Drugs, Alcohol & Smoking
It’s not uncommon for people with mental health conditions to try to cope with their symptoms by smoking or using alcohol and other drugs. While self-medicating may provide temporary distraction from symptoms, they can make recovery even more difficult. Understanding the negative effects of smoking, drinking and taking drugs is the first step in making positive changes. Many people are able to replace substance use with coping strategies that not only help manage their symptoms, but strengthen their overall health.
About half of people with mental illness abuse alcohol or other substances. People with mental illness may use substances as a way of feeling accepted by peers or altering their moods. The desire to feel better is completely understandable; the paths people take to achieve this are what make the difference.
Substance abuse is when someone has a consistent habit of using a lot of alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter drugs unnecessarily or using illegal drugs. Once people are in the habit of taking drugs, the substances have been shown to change brain chemistry. That can get in the way of your ability to make decisions and can make you crave and seek out substances more. This cycle, if it’s not interrupted, can turn into addiction.
Drug abuse and dependence can negatively affect almost every organ in the body. Drug abuse can lead to:
- A weakened immune system
- Increased risk of heart conditions
- Collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels and heart valves
- Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
- Liver damage or failure
- Seizures, stroke and widespread brain damage
– Learn more at: NAMI.org.