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Substance use habits, especially ingrained substance use habits that are established and a part of your regular routine, can be extremely difficult to break. Even when you feel as though you’re making progress toward freedom, toward the life you know you deserve, drug and alcohol use seem to easily pull you back in.

Unsurprisingly, substance use habits can also impose negative effects on mental health. Whether your substance use practices are short or long-term, mental health stands to be adversely affected by even occasional abuse.

Self-medication and mental health

Self-medication is by far the most common problem that continually connects mental health, and mental illness, with extended drug and alcohol use. Many individuals seek to address the challenges or problems in life not through productive problem-solving, but instead through unregulated drug and alcohol use.

Here are a few examples of circumstances where individuals self-medicate:

  • The student who uses heroine to forget academic difficulties
  • The parent who doesn’t regulate marijuana use in soothing daily stress
  • The teacher who uses Xanax or Valium to incorrectly address panic attacks
  • The individuals who turns to cocaine or meth to artificially bolster energy

No matter the specific circumstance, self-medicating frequently leads individuals further into substance use challenges. Worse still, these substance use habits can catalyze mental health issues.

Substance use symptoms can trigger mental illness symptoms

Did you know that substance use symptoms can actually trigger mental illness symptoms? It’s true: certain substances can actually trigger negative mental health symptoms, including paranoia and delusions.

Here are other examples of substance use symptoms triggering mental health challenges:

  • Repeated substance use habits can increase chances for assault
  • Heavy drug and alcohol use can directly contribute to breakdowns in decision-making and mental clarity
  • Alcohol and specific drugs may directly contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Withdrawal from specific substances can at times lead to feelings of grief

Suffice it to say, substance use makes mental health issues even more difficult to address. At best, drug and alcohol use can cloud judgement. At worst, drug and alcohol use can severely impair mental health, making essential functions like speech and concentration difficult long after the short-terms effects of substance use subside.

There’s also a strong correlation between substance use frequency and specific mental health issues. In particular, individuals who struggle with depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders and/or anxiety disorders oftentimes find themselves using substances unhealthily in an attempt to cope. Statistics show that more than one in four adults with mental health concerns also faces at least one substance use challenge as well.

How can I recognize substance use symptoms?

Especially to the casual observer, it might be difficult to spot symptoms that are specific to substance use habits. Some substance use symptoms are characterized by an individual’s behavioral patterns, the manner in which they act on a daily basis. These behavioral substance use symptoms include:

  • Work and school attendance dropping or fluctuating
  • Unexpected changes in diet
  • Decrease in sleep regularity
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Laziness or lack of typical motivation

With specific regard to individuals dependent on certain substances, symptoms often include physical symptoms that can be spotted through careful observation of an individual’s physical patterns. These symptoms include:

  • Bloodshot or tired eyes
  • Unexpected fluctuations in weight
  • Unhealthy or “dirty” smells

In addition, an individual might experience a series of “social” symptoms of substance use, symptoms that adversely affect that person’s social life, social status, or the way in which they see themselves in a public light. These social symptoms of substance use can include:

  • Changes in friends or social priorities
  • Unexplained financial woes or fervent requests for money
  • Legal issues

What can I do about my substance abuse habits and my mental health challenges?

It is absolutely possible to recover from both substance use habits and mental health challenges, especially when you take the time to appropriately deal with both, in turn. If you’ve been diagnosed with both a mental health disorder or illness, alongside a substance use disorder, it’s critically important that you seek the help you need to appropriately deal with the situation. It’s not enough to solely deal with the substance use habit at the expense of the mental health issue, or to address your mental health challenges at the expense of your substance use practices. Rather, both mental health and substance use issues must be addressed in conjunction.

That’s exactly where a licensed healthcare professional can make all of the difference. At Real Recovery, we’ve made a habit of helping dual diagnosis individuals make sense of both mental health and substance use issues. Treatment options can include specific medication or medication-assisted treatment, as well as counseling from licensed therapists, individual or group therapy, etc. Call 1 (855) 363-7325 today, or get in touch with our team online, for help addressing any substance use practices that might be negatively influencing mental health.