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Substance Use Disorders (Drugs and Alcohol)

People struggling with a mental health condition can be susceptible to using drugs and/or alcohol in attempts to alleviate distress and numb troublesome symptoms. While that may provide temporary relief, doing so increases the likelihood of developing two additional problems: one, a worsening of symptoms and two, a dependence on the drug or alcohol.

Depression can worsen when people drink alcohol because alcohol is a depressant. And anxiety often increases the next day. Drugs like cocaine and amphetamines will heighten anxious thoughts and feelings:

If you are concerned you might be drinking too much or that using substance is becoming problematic for you, consider taking this assessment and then speak with your doctor about your results.


Substance use disorders are differentiated as being mild, moderate or severe based on a variety of factors which include but are not limited to:

  • You are using the substance in dangerous ways (driving, blacking out, overdosing)
  • Your substance use has led to neglect of responsibilities or missing work
  • You are experiencing relationship stress and conflict
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using
  • Your tolerance has increased; you use more to get an effect
  • You have made unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit
  • You are experiencing physical/health problems as a result of using
  • Your mental health problems have worsened
  • You experience cravings

It is important to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional if any of these factors apply to you. It may be helpful to know that you are not alone; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) found that 1 in 12 American adults (over 18 million) had a substance use disorder in 2017.



There are many treatment options, including the support group communities of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Psychotherapy (counseling) with a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor can be beneficial. A good starting point is your own doctor who can recommend the best first step for you.

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