It is commonly accepted that there is a link between substance abuse and mental health issues.

In a report by the Office for National Statistics, over 2019/20 there were 99,782 admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders and over nine months of 2020, a further 531 deaths were caused by mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use.

Addiction and mental health are very separate issues that frequently become entwined due to their nature, with addicts often self-medicating mental health issues with substances. Alcohol, drugs, and mental health are woven into the fabric of our culture and at times seem to define us as a society.

The reasons behind this link between disorders are as nuanced as wide-ranging as the disorders themselves. People are complicated and the causes of substance and mental health problems are just as complex.

But what drives these disorders to link so often, and how can these serious problems be effectively treated?


Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues

The symptoms that someone is addicted to substances can vary as widely as the type of addiction. There are common psychological, behavioural, and physical symptoms that can be recognised.

These symptoms often end up harming the person addicted and the people around, resulting in unpleasant outcomes such as loss of job, poor physical health and possibly even death.


Common psychological signs of substance abuse include:

  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Unable to focus or concentrate
  • Increased temper and agitation
  • Impaired judgement


Common behavioural signs of substance abuse include:

  • Trying to stop and being unable to or not wanting to stop despite the negative effects
  • Change in behaviour and becoming more secretive and dishonest
  • Pulling away from friends and family and abandoning responsibilities
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Planning life around the addiction e.g., missing out on social events as unable to drink or take drugs during


Physical signs of substance abuse include:

  • Disrupted sleep pattern
  • Step down in appearance and/or hygiene
  • Looking unhealthy – possible sudden change in weight


The signs and symptoms of mental health issues overlap a lot with the symptoms laid out above. Depending on the issue the signs can be very different. Those experiencing depression and anxiety (often closely connected with substance abuse) tend to display the same signs, but for other issues such as schizophrenia may experience delusions and hallucinations as well as the issues above.

The intersection of signs and symptoms shows that mental health problems and substance abuse are closely linked.


Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health

When it comes to the body, everything is a delicate balance of chemicals and their interactions with one another. This balance is no more apparent than in the brain – the centre of everything.

Alcohol, despite the euphoric and good feelings it may give someone initially, is a depressant.

The impact alcohol has on mood, behaviour and thoughts disrupt the chemical processes in the brain. Persistent drinking will interfere with the balance more readily and soon the feelings of elation and loss of inhibition synonymous with alcohol eventually turn – leaving only negative impacts on mental health.

Drinkers that use alcohol to self-medicate mental health issues such as depression and anxiety will soon find that alcohol exacerbates these issues. People addicted to alcohol often become more depressed and anxious during hangovers fuelled by the shame of their antics when drunk – or the things they were trying to escape come back to the forefront.

This begins a vicious cycle where addicts drink to try and improve their mood, in denial or unaware of the opposite effect it is having on their mental health.

Also, the loss of inhibition associated with heavy drinking can increase the chance of self-harm and suicide. While behaving more impulsively whilst drunk may seem good at times, if a person is drunk and feeling incredibly low, they may act when they normally wouldn’t sober.


Drug Abuse and Mental Health

Like alcohol drug abuse can come before or after mental health problems arise. What is clear though is that the continued use of drugs will eventually affect mental and physical health in the short and long term. Some studies say that using some drugs may instigate mental illness for the first time and that drugs like cannabis are perhaps linked to psychosis.

Psychosis is a medical term that essentially means a break from reality where a person will be seeing and experience things that are not there. This is a very serious issue that can lead to a person endangering themselves and other people.

Cannabis, though used to relax and unwind, can increase feelings of paranoia and anxiety. This could lead to long term depression and some people who use cannabis for a long time may begin to see things that aren’t there.

Users of amphetamines will experience disrupted sleep patterns due to the drug making them feel awake and can also cause drug-induced psychosis. This increased tiredness can bring about anxiety. After not taking amphetamines for a time, people usually crash and can fall into depression.

Becoming addicted will create this cycle of disrupted sleep and crashing – increasing the risk of mental health issues. Using cocaine regularly will bring up similar problems, added with the risk of heart problems and overdosing.

Heroin is used to relieve pain and feel relaxed and at ease. Using heroin brings the danger of overdosing and its highly addictive nature means a greater risk of destroying relationships and livelihoods which could lead to mental health issues.


Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Dual diagnosis is the term for when a person is experiencing substance abuse and mental health problems concurrently. At Asana Lodge we offer dual-diagnosis treatment, utilising treatments and therapies that will help treat both standalone conditions.

To deal with the substance abuse sides you can expect to undergo detox and take part in therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and group sessions. Dealing with the mental health side will involve talk therapies, such as the ones stated, but complemented with more non-traditional therapies such as art therapy, meditation, and nutrition therapy.

Dealing with both conditions allows neither to flourish nor influence the other. Drilling down to the personal causes of mental health issues and addiction will help the person overcome them. Dual diagnosis treatment is low-risk and the most effective method of dealing with the problems of mental health and substance abuse.

If you think you are suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, then don’t hesitate to contact Asana Lodge at 01908489421 or use the contact form on our website.


John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 27 August 2021

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

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