Understanding the Impact of Substance Use on Mental Health

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In the conversation of mental health, substance use and abuse cannot be ignored. In recent years, extensive research validates the point of the harmful impact of substances on one’s physical and mental wellbeing. The connection between substance use and mental health is bidirectional, meaning each can influence and exacerbate the other. Mental health disorders can lead individuals to use substances as a form of self-medication, while substance use can trigger or worsen mental health issues.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health or substance overuse, seek out support from a mental health provider in San Diego at Sacred Psychiatric!

Which Substances are Considered Harmful?

In recognizing that most substances are considered illegal, or have certain restrictions placed is an indication that no amount and no kind of substance has any positive impact on one’s health. Each substance can have varying effects, and others may increase risk of death if abruptly discontinued. The substance, the frequency, and duration of use impacts the severity of symptoms experienced.

By speaking to an online psychiatrist, a safe plan can be set in place to start reducing substance use.

Some of the commonly used substances include the following:


  • Alcohol is a depressant and though in its immediate use it can make you feel relaxed, long-term use of alcohol is associated with depression and anxiety.
  • Abrupt discontinuation of alcohol can be deadly.
  • For chronic use, alcohol can cause serious health problems like liver disease and pancreatitis. It can cause permanent changes to the brain, leading to cognitive decline and memory impairment.


  • Cannabis can act as a depressant, slowing brain functioning. It can act as a stimulant for some, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, making one feel energetic. Cannabis may also act as hallucinogen, altering one’s perception of reality. This may include an experience of hallucinations or feelings of paranoia.


  • Stimulants are activating type of substances such as methamphetamines or cocaine that can heightened the sense of well-being, euphoria, excitement, and alertness. This can exacerbate paranoia, hallucinations, and violent behavior. Long-term use can result in lasting cognitive deficits and severe psychological distress.


  • Opioids such as morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl increase feelings of euphoria and relieve pain, both of which are pleasurable experiences causing people to continue using despite its negative consequences.
  • Risk of overdose, with potentially fatal consequences is common in opioid use disorders.


  • Nicotine, a stimulant found in tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes, is highly addictive. This addiction can lead to withdrawal symptoms when not using nicotine, such as irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.

Treatment Options

By speaking to psychiatrist in San Diego, a thorough evaluation can be conducted, and it may be necessary to consider a dual diagnosis for those with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Effective dual diagnosis treatment can lead to better outcomes compared to treating each condition separately.

Treatment options may include psychotherapy, which can empower individuals to understand the underlying causes of their behaviors and develop healthier coping mechanisms rather than turning to substances to numb out their feelings.

For some individuals, medications can be an essential component of treatment. Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and medications for opioid use disorder (like methadone and buprenorphine) can help manage symptoms and support recovery.

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide peer support and a sense of community. Family therapy can also be beneficial in addressing the dynamics that contribute to substance use and mental health issues.

By recognizing the bidirectional nature of these issues and adopting comprehensive treatment approaches, we can better support individuals on their journey to recovery.


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