News Article

Substance Use and Mental Health

This article will raise your awareness of the different types of  drugs and alcohol and the common short and long-term effects associated with each of  them. It will also share useful information regarding the dangers of mixing prescription drugs and recreational drugs, with external resources provided should you require support.

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TW: Mental health, substance abuse, suicide.

There are a variety of reasons why people consume drugs (recreational and prescription) and alcohol. Some people find that they help to mask the effects of their mental and physical pain (self-medication), some want to be able to fit in with their peers, and others simply enjoy the feeling they gain from taking them. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with using drugs and alcohol in order to make educated decisions and to be mindful of the potential risk factors connected with each substance. 

It is essential to understand the damaging effects that substance mis-use can have on a person's mental health. Over-use of drugs and/or alcohol can result in the deterioration of the person’s mental wellbeing, along with the formation of new mental health challenges and health issues. Research has shown that the use of particular types of drugs are more likely to cause mental ill-health, as well as making it far harder to treat. Long-term use can also lead to a poorer quality of life, difficulties maintaining healthy relationships, self-harm and suicidal ideation. 

Possible long-term mental health effects of drug and alcohol mis-use:

· Substance dependency

· Withdrawal symptoms (Sweating, shaking, feeling cold, feeling sick)

· Low mood and a negative view of life

· Rapid changes to mood

· Depression

· Anxiety

· Reduced libido

· Lack of motivation

· Drug-induced psychotic episodes

· Difficulties maintaining relationships


So, which substances are most likely to negatively affect mental health?

*Please note that this list is non-exhaustive. For further information on other substances, visit the ‘Talk to Frank’ website here: You can also make an appointment with your GP if you are concerned for your safety or health. The GP will be able to provide confidential and non-judgmental support. 



For many, spending an evening at the pub or going clubbing is an enjoyable way to socialise and relax at the end a busy week. However, it is important to identify your motivations for drinking and remember some of the risks associated with over-consumption (how much and how often someone drinks), especially the long-term implications on mental- health. 

Effects of long-term use can result in:

· Alcohol dependency

· Behaving recklessly, which could lead to acts of self-harm and suicide.

· Extreme over-use could result in alcohol-induced psychosis.



(Also called: dope, grass, hash, pot, skunk, weed and marijuana)

Cannabis is one of the most predominantly used drugs in England, often smoked or ingested. Cannabis can 

affect people in different ways, often making the consumer feel relaxed and happy or paranoid and anxious in the short-term.

Effects of long-term, frequent cannabis use can lead to:

· drug-induced psychosis, especially if the drug has a high potency.



(Also called: coke, crack, blow, sniff, snow)

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant, often snorted or smoked (crack cocaine). 

Effects of short-term use can include:

· Being very talkative

· Feeling lively and awake

· It can help you feel more confident

· Fatigue and low mood when the effects of the drug wear off


Effects of long-term use on mental health can include:

· Addiction

· Can result in depression, anxiety and paranoia

· Issues with relationships 

· When mixed with other substances, can result in an overdose or death (especially risky mixed with heroin)



(Also called: MDMA, Molly, Pills)

The Class A drug is often taken via tablet form, bombing or snorting. Everyone reacts differently to MDMA, so it’s important that the consumer starts with a small amount and waits at least 2 hours before taking anymore.

Effects of short-term use can include:

· Feelings of happiness

· Dilated pupils

· Becoming energetic

· Increased confidence

· Anxiety

· Confusion

· Drug-induced psychosis

Effects of long-term use can include:

· Depression

· Anxiety

· Memory problems



(Also called: Gear, smack, H, Brown)

Heroin is consumed in a variety of different ways, such as via injection. This comes with the added risk of infection (especially if the needle has already been used by someone else).

Effects of short-term use can include:

· Making the consumer feel relaxed

· Feeling happy

· Reduces pain

· Increases drowsiness

Effects of long-term use can include:

· Addiction

· Issues with relationships and job

· Taking over the person’s life in a negative way

*It’s important to note that heroin is a high-risk drug, especially if you overdose.



(Also called: Trips, Acid, Blotter)

Effects of short-term use can include:

· Hallucinations (these can be pleasurable or scary experiences- also known as bad trips)

· Panic during bad trips

Effects of long -term use can include:

- Persistent psychosis

-  Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder

*Important: If you or your family have a history of mental illness, using LSD can exacerbate your symptoms, as well as cause new mental health problems.


Amphetamine and methamphetamine:

(Also called: Ice, Crystal Meth, Glass, Speed, Whizz)

Effects of short-term use can include: 

· Difficulty sleeping or relaxing

· Drug-induced psychosis

· Alertness

Effects of long-term use can include:

· Anxiety

· Depression

· Addiction

· Issues sleeping


New Psychoactive Substances (NPS):

(Also called: NPS, Mdat, PlantFood, Bath salts, Legal high)

* It’s essential to remember that NPS consist of one or more different chemical substances and can affect the user in similar ways to cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. However, the specific effects of the NPS depends on what you take.

Effects of short-term use  can include:

· Confusion

· Panic

· Hallucinations

· Unpredictable, risky behaviour

However, very little is known about either the short or long-term effects of these drugs.

*Always be aware of what you are taking! Some NPS can be extremely unsafe and can result in devastating consequences (such as severe harm or even death). Remember: mixing NPS with other drugs or alcohol can be very dangerous.


(Also called: Benzos, Roofies, vallies, Diazepam, Valium, Xanax, Blues, Downers, Rohypnol)

Benzodiazepines are a type of psychoactive drug, often used to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. They are also used as muscle relaxants. While prescribed by doctors, people also illegally buy them. 

Effects of short-term use can include:

· Relaxation

· Confusion

· Drowsiness

Effects of ong-term use can include:

· Addiction

* Mixing benzodiazepines with alcohol and other types of drugs can be extremely unsafe as it can impact breathing and result in an overdose and death.



Watch out for mixing with prescription drugs!

It is always important to be aware of what you are taking and how it can react with prescription medication. 

The Combined Pill:

If you are drinking alcohol, be aware that the effects of the alcohol may be stronger when taken with the combined pill. This is due to the hormones in the pill decreasing the liver’s capacity metabolise the alcohol. To keep yourself safe, make sure you go slow when drinking.

Cannabis and Allergy Medications:

Benadryl, Piriton and Piriteze have been found to have harmful effects when taken with cannabis. A combination of these can increase the level of drowsiness usually experienced and even result in poor decision-making, due to feeling dizzy and confused. 

Alcohol and Antidepressants:

There is a high risk associated with mixing alcohol and antidepressants. Doctors strongly advise against combining the two to ensure that you prevent a worsening of your mental state. 


The main take aways:

-  Avoid mixing

- Stay with people you trust

- Know what you are taking and the risks

 - Start small and go slow 

- Keep the packet


Support available: