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Addiction recovery - How addiction affects our mental health

During addiction recovery, the effects of substance abuse on mental health are easily observed.

The impact addiction has on mental health is undeniable and often, permanent. This is especially true when someone has abused substances for an extended period of time.

Some of the long-term mental health issues that may arise from addiction are anxiety, depression, sleeping disorders, mood disorders and even psychosis.

Impact of Addiction Recovery on Mental Health

Mental health and addiction

There are several reasons why alcohol and substance abuse can result in mental health conditions. This article will focus on just a few.


  •  - Substance abuse exacerbates existing mental health problems – when we have existing mental health issues that tend to overwhelm us and hinder our ability to function on a day-to-day basis, we often end up self-medicating in order to cope with our thoughts and feelings. However, self-medicating gives us the illusion that our symptoms are improving, when in fact they are only being suppressed. This leads to our situation becoming more and more out of control before we are even aware of it.
  • - Recreational drugs are toxic – the notable shift in consciousness, awareness or increase in euphoria that we experience when we take recreational drugs is what leads us to abusing them. However, the fact that we experience such significant changes means that there is something happening with the chemicals in our brains. Some of these substances, like alcohol, are known as suppressants and prolonged use can lead to a decrease in serotonin in the brain which results in depression. Long term use of stimulants such as amphetamines have led to extreme paranoia and psychosis. This is as a result of unnatural changes in the chemicals of the brain over extended periods of time.
  • - Substance abuse encourages us to avoid our problems – although using substances provides us with relief from our internal struggles, this relief is temporary. Furthermore, the longer we proceed to avoid our problems, the harder it becomes to address them. Inevitably, the pain we experience as a result of avoiding our problems is far worse than what it would be to face them from the start.


Although drug and alcohol abuse have many more negative effects on our mental health, just by looking at these three points it’s easy to see that the effects are far-reaching.

During addiction recovery, mental health issues are addressed at the same time as the addiction itself.

By choosing to seek help, you significantly increase your chances of avoiding serious mental health issues from developing, as well as receiving compassionate support for existing issues.

Step Away - Quality Addiction Rehabilitation in South Africa

At Step Away, we treat addiction and mental health problems as a dual diagnosis during our addiction recovery programme. For more information about our programme and how our centre can help you, please contact us.

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