Substance-induced mood disorders refer to depressive, anxiety, or psychotic symptoms arising from substance abuse or medications. These symptoms may appear at any point during the use cycle: active use, intoxication, or withdrawal.
Roughly 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse. And substance-induced mood disorders are relatively common in people with substance abuse histories.
In this article, we’ll explore what they are, the common symptoms, how substances can induce mood disorders, and how to look for help if you are suffering from substance-induced mood disorders.
What Is A Mood Disorder?
As a broad term not necessarily tied to substance use, mood disorders are disturbances in your general emotional state that interfere with your ability to function. Mood disorders may cause extreme sadness, irritability, and a feeling of emptiness, or they may cause periods of depression followed by euphoria, among other symptoms.
“Mood disorder” generally refers to any depression or bipolar disorder. It encompasses major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorders.
People of all ages can suffer from mood disorders, but children and teens may suffer from different symptoms than adults. They may also have difficulty explaining their feelings, which complicates identifying the symptoms.
The Cause Of Substance-Induced Mood Disorders
Taking and abusing substances or medication is the primary cause of substance or medication-induced mood disorders. These mood disorders may develop during intoxication or withdrawal.
Studies show, for example, that nearly half of depressive episodes occur in the context of heavy alcohol use. Opioids and cocaine are also common in substance-induced mood disorders.
But why exactly does drug use cause mood disorders? The answer is not entirely clear, but one study suggests that alcohol, opioids, cocaine, etc., may alter how our nervous system works, affecting neurotransmitter transmission within necessary neural circuits.
Regardless of the biological cause, substance-induced mood disorders, particularly depression, are common among people who suffer from substance abuse.
Around 40% to 60% of people who abuse alcohol suffer alcohol-induced depressive episodes. Roughly 55% of people with opioid use disorders also suffer from substance-induced depressive episodes.
Which Substances Cause Substance-Induced Mood Disorders?
In addition to alcohol, opioids, and cocaine, various substances can induce mood disorders.
Prescription medication, such as:
- Heart medications
- Sedatives and anti-anxiety medications
- Interferons (medicines for the immune system)
Other substances that cause intoxication include:
- Hallucinogens like LSD
- Stimulants other than cocaine, such as amphetamines
- Caffeine and tobacco
Additionally, the toxins in substances we may encounter daily may induce mood disorders. For example, substances like gasoline, paint, paint thinners, pesticides, glue, and other adhesives can lead to a mood disorder. Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury may also induce mood disorders.
Substance-Induced Mood Disorder Symptoms
Depression and mania (periods of great excitement, delusions, and overactivity) are two of the most common mental health issues associated with substance-induced mood disorders. These are the most common symptoms for each.
- Activities in your life don’t bring the joy they used to
- Sleep disorders
- Weight and appetite fluctuations
- Low energy and low sex drive
- Feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and apathy
- In extreme cases, suicidal ideation
- Extremely high sense of self-worth
- Talking too fast, to the point that other people may not be able to follow
- Racing thoughts and restlessness
- Difficulty focusing
- Anxiety and panic
- Being able to function on very little sleep
- Reckless behavior, such as unsafe sex acts
How To Treat Substance-Induced Mood Disorders?
If you’re taking prescription medications that cause mood disorders, talk to your doctor and explain the symptoms. They may be able to provide an alternative medication. Do not stop taking the medication without discussing it with your doctor.
If mood disorders instead appear as a result of substance abuse, treating that abuse should be the priority. Talk to a general practitioner and explain your dependence. They should direct you to more specific treatments and the right treatment center to address your substance use disorder.
Behavioral therapy and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous may also provide emotional support in your recovery process.
Starting your healing journey requires that you recognize there is a problem and try to find a solution for it. If you are here reading this because you are looking for a solution, you have already taken the first step.