Drugs and Mental Health

Many turn to drugs or alcohol for relief from conditions like depression and anxiety, but it’s ultimately a bad idea—here’s why

Many turn to drugs or alcohol for relief from conditions like depression and anxiety, but it’s ultimately a bad idea—here’s why

  • Drugs can provide individuals with temporary relief from pain and suffering, but the long-term consequences are harmful.
  • These negative effects include impairment in everyday functioning, potential legal issues, and overall injury to one’s mental health.
  • Additionally, substance use can quickly turn into addiction, as has been observed in society today.
  • It’s important the conversation about addiction is prioritized among all groups of individuals, from lawmakers to recovering addicts to your everyday person.
  • The conversation then needs to stimulate action—it might start with talking about the issue, but it must lead to doing.

It is all-too-common for individuals living with a range of mental illness to use mood- and mind-altering substances to alleviate their experiences and help soothe their overall experienced psychological condition. It has long been known to experienced addictions therapists that there is an incredibly high degree of overlap between mental illness and substance use disorders.

Temporary Relief, Long-Term Damage

One of the reasons for the high level of co-morbidity of mental illness and substance use is that there often is an element of relief that is experienced by individuals as they use various substances to numb the pain of their feelings and symptoms. One of the many problems with this approach to emotional regulation is that it is fleeting, and the negative consequences far outweigh any positive temporary effect. The negative effects range from…

  • Impairments in a substance users social functioning
  • Academic and occupational performance
  • Potential legal problems
  • A further worsening of the person’s mental health status

In the long-term, prolonged substance usage of any type is never a good idea and the drawbacks only become more pronounced with time and increased usage.

The Harsh Reality of Our Society

Substance usage and addiction has accurately been identified as a national health emergency by federal agencies. This is indeed the case, and it appears that the situation is only becoming increasingly bleak and dire. It is time in our nation’s history to recognize some uncomfortable facts about our situation. The fabric of society is being ripped apart by a confluence of factors, and the over-prescription of highly addictive substances is one facet of a multi-dimensional problem that has been plaguing Western society for far too long now.

We live in a generational time that can be fairly characterized as the era of instant gratification. We have apps on our phones that can do just about anything for us from ordering food to unlocking our car doors. So many of us have become accustomed to wanting what we want when we want it. When there is a plethora of mood- and mind-numbing devices and substances that can temporarily blind us from the impact of emotions, why wouldn’t some people choose to indulge in that rather than learning to live life on life’s terms? This is just a question to ponder. The rampant use of illicit substances in our nation requires frank discussion not only by lawmakers and government bureaucrats, but one that is informed by clergy, those with a lived-experience of successfully overcoming their addictions, and even moral-philosophers.

Recovering Together

Uncontrolled substance usage and addiction attacks the users mind, body, soul, as well as their living environment and community. If we want to honestly look at this issue and find methods of treating and containing it on a societal level, then we need to account for all those levels of being and find ways to elevate our thinking and doing based on those factors.

*Dmitri Oster is a licensed clinical social worker and credentialed substance use disorder counselor in New York State. Oster is also the founder and Program Director of a large and unique community-based outpatient treatment program in Brooklyn, New York called One World Counseling.*