Can’t Sleep? Feeling Anxious? Substance-Induced Mood Disorder and Other Disorders Related To Alcohol And Drug Use
Substance-induced disorders include mental and physical medical conditions that can be directly attributed to the use of substances. Many psychoactive substances are associated with a substance-induced disorder, and disorders can occur as the result of legal substances and prescription drugs as well as illicit drugs.
Moreover, the essential characteristic of drug-induced disorders is that the symptoms occur during use of the substance, intoxication, or withdrawal. The disorder cannot better be explained by a co-occurring and chronic mental illness, such as major depression, but the existence of risk factors for these disorders increase the likelihood that one may occur in association with substance use.
Regardless, substance-induced disorders are very real and sometimes terrifying (i.e. psychosis) for the person who is suffering from the condition. Three of the most common disorders related to substance use are mood disorder, anxiety disorder, and sleep disorder.
Substance-Induced Mood Disorder
Substance-induced mood disorder is most likely to be experienced by individuals who are at risk for major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. Also, people with a history of mood disorders or who have a family member with a mood disorder are at a greater risk.
Depression can generally be described as dystonia (feeling down.) People who are severely depressed may feel a wealth of negative emotions, including guilt, shame, hopelessness, and unworthiness. These feelings can progress into suicidal thoughts and fantasies that may be acted upon.
Substances that result in substance-induced mood disorder during use are often alcohol or drugs that have a depressant effect. These include:
- Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety)
- Muscle relaxers
- Sedatives, i.e. hypnotics
Also, major depression can occur during withdrawal from stimulant substances, such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders are characterized by fear or worry, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as a fast heart rate, shakiness, and sometimes breathlessness or breathing difficulties.
Although anxiety includes fear, the two are not the same thing. Anxiety is often thought of as the fear of fear itself, or an unpleasant state of mind in which the true cause is often not identifiable.
When anxiety occurs, it is most often during intoxication or withdrawal. People who have risk factors for anxiety disorders or a history of anxiety disorders (i.e. panic attacks) may have a greater likelihood of experiencing anxiety during substance use or withdrawal. Anxiety induced by withdrawal may not begin until days or weeks after the individual has stopped using the substance.
The following substances have been associated with anxiety during use:
- Amphetamines and methamphetamine
- Cough/cold medications
- Muscle relaxers
Substance-Induced Sleep Disorders
Substance use and abuse are commonly associated with sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbances are often characterized by a lack of sleep, sometimes then resulting in excessive sleep of poor quality.
People suffering from substance-induced sleep disorders may not sleep for days at a time, have trouble falling asleep, or wake up often.
Substances that may cause sleep disturbances include:
- Anti-hypertensive medications
- Anti-seizure medication
- Amphetamines, methamphetamine
- Diet Pill
A Special Note on Alcohol and Sleep
Alcohol is a depressant, and therefore often works effectively to induce sleep. However, the quality of sleep can be uneven, especially during the latter half of the sleep cycle as it begins to wear off. Also, alcohol can increase the number of awakenings per night, and keep the person in a shallower state of sleep, decreasing time during deep/REM sleep.
When consumed right before bed, alcohol’s sleep-inducing effects may decrease, and its disruptive effects increase. This habit may lead to chronic daytime fatigue, especially in cases of heavy alcohol use.
Many substances, both illicit and by prescription, can cause psychotic symptoms that are very similar to serious psychiatric disorders. Drug-induced psychosis has been linked to dangerous and violent behavior, hospitalization, suicide, and encounters with law enforcement.
Psychosis is a mental condition largely characterized by delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false or irrational beliefs that have no basis in reality, and hallucinations are perceptions (usually visual or auditory) that are not real but imagined.
Some drugs, particularly after long periods of use, can cause symptoms that resemble those of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In addition to delusions and hallucinations, the following symptoms may be present:
- Antisocial behavior
- Disorganized speech
- Emotional changes
- Erratic behavior
- Incoherent thoughts
Most Common Substances That Cause Psychosis
- Amphetamine and methamphetamine
- Psychedelic drugs such as LSD
- Prescription medications such as ketamine
How To Prevent or Manage Substance-Induced Mood Disorder And Others
Clearly, it is not enough to say “don’t use substances.” Some of the substances that can cause problems are prescription medications that may be necessary to treat mental health conditions or disease. If you are experiencing any of these disorders in association with a prescribed substance, please see your doctor for help. There may be alternatives, or in some cases, the symptoms may be passing.
If you are consuming alcohol or illicit substances, however, and are experiencing these disorders, your best case scenario is to cease use. If you feel you are dependent or cannot stop despite these and other negative effects, you should seek treatment for substance abuse immediately.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology