Drugs, alcohol and mental health - Drugs - effects
Which substances can affect my mental health?
In the rest of this section, we look at how drugs could affect your mental health.
(Related words - Dope, Draw, Ganja, Grass, Hash, Herb, Marijuana, Pot, Skunk, Weed)
Some people take cannabis because it makes them feel relaxed or happy. It can also make you feel anxious or experience things that aren't real. This is a sign of psychosis. Doctors sometimes call this 'cannabis-induced psychosis'.
Cannabis is one of the most commonly used drugs in England. About 1 in 20 adults use it. A lot of people start using it when they are around 16 years old, and they tend to use it for longer than other drugs.
Young people who use cannabis are more likely to get schizophrenia. Those who use it regularly are 6 times more likely to get schizophrenia than young people who have not used it. The risk of getting psychosis is higher if you:
- use it from a young age,
- use it for a long time, 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.
(Related words - Booze)
Many people with a mental illness have problems using alcohol. It is easy to get hold of and it is addictive. Drinking alcohol can make you unwell if you have had mental health problems in the past. Doctors call this ‘relapse’.
The short-term effects of alcohol depend on how much you drink. In small amounts, alcohol can make you feel more confident and sociable. The more you drink, the more likely it is that you will feel tired, dizzy, confused or unwell.
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.
‘Legal highs’ are drugs that you can buy before the government decides if they are dangerous or not. There is often no way of knowing what is in them and what the risks are.
Mephedrone (meow meow, mcat or plantfeed) is an example of a drug that was a legal high but is now illegal. This is because of the effects it was having on people who took it. Liquid ecstasy (GHB) is another 'legal high' that the government made illegal.
Short-term effects of legal highs depend on what they are. Most are 'uppers' like cocaine or speed. Uppers make you feel energetic and talkative. This is why people may take them at clubs and festivals.
No one knows exactly how legal highs will affect you in the long-term. The drugs are new and so scientists have not done a lot of research. There is evidence that some of these drugs may make you feel worse if you are at risk of having mental health problems.
Amphetamine and methamphetamine
(Related words - Crystal Meth, Tina, Ice, Meth, Phet, Whizz, Speed)
In the short-term, these drugs can make you feel wide awake and talkative. This can make it difficult for you to relax or get to sleep.
In the long-term, amphetamines might make you anxious and depressed. They might make you experience things that aren’t real.
When you stop taking the drug, you may feel depressed and you might find it hard to sleep.
(Related words - Benzos, Downers, Tranquilisers, Vallies, Blues)
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 are very very 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 particular type you take, they could make you feel confused or moody. Sometimes they make you experience things that are not there (hallucinations).
In the long-term, some people become addicted. This can have a big effect on their day-to-day life. Some research has shown that if you use benzodiazepines for a long time, your memory or concentration could be affected.
(Related words - Crack, Coke, Charlie, Chang, Snow)
In the short-term, cocaine can make you feel awake, talkative and confident. There is a risk that you could take too much (overdose). You can feel tired and depressed after taking it.
In the long-term, cocaine use can affect how you feel. It can affect your relationships with friends and family. If you use cocaine a lot or become addicted to it, you are more likely to have ongoing problems with depression, paranoia or anxiety.
(Related words - E, MDMA, Pills, XTC)
In the short-term, ecstasy can make you feel energetic, chatty and like you want to dance. It can sometimes make you feel anxious and confused.
In the long-term, ecstasy may make you feel depressed or anxious.
(Related words - 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. There is a risk that you could take too much (overdose). You can take it in different ways – some people smoke it and others inject it. If you inject it, you may get infections.
Heroin is a very addictive drug. 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.
(Related words - Acid, Blotter, Trips, Micro-dots)
In the short-term, LSD will 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. Recent research has questioned if LSD is actually a big factor, but other studies have suggested that people might become unwell after taking it.
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