Psychiatry & Psychotherapy
Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Eating Disorders Hermosa Beach, San Pedro and Long Beach California

Psychiatry & Psychotherapy
Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Eating Disorders Hermosa Beach, San Pedro and Long Beach California

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Month; Part III: Substance Abuse


Rounding out our Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Month here at Recovery NOW, we turn our attention to the biological and mental health effects of substance abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse pose a serious risk to mind and body wellness, especially among individuals who have engaged in substance abuse for a long period of time or who have developed a dependency.

How Substance Abuse Affects Mental Health

Addiction is a disease that directly affects the brain. The very science behind substance dependency is rooted in chemical changes that take place during the brain during use. For example, many drugs flood the brain’s reward center with a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. This provides a heightened sense of euphoria, which ultimately reinforce repeated use of the drug that caused it.

With time, levels of dopamine production fall – even with repeated substance use. A person may take more and more of a particular drug to produce the same effects that were once achieved at smaller dosages. Eventually, the brain will produce less and less dopamine and dopamine receptors, causing a person with dependency to require drugs or alcohol simply to feel ‘normal’. Without treatment, this can eventually lead to substance-induced depression and anxiety disorders.

Other Health Consequences of Substance Abuse

The dangers of substance abuse are far-reaching and extend beyond the brain. Drugs and alcohol can cause short and long-term health consequences, some of which may be permanent. For example, certain types of inhalants can be toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems, resulting in uncontrollable movements, memory loss and loss of nerve cells. Other substances may increase the risk of developing secondary health disorders, such as lung disease, liver disease, stroke and even some cancers. Even more dangerous is the combination of two or more drugs, which raises the risk of lethal consequences.brain-effects-cannabis

Drugs and alcohol can also affect a person’s health indirectly, especially as substances take priority over a balanced diet and exercise. People who progress into severe substance dependence may begin to restrict themselves to alcohol or a drug of choice, depriving themselves of proper nutrition and sustenance. Substance abuse can also get in the way of physical activity, whether due to low motivation or the physical effects that limit a person’s ability to exercise.

Dual Diagnosis Disorders

It is important to note that mental illness and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. For some, drugs and alcohol are a way of self-medicating a pre-existing mental illness, such as depression. For others, substance abuse can trigger the onset of mental illness – particularly in people with a genetic predisposition to these types of disorders.  Current data suggests that more than 1 in every 2 people who have a substance abuse disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. Known as dual diagnosis disorder, this condition can severely complicate recovery efforts and requires professional treatment to improve the chances of positive long term results.

If you or someone you know has a history of substance abuse or is showing signs of dependency, the time to seek help is now. At Recovery NOW, the people we treat are not defined by the addictions and disorders they struggle with. Instead, our goal is to provide a path to healing and total rehabilitation. You only get one body and mind – let us help you protect them.

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