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Substance use disorder (SUD) remains a very serious and prominent issue in the United States. Nevertheless, this issue has become all the more heightened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Overall, 40.9% of 5,470 respondents who completed surveys during June [of 2020]… reported having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).” Moreover, increased substance use and the prevalence of SUD continue to inform adverse psychological and mental effects on countless lives across the nation. 

Understanding the Psychological and Mental Effects of Substance Use Disorder

A good way to think about the psychological and mental effects of SUD is to think about the effects that substance use has on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Ultimately these three facets are what make up one’s psychological and mental self.

Now, the question then becomes, “Can the psychological and mental effects of SUD be separated into two different categories?” The answer, as with most issues of mental health, is more complex than a simple yes and no. Although these sets of effects can be understood separately, they are inevitably intertwined. 

Understanding the Psychological Effects

First, the psychological effects of SUD primarily lie in the emotional and behavioral side of one’s biological makeup. This includes how substances can make someone feel (both the positive and the negative), and what they can ultimately make someone do.

For example, individuals with active addiction will often feel emotionally depleted by their lifestyle. They can feel hopeless because they want to stop using, but can’t effectively cease their substance use. Also, they can feel dejected because they have become ostracized by their family and friends. They may also feel full of despair because their life has become a vicious cycle of negative behaviors aimed at solely fueling their addiction.

These behaviors are also a major aspect of the psychological effects of SUD. It is these behaviors that often lead to negative emotions. Furthermore, it is negative emotions that can lead to more maladaptive behaviors. As one can see, it is a vicious cycle; one that anyone that has gone through active addiction is most likely familiar with.

Understanding the Mental Effects

Regarding substance abuse and mental health, it is very common for individuals who struggle with SUD to have a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder as well. The mental effects of SUD causes individuals to view themselves in a more negative light due to their addiction, which often triggers a mental health disorder.

In active addiction, poor mental health cant cause individuals to obsess over when they are going to misuse their substance of choice again. This obsessive thinking is also a big part of why it is so difficult to stop using. 

For those in recovery, it is this thinking that puts them in danger of relapsing. It has been said that relapse is more of a process than an event. What this means is that a relapse actually starts in the mind long before anyone actually picks up a drink or a drug. This is the mental effect that SUD can have long into our recovery, which is why it remains critical to stick to a recovery plan that includes both physiological and mental treatment.

Treating the Psychological and Mental Effects of Substance Use Disorder

It is important to take a full mind-body approach when it comes to SUD recovery. This is especially true when it comes to restoring one’s psychological and mental health. It only makes sense that someone must change both their thinking and behaviors to effectively establish lasting sobriety. Changing our emotions, however, can be a slightly different story. For example, some people us struggle with co-occurring disorders that also affect their emotional well-being.

However, by working with others to change toxic thinking and acting, someone’s emotional health almost inevitably begins to recover as well. As they often say in 12-Step recovery, “We will be amazed before we are halfway through.” This concept also works with the connection between our psychological and mental health.

The Importance of Well-Rounded Treatment at the Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we know what it means to be in active addiction, and we know what it means to be in long-term recovery. Since most of our staff has been through both, we are personally familiar with the psychological and mental journey that SUD takes us on.

However, because we have been through it, we also know recovery is possible. Moreover, we also know the importance of passing that message on, which is why your recovery has become our primary purpose. For more information on treatment options for SUD, call The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT