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Thursday, July 21, 2022

How Does Drug Addiction Affect Mental Health?

Image by Лечение наркомании from Pixabay

Millions of people worldwide have, in one way or the other, struggled with the effects of drug addiction. It may be a personal experience with drugs or knowing someone whose life came to a standstill because of addiction. Whichever way you look at it, drug addiction brings a long list of problems requiring support and specialist care. Statistics indicate that 21 million Americans have some form of addiction, but very few seek help. Below is a discussion on the effects of drug addiction on mental health.

1. Illicit drugs rewire the brain’s functions

All illicit drugs contain psychoactive ingredients that cause a deterioration of a user’s mental health. According to research, some of them are even potent enough to cause temporal disruption in the brain after a single use. However, people more at risk are those involved in long-term usage of illicit or narcotic drugs. And research has reported that upon long-term usage, the psychoactive compounds could rewire the proper functioning of the brain. This usually starts with a shift in a user’s priorities, as they focus more on how to fund their unhealthy lifestyle.

According to psychiatrists, the profound changes begin in the brain’s reward center, the striatum. Therefore, as usage continues over an extended period, users feel the urge to increase their reliance on these drugs to experience heightened pleasure. Without timely help, a user may descend into a downward drug dependence spiral affecting their mental health. Thankfully, facilities like Pathways Real Life Recovery make it their life mission to help people struggling with addiction and its ripple effects.

2. A constant state of anxiety

An intense and persistent worry about something always puts the body in a fight or flight mode. This is what people who struggle with addiction often experience before puffing, sniffing, or shooting up another round of illicit drugs. At this stage, the body relies on these substances to maintain physical, emotional, and mental equilibrium. 

Unfortunately, this state of balance only lasts long enough until the next round of drugs. The short-term relief further heightens the risk of mental health problems that require specialist help. Anxiety is characterized by increased heart rate, sweating, insomnia, rapid breathing, etc. Another thing many people fail to notice is that a constant state of anxiety can cause a negative feedback loop. This refers to a constant mind replay of the source of your anxiety. It is often associated with negative emotions and an inability to control them. Once again, this will require help from psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

3. Feelings of shame and guilt

Society’s stigmatization of drug addiction makes it more challenging for users to openly admit their lifestyle. This puts further pressure on their mental health and causes increased reliance on these stimulants. Moreover, as they continue to experience a negative feedback loop, it automatically increases feelings of guilt and shame. Once again, their only ‘solution’ or go-to is to continue a lifestyle of addiction to experience transient relief from these emotions.

Addiction can be difficult to break and easy to fall back into. It explains why experts say the user who desires to stop the habit needs strong coping mechanisms and guided help to be free from these life-altering stimulants. For example, detox from opioids is a critical first steps in this journey, requiring medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. This medical intervention aims to cleanse the body of toxins, laying the groundwork for further therapeutic support and rehabilitation efforts. 

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