Can Drugs and Alcohol Cause a Mental Breakdown? What To Do and How an Intervention Can Help

Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to several adverse effects, including the deterioration of one’s physical and mental health. While many people suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders, some people develop mental illness as a result of repeated substance abuse.

It is possible to develop conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and even depression as a result of severe substance abuse. Similarly, substance abuse is known to cause individuals to experience mental breakdowns. This is referred to as a substance-induced disorder or a substance-induced mental breakdown.

When someone experiences a substance-induced mental breakdown, they must receive professional help. This is a severe consequence of substance abuse, indicating that the individual has a serious addiction that must be professionally treated.

What is a Mental Breakdown?

A mental breakdown also referred to as a nervous breakdown, is described as the point that an individual can no longer handle his or her life circumstances emotionally. Mental breakdowns are personal experiences, meaning every individual who experiences one may display different symptoms.

The common symptoms of a mental breakdown include:

  • Depressive symptoms – feelings of hopelessness, self-harm, or suicidal ideation.
  • Anxiety symptoms – high blood pressure, tense muscles, excessive sweating, upset stomach, and tremors.
  • Panic attacks – chest pain, detachment from reality, extreme fear or paranoia, and difficulty breathing.
  • Paranoia – feeling like someone is out to get you or plotting against you.
  • Flashbacks – symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic experience.
  • Insomnia- trouble sleeping, possibly to the point of being awake for days on end.
  • Hallucinations – seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there.
  • Mood swings – rapidly changing moods, oftentimes changing from happy, to angry, and then to sad within minutes to a few hours.
  • Outbursts – random displays of extreme emotions, commonly displaying aggressive behaviors.

How Substance-Induced Disorders Lead to Mental Breakdowns

When an individual frequently abuses a substance, they may develop substance-induced disorders. Substance-induced disorders are co-occurring disorders that develop due to mental changes stemming from frequent and heavy drug or alcohol abuse.

Oftentimes, substance-induced disorders cause an onset of unfamiliar and difficult-to-deal-with thoughts, emotions, or behaviors. As a result, individuals may experience a mental breakdown.

The most common substance-induced disorders that lead to mental breakdowns include:[1]

  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Amnesia
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety

Which Substances Can Cause Mental Breakdowns?

While every addictive substance is damaging to one’s mental health, there are a few that are known to cause mental breakdowns. For example, alcohol is known to cause various symptoms of mental breakdowns, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and antisocial behavior. Additionally, mental breakdowns commonly occur as a result of withdrawal symptoms.

The substances that most commonly lead to mental breakdowns include:[2]

  • Alcohol
  • Anti-anxiety and sedative drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Cannabis
  • Hallucinogens
  • Stimulants
  • Inhalants
  • Opioids
  • Tobacco
  • Other common drugs of abuse

To explain further, stimulants and amphetamines are notorious for causing mental breakdowns that include symptoms of psychosis, paranoia, and hallucinations. This happens because the individual’s central nervous system (CNS) is overstimulated. With drugs that depress the CNS (alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines), individuals will experience depressive and antisocial symptoms of a mental breakdown.

How to Help a Loved One Experiencing a Substance-Induced Mental Breakdown

If an individual is experiencing a substance-induced mental breakdown, the best way to help them is by consulting with a professional. Mental breakdowns can become extremely severe, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved.

Professional mental health and addiction counselors are experienced in crisis de-escalation, allowing them to calm individuals down and prevent them from engaging in destructive behaviors.

Educate Yourself on Addiction and Mental Health

The first thing an addict’s family should do is educate themselves on addiction and mental health. Knowing the science behind addiction will allow them to understand their emotions and behaviors.

Additionally, this will help the family understand what types of responses are helpful or damaging when their loved one is experiencing a substance-induced mental breakdown.

Stage an Intervention

The best way to help a loved one overcome a mental breakdown is to stage a professional intervention. Interventions help individuals realize they need treatment by involving their loved ones in a controlled discussion about the individual’s addiction, behaviors, and mental health symptoms.

The goal of an addiction intervention is to convince the individual to attend treatment. The expert interventionist will set up treatment arrangements with the addicted individual’s best interests in mind.

Support Them Throughout Treatment

Once the individual has entered treatment, their family members should continue to support them. Oftentimes, this includes attending family therapy groups and counseling sessions.

Many individuals have a hard time throughout treatment, as they are learning new things about themselves and deconstructing negative patterns of thinking. This becomes extremely difficult when the individual does not have a support system cheering them on throughout their recovery process.

Practice Self-Care

Lastly, the family members of the suffering individual should practice their own forms of self-care. An individual can’t help someone unless they are mentally healthy as well.

Self-care could include:

  • Attending support groups for the loved ones of addicts and alcoholics
  • Attending individual therapy
  • Adopting an exercise routine, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep
  • Partaking in calming activities like yoga, meditation, painting, and even attending spa days
  • Reaching out to support systems

Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment for a Substance-Induced Mental Breakdown

Experiencing a mental breakdown can be extremely scary. Feeling like you cannot handle much more before you collapse can be extremely isolating and disheartening. Thankfully, you do not have to go through it alone.

Whether you or your loved one are suffering from addiction and mental health issues, dual diagnosis treatment is here to help. Addiction Interventions can help you or your family find the best dual diagnosis treatment program for your unique needs. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.



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