The Side Effects of Drug Abuse Appear as Mental Disorders

Crying girl

People often confuse the side effects of drug abuse and alcoholism with mental health problems. Frequently, it is the addiction that causes the symptoms, not an actual mental illness.

What we’ve done here is we’ve taken the top side effects of substance abuse and included them below. Then, below that list, we’ve included the top descriptions of mental illness. When one reads these, notice how very similar the symptoms effects are.

The most common behavioral and psychological side effects of drug and alcohol abuse are:

  • A person on drugs will often show an unexplained change in personality or attitude towards others.
  • When people abuse certain drugs, they experience sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • As a person takes drugs, comes down off them, takes them, comes down off them, they will likely experience periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • People who often take drugs will appear to have a lack of motivation, will appear lethargic or will be sort of “spaced out.”
  • People who take stimulant drugs like cocaine or meth appear fearful, anxious, or paranoid.
  • When people are regular drug users or alcoholics, they will drop their attendance and performance at work or school.
  • People who struggle with substance abuse habits have unexplained financial problems, and will often resort to borrowing or stealing just to get by.
  • People who abuse drugs and alcohol engage in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • People who suffer from substance abuse often get into trouble by having fights, accidents, or engaging in illegal activities in general.

The most common behavioral and psychological signs and symptoms of mental illness, from the Mayo Clinic, are:

  • A person feels sad or down on a regular basis and not being able to come out of it (a sign of alcohol abuse too).
  • A person might suffer from confused thinking or a reduced ability to concentrate and not know how to break free from it (also a sign of prescription stimulant abuse too)
  • Having excessive fears or worries or extreme feelings of guilt and paranoia (also a sign of abusing marijuana).
  • The person shows extreme mood changes of highs and lows (also a sure sign of abusing heroin, cocaine, or meth).
  • The person has withdrawn from friends and activities (people on drugs do this too).
  • The person experiences significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping (a common side effect of almost all drug abuse).
  • The individual has major changes in eating habits, sleeping habits, and sex drive changes (very common with any kind of substance abuse).
  • The person shows excessive anger, hostility or violence (very common in meth abusers and some pill users).
Girl body

The first thing we notice when we read the second list is that the psychological manifestations of mental illness are almost exactly the same as the side effects of drug and alcohol abuse! The above signs of mental illness are the top signs of mental illness published by the Mayo Clinic, a very prestigious health group. The side effects of substance abuse published above that are from the “Help Guide” a text brought to us by a respected information group.

What the two lists tell us is that those who struggle with drug abuse and alcoholism often appear to be struggling with mental health problems too. But the truth is that they are not struggling with mental health problems, they are just skewing their minds by abusing drugs and alcohol!

When people fall into a struggle of drug and alcohol addiction, they need to focus on addressing their substance abuse habit, not on taking more drugs for a “mental health illness.” That is foolish. Rehabilitation and treatment is the answer here, not more medicines and more psychotropic drugs.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.