Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand-in-hand. It's been estimated that approximately four million people in the United States over the age of 18 struggle with a dual diagnosis, meaning they live with mental illness as well as an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. While mental health issues often drive people to self-medicate, substance abuse often worsens these issues. Here are just a few ways that using drugs and alcohol can have a negative impact on your mental health.

Drugs and Anxiety

It is very common to have panic attacks while under the influence of certain drugs. Cocaine is a major offender here, as it has been shown to induce anxiety and panic attacks in some people. Amphetamines and ecstasy have also been known to induce panic attacks, and marijuana often increases a user's paranoia. The negative effects of these drugs often don't last long, but anybody who suffers from an anxiety disorder will be able to tell you that even a "short" panic attack can feel like an eternity.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. Naturally, many psychoactive drugs can worsen schizophrenia symptoms, and studies have even shown that cannabis - a "harmless" drug that has been legalized in parts of the country - can trigger a schizophrenic episode in those who live with the condition.

Depression

Severe depression can also be worsened by certain drugs. One drug that is particularly dangerous in this regard is ecstasy, partly because long-term use can cause the natural serotonin levels in your brain to drop. Serotonin helps to regulate your mood and produces a feeling of euphoria when it is present in large amounts. Naturally, a person who is unable to produce serotonin will be severely depressed.

Know When to Seek Help

If you are a member of the LGBTQ community and you are struggling with addiction or mental illness, CIRCLE CARE Center can help you. CIRCLE CARE Center is the only primary care clinic in Southern Connecticut that specializes in LGBTQ healthcare. In addition to providing counseling for drug addiction and mental illness, CIRCLE CARE Center provides HIV, PrEP, and STI treatment and testing. For more information about our services, contact CIRCLE CARE Center today.