Drugs, alcohol and mental health - Which drugs
Which substances can affect my mental health?
In this section we have listed some of the different types of substances that could have an impact on your mental health. Please be aware that this list is not exhaustive.
Taking any substances can be dangerous. They can also have bad interactions with any medications or other substances you might use.
For more information on different substances you can visit the website of ‘Talk to Frank’. They are a specialist charity that provides information on drugs. You can find their website here.
(Also known as: bud, bhang, dope, draw, ganja, grass, hash, herb, marijuana, Mary and Joanna, pot, skunk, weed)
Cannabis is one of the most commonly used drugs in England. According to one study, about 6.5 per cent of people aged 16-59 measured had used it in the last year. This was around 2.1 million people. Among 16-24 year olds in the study, around 15.8 per cent had used it in the last year.
Some people take cannabis because it makes them feel relaxed or happy, but It can also make you feel anxious or feel paranoid. Some people may experience things that aren't real. This is a sign of drug-induced psychosis. Some studies have shown that the risk of psychosis may be
higher if you:
- use cannabis for a long time,
- use it frequently, or
- use ‘high-strength’ cannabis, like skunk.
If you have been using cannabis and you feel that it is affecting your health, make an appointment to see your GP as soon as you can. Your doctor should not judge you, and should not tell other people you use drugs.
(Also known as: bevvies, booze)
Some people with a mental illness have problems using alcohol. Alcohol is legal, which means it is easier to get. It can make the feelings of some mental health issues feel worse, and for some people it could cause their mental health to relapse if they have struggled in the past.
The long-term effects of alcohol also depend on how much you drink, and how regularly you drink it. If you drink too much on a regular basis then you could cause yourself serious physical and mental harm. Drinking may make it more difficult for you to recover from your mental illness, and may
reduce your quality of life.
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
These are drugs that contains similar ingredients or chemicals to other illegal drugs.
Some of the drugs classed as NPS are known as ‘legal highs’. This is a common term that people use. It is used because some NPS were legal before 2016. However, the name is now wrong, because since 2016 they have been made illegal.
Some NPS that are now illegal include:
- stimulants such as mephedrone (also known as meow meow, mcat, plant food, drone),
- sedatives such as liquid ecstasy (also known as GHB, legal E),
- hallucinogens such as N-bombs (also known as smiley paper, Bom-25, 2-C-I-NBOME), and
- synthetic cannabinoids such as spice and black mamba.
The short-term effects of an NPS depend on what you take. No one knows exactly how NPS will affect you in the long-term. However, as with all drugs, they may still have a bad effect on your mental health.
Some NPS can be very dangerous. For example GHB can kill you, or hurt you very badly when taken with alcohol or other sedatives. Many mental health medications have sedative effects.
Amphetamine and methamphetamine
(Also known as: Crystal Meth, Ice, Meth, Phet, Whizz, Speed, Yaba, Tine and Christine)
In the short-term, these drugs can make you feel wide awake and alert. This can make it difficult for you to relax or get to sleep. They might cause you to have a drug-induced psychosis. In the long-term, amphetamines might make you anxious and depressed. They can also be addictive.
When you stop taking the drug, you may feel depressed and you might find it hard to sleep.
(Also known as: Benzos, Blues, Downers, Roofies, Vallies,)
There are two types of tranquiliser. Major tranquilisers are often antipsychotic medications. Minor tranquilisers are drugs that may make you feel unaware of your surroundings and can be highly addictive.
One example of a tranquiliser is ‘benzodiazepines’, or benzos. Sometimes a doctor will tell you to take benzodiazepines to help you with anxiety. People also buy them illegally because of their relaxing effects. They can be addictive, and so doctors only give them for a short time.
In the short-term, these drugs can make you feel calmer. Depending on the type you take, they could make you feel confused or moody.
In the long-term, some people become addicted. This can have a big effect on their day-to-day life.
You can find more information on ‘Benzodiazepines’ here.
(Also known as: Crack, Coke, Charlie, Chang, Freebase, Snow)
In the short-term, cocaine can make you feel awake, talkative and confident. After this wears off, you can feel tired and depressed after taking it. If you take a high dose there is a risk you could die.
In the long-term, cocaine use can affect how you feel. It can affect your relationships with friends and family. Cocaine is also addictive and over time you are more likely to have ongoing problems with depression, paranoia or anxiety.
(Also known as: E, MDMA, MD, Pills, XTC)
In the short-term, ecstasy may make you feel energetic, chatty and confident. It can also sometimes make you feel anxious, confused or trigger drug-induced psychosis.
In the long-term, ecstasy may make you feel depressed and anxious, and some people struggle with memory problems.
(Also known as: Brown, Gear, H, Smack, Skag)
In the short-term, heroin can make you feel relaxed and calm. It takes away pain and can make you feel sleepy. But there is a higher risk that you could take too much or overdose with heroin than some other drugs.
Heroin can be taken in lots of different ways, including by injection. However, there is a high risk of getting an infection if you inject heroin, particularly if you share needles with someone else.
Heroin is very addictive. It can have serious long-term effects. When you stop taking it you may feel depressed and find it hard to sleep. You may feel that heroin becomes more important than other things in your life. This might make it harder to keep a job and affect your relationships.
(Also known as: Acid, Blotter, Trips, Micro-dots)
In the short-term, LSD may make you experience things that aren't real. Sometimes the experience will be enjoyable, and sometimes it will be frightening (a 'bad trip').
There is mixed evidence about the long-term effects of LSD. We don’t know exactly how likely it is to cause mental health problems.
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