic from the outside. 

On the other hand, the truth is significantly more convoluted and subtle — so much so that overcoming a substance use disease without inpatient or outpatient therapy can be extremely difficult. This is partly due to a mental negative feedback loop.

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they experience a sense of security that they can’t get anywhere else. 

As they sober up and face the repercussions of their behavior, this feeling is always replaced by remorse and humiliation. The weight of these emotions, on the other hand, leads individuals to seek solace in narcotics.

How Addiction Affects The Brain. Courtesy, YouTube.

Final Thoughts

Substance abuse can develop from the use of recreational drugs, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, or prescription drugs. It can cause problems at work, at home, at school, and in relationships, and make the user feel alienated, helpless, or ashamed. 

If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s drug usage, it’s crucial to understand the warning signals, as well as the fact that help is accessible and that treatment works.

Online Alcohol Treatment On Your Terms

With personalized online alcohol treatment, drinking will become less important to you. You can make a change, and we’re here to help.

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Randy Withers, LCMHC

Randy Withers, LCMHC is a Board-Certified and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor at a private practice in North Carolina where he specializes in co-occurring disorders. He has masters degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Lenoir-Rhyne University and Education from Florida State University, and is the managing editor of Blunt Therapy. He writes about mental health, therapy, and addictions. In his spare time, you can find him watching reruns of Star Trek: TNG with his dog. Connect with him on LinkedIn. You can also see what he writes about on Medium.

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