increased risk of mental illness
People of all ages jeopardize their mental health when they use drugs. For people already experiencing or at risk for mental illness, drug use poses a greater threat to mental health. The effects of drug use can be life-long, even after a person stops using drugs.
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 8.5 million people age 18 and older in the US suffered both from a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. This phenomenon is called comorbidity because the substance use disorder exists along with a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders put people at a higher risk for initiating drug use, and drug use can also trigger a mental health disorder among people at high risk. Substance use can also worsen symptoms of existing mental illnesses.
Even in the absence of a mental health disorder, substance users may experience hallucinations, depression, anxiety, and amnesia, among other symptoms, especially during intoxication and withdrawal. While most symptoms of substance-induced disorders typically end after a period of sustained abstinence, some symptoms last much longer.
The damage to mental health caused by substance use can last a lifetime. Long-term, heavy use of drugs like alcohol and inhalants cause damage to the brain often resulting in persistent symptoms of dementia and amnesia. Frequent tobacco and cannabis use lead to long-lasting depression and anxiety. For teens, there is a greater risk of long-term damage to the brain including mental health disorders.