What is substance-induced mood disorder?
When taking a drug or stopping a drug causes days or weeks of mood changes, the problem is called substance-induced mood disorder. Many medicines and illegal drugs can cause you to be depressed. The drugs make you feel sad, uninterested in daily events, and hopeless. You may also get manic symptoms. When you are manic you are overexcited, have too much energy, and have difficulty controlling your actions.
It is not substance-induced if you were depressed or manic before you started using the drug and the drug makes it worse.
What is the cause?
Many drugs change the way brain cells communicate with each other. Drugs can change the amounts of chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, in your nervous system. Having the right balance of these chemical messengers in your nerves and brain is important for good mood. Two important neurotransmitters are dopamine and serotonin. Too little or too much of these chemicals can cause mood problems. Many drugs and medicines change how dopamine and serotonin work. This can upset the balance of these chemicals.
Frequent or daily use of some drugs can cause mood problems. Withdrawal (stopping use of some drugs) can cause mood problems for up to 4 weeks after you quit. Drugs and medicines that can cause mood problems while you are using them are:
- amphetamines such as speed, Ritalin, and Dexedrine
- decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- heart and high blood pressure medicines
- inhalants such as gasoline and spray paint
- antianxiety medicines such as clonazepam (Klonopin)
Drugs that can cause mood problems while you use them and during withdrawal are:
- alcohol (beer, wine, or hard liquor)
- hallucinogens such as LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms
- sedatives and antianxiety medicines such as diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), and alprazolam (Xanax)
- narcotics such as heroin, and pain medicines such as morphine, codeine, Percocet, and tramadol (Ultram)
- steroid medicines
Other prescription medicines can cause mood problems. Some of these are antidepressants, birth control pills, steroids, some antibiotics, certain acne medicines, and medicines for high blood pressure. If you think one of these is causing your mood problem, check with your healthcare provider.
What are the symptoms?
You may have the symptoms of depression or mania, or you may cycle between the two. The symptoms may come when you are using drugs or in the month after you stop.
Besides feeling somewhat sad and uninterested in things, you may also:
- be irritable
- have trouble falling asleep, wake up very early, or sleep too much
- have little appetite or eat too much
- be easily tired and low in energy
- have low sexual desire and function
- feel worthless and guilty
- have trouble concentrating or remembering things
- feel hopeless or just not care about anything
- have unexplained pain in your back or abdomen, or get headaches
- worry that you will never feel better
- think about suicide
During the manic periods you have days when you may:
- have a very high self-worth and feel “on top of the world”
- be very talkative and talk fast, maybe so fast that others have trouble following what you are saying
- have racing thoughts and ideas to the point of being disorganized and muddled
- have trouble concentrating and find yourself jumping from one idea to the next
- be very restless and hyperactive
- go for days with little or no sleep without feeling tired
- be very irritable and get into fights with others
- have bursts of high interest in sex and sexual activity
- be too active and act on impulse. For example, you might spend all your money and go into debt, or take sudden trips
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider or a mental health professional can tell you if your symptoms are substance-induced mood disorder. He or she will ask about your symptoms and your drug or alcohol use. You may be asked to have some lab tests to rule out medical problems such as hormone imbalances. There are blood and urine tests to check for substance abuse.
How is it treated?
If you have been abusing drugs, go to a substance abuse therapist or program for help with stopping and handling withdrawal symptoms. Do not suddenly stop using drugs without professional help. Stopping some drugs abruptly can be very dangerous, and may even result in death.
See your healthcare provider if you believe that a medicine may be causing changes in your mood. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a change in medicine or treatment for your symptoms.
Substance-induced mood disorder can be treated with either group or individual psychotherapy. Therapy in a group with other people having substance abuse problems is often very helpful. In some cases, medicines for depression or anxiety may help you to stop substance abuse. Discuss the options with your healthcare provider or therapist.
Most towns and cities have chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Look for these in your community.
Claims have been made that certain herbal and dietary products help people avoid a return to substance abuse. No herb or dietary supplement has been proven to consistently or completely stop substance abuse. Supplements are not tested or standardized and may vary in strength and effects. They may have side effects and are not always safe.
Learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and psychotherapy.
How long will the effects last?
Substance-induced mood disorder usually lasts as long as you continue substance abuse, or until you have gone a month or more without abusing substances. The treatments listed above most often will help you to remain free of drug use.
How can I take care of myself?
If you have been abusing drugs, go to a substance abuse program or skilled mental health professional for help with stopping the substance abuse and handling the withdrawal symptoms.
If you have been depressed due to side effects from medicine, there are things you can do that will help reduce your depression.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial. Staying physically and socially active is very important. Having regular sleep and eating patterns will also help you.
To help prepare you to stop substance abuse and prevent a return to drug use:
- Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
- Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
- Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Don’t use alcohol and drugs. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
- Avoid situations where people are likely to use alcohol or drugs.
- Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
- Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
When should I seek help?
Seek professional help if you think that you may have a mood disorder caused by drugs or medicine.
Get emergency help immediately if you or a loved one have serious thoughts of suicide or harming others. Call for police help if you or a loved one have violent behavior, such as destroying property or threatening others
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- Bipolar Disorder Treatment and Co-Occurring Disorders (casapalmera.com)
- Epigenetics and Mood Disorders – Mayo Clinic (lugenfamilyoffice.com)
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- Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed: Be aware of symptoms and treatment (mlive.com)
- Substance-abuse research to include students texting about impulsive behavior (medcitynews.com)
- Abuse of prescription drugs on the rise among Americans (courierpress.com)