How do different drugs affect your mental health?

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What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opiate. Other opiates include methadone, morphine, pethidine and codeine. Opiates are depressant drugs, which slow down the activity of the central nervous system.

How does Heroin affect you?

  • Heroin affects the central nervous system by slowing down messages to the brain.
  • Heroin is transported to the brain via the blood stream, usually by injecting into the veins or through the lining of the lungs if smoked.
  • The immediate effects are intense pleasure, pain relief, drowsiness and nausea. Breathing and pulse become slower.
  • Blood pressure drops. This can lead to overdose, brain damage from lack of oxygen or death.

 Heroin and your mental health

  • If you use heroin and have symptoms of depression or anxiety, these symptoms are likely to increase.
  • Using heroin may make you feel more disorganized and out of control.
  • If you have a history of psychosis and use heroin, you may experience more hallucinations and strange beliefs especially during withdrawal from the drug.
  • Heroin can interfere with the effectiveness of your psychiatric medication. Heroin use can cause a lot of stress in your life (e.g. debt, conflict in your relationships, and problems with the law or other drug users) and your mental health is more likely to get worse when you feel under pressure.

 What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is the short name for the cannabis sativa plant. The leaf, flowering buds or heads, hashish and hashish oil all come from this plant.

How does Cannabis affect you?

The main chemical in cannabis that makes you feel high is called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is absorbed into the blood stream through the lungs if smoked or through the stomach if eaten.

  • Cannabis can make you feel relaxed, happy and hungry, but can also decrease your coordination and change the way you perceive things.
  • Cannabis impairs your ability to concentrate and to think clearly. This increases the risk of accidents when driving a car or using machines.
  • Cannabis may cause poor memory and impair learning.
  • Mixing cannabis with other drugs can have unpredictable effects, and can make you ill.

Cannabis and your mental health

  • Cannabis can significantly increase paranoia – for example, believing you are being followed, stared at or talked about. Paranoia can be distressing and increases your risk of doing things you normally would not do.
  • Cannabis may affect your memory and you may have difficulties thinking clearly.
  • Cannabis can increase your risk of experiencing hallucinations or believing things that aren’t true.
  • Cannabis may make you feel more depressed, particularly with longer term use. It can also reduce motivation and pleasure associated with other activities.
  • Cannabis use increases your risk of anxiety and panic attacks, including feelings of confusion about reality and about yourself.
  • Cannabis may interfere with the effects of medication.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are legal drugs prescribed by doctors for a range of reasons, including anxiety, insomnia, withdrawal and some injuries.

Types of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are often called benzos or sleepers. There are different kinds that vary in strength and how long they last in your body. Each type has two names – the generic drug name and the brand name used by each drug company that manufactures the drug.

Commonly used benzodiazepines include:

  • Temazepam (e.g. Normison and Temaze)
  • Diazepam (e.g. Valium and Ducene)
  • Oxazepam (e.g. Serepax and Murelax)
  • Alprazolam (e.g. Xanax and Kalma)
  • Nitrazepam (e.g. Mogadon)

How do benzodiazepines affect you?

  • In small doses they have a calming effect, while in higher doses they help people to sleep.
  • Common effects include; short-term relief from anxiety, muscle relaxation, tiredness, sleep and reduced coordination and impaired judgment.
  • Other common effects include; dizziness, fuzzy thinking, poor memory, and uninhibited behaviour (doing things you would not normally do).

Benzodiazepines and your mental health

  • Although benzodiazepines are often prescribed to provide short-term relief for anxiety, they can increase anxiety in the long term. Depression may also become worse in the long term.
  • People using high doses are at greater risk of impulsive behaviour that they may later regret.
  • If you have a history of mental health concerns, your symptoms may become worse during withdrawal following longer-term use of benzodiazepines.
  • Continual use of benzodiazepines may also reduce your ability to remember important information, which makes it harder to reach your goals.

What are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are stimulants. They speed up the messages going to and from the brain to the body, but tend to leave you feeling tired and depressed when they wear off.

How do Amphetamines affect you?

Amphetamines affect people differently and may cause more problems for some people than others, especially if they have a history of mental illness.

Amphetamines can have the following common effects:

  • Make you feel more confident, energetic and wide-awake.
  • Reduce your appetite.
  • Make you anxious, restless, irritable and depressed.
  • Make you suspicious or paranoid.
  • Increase your breathing and pulse and increase the risk of panic attacks.
  • Increase feelings of anger and risk of violent behaviour.

Amphetamines and your mental health

  • If you have a mental illness, your symptoms may worsen.
  • Using amphetamines may lead to or worsen depression and symptoms such as agitation, mood swings and anxiety.
  • Amphetamines can significantly increase paranoia – for example, believing you are being followed, stared at or talked about. Paranoia can be distressing and increases your risk of doing things you normally would not do.
  • Amphetamines can cause drug-induced psychosis, where you believe strange things (delusions) or see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations), even when the drug has worn off.
  • Amphetamines can cause brain damage if you overdose or take too much at once.
  • Taking amphetamines over a long period of time can damage the brain cells and affect the way they work.


What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is produced by a process of fermentation of water, yeast, sugar and various grains, fruits or vegetables.


How does alcohol affect you?

  • Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and the small intestine.
  • The effects will depend on things like how much you drink, how quickly you drink, age, weight and sex.
  • Consuming alcohol may cause you to do things you would not do when sober.
  • The immediate effects include feeling relaxed, more confident, and sometimes happier.
  • Other effects include reduced concentration, slow reflexes, less inhibitions, less coordination, intense moods, confusion, nausea, vomiting and sleep.
  • In some doses, alcohol can cause brain damage, coma and death.
  • Some of the long term effects of heavy alcohol abuse include damage to brain, liver, kidneys and stomach.


Alcohol and your mental health

  • If you have a history of psychosis and consume alcohol you may become more confused and disorganized, and you are more likely to hear or see things that are not happening.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the likelihood and severity of mood swings.
  • Drinking alcohol increases your risk of other problems, such as unwanted or unsafe sex, assault and problems with the law.
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety may seem to reduce with the first few drinks, but are likely to become worse if you continue to drink.