About street drugs

This information is for anyone who wants to know about the effects of street drugs on mental health, including anyone who takes them or has dual diagnosis. It explains how taking street drugs can affect your mental health, and how different types of street drugs can affect your mental health in different ways. It explains different options for help and treatment, and includes information for family and friends.

What are street drugs?

Street drugs are substances people take to give themselves a pleasurable experience, or to help them feel better if they are having a bad time, or simply because their friends are using them. They include heroin, cocaine, cannabis, alcohol and some prescribed medicines.

Street drugs may be:

  • legal – such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
  • illegal – this means it is against the law to have them or supply them to other people. Most street drugs are illegal.
  • controlled – these are drugs used in medicine, such as benzodiazepines. It is legal to take controlled drugs if a doctor has given you a prescription for them, but it is illegal to have them if not. It is also illegal to give or sell them to anyone else.

The way street drugs are legally classified does not reflect how harmful they are to your mental health. Illegal, controlled and legal drugs can all have a negative impact on you, whatever class (A, B or C) they are given.

General effects on mental health

All street drugs have some kind of effect on your mental health. They affect the way you see things, your mood and your behaviour.

These effects may be pleasant or unpleasant. They might be short-lived, or you may experience longer-lasting effects. In some cases, these effects may be similar to those you experience as part of a mental health problem. They may go away once the drug has worn off, or they may not, and you may experience longer-lasting effects.

For some people, taking street drugs can also lead to long-term mental health problems, such as depression and schizophrenia.

It is difficult to predict how you will react to a street drug. You may react differently to the same drug at different times or in different situations.

This may differ depending on:

  • the type of drug
  • whether the drug has been mixed with other substances, and what these other substances are
  • the amount you take
  • the environment or social situation in which you take it
  • how often you take it
  • your previous experience of it
  • what you want and expect to happen
  • your mental state.

If you have a history of experiencing poor mental health, this may mean you are more likely to experience negative effects if you take street drugs.

However, if you have previously had no mental health problems, you may still develop symptoms of a mental health problem from using these drugs.

If you take street drugs a lot, or become dependent on them, this can have a negative impact on your day-to-day life. For example, it could lead to:

  • financial problems
  • problems with education and employment
  • relationship problems
  • problems with housing
  • low self-esteem
  • finding it hard to maintain commitments, including appointments related to your drug use or mental health
  • crime – either in possessing an illegal substance, or to finance a habit, leading to a criminal record
  • imprisonment.

Dual diagnosis

If you have both mental health problems and problems with drug or alcohol use, you may be described as having dual diagnosis. There is no standardised treatment for dual diagnosis, because it includes a large number of possible problems, and involves both drug and alcohol services and mental health services. If you have this combination of problems, you may need help with many different parts of your life

For more information, and local resources who may be able to help visit our page on drugs and alcohol http://www.asknormen.co.uk/drugs-and-alcohol/


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