By Becky Risley
Becky Risley, UWE's Specialist Drug and Alcohol practitioner highlights some of the side effects substance use can have on one's mental health and some tips on dealing with them.
Using substances when you're feeling low can be unpredictable and can sometimes worsen how we feel. Many different factors can impact how a drug affects us, such as how well we slept, what we’ve eaten and drank that day and the environment we choose to use in.
Using alcohol or other drugs in an environment we are not familiar with can make us feel uneasy and unsafe.
Using alcohol or other drugs with people we don’t know or trust can change the experience of a substance.
If you’re planning on using a substance, consider:
Set (mind-set) – am I in a good state of mind to do this right now?
Setting – is this a safe environment for me to do this in? who am I with? Do I feel safe with them?
Some common side-effects of substance use that can effect your mental wellbeing are:
Hangxiety - the term used to describe the crippling feeling of anxiety after a heavy drinking session.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause blackouts, not only is this dangerous, but it can also leave us feeling very unsettled and anxious the next day when we can’t remember where we have been or who we were with. This in conjunction with the natural mild levels of anxiety caused by alcohol consumption can leave us feeling Hangxious!
How to avoid – counting your drinks, making a record of each drink, or drinking a soft drink in between each alcoholic drink can be a good way to control your alcohol consumption.
How to treat – well, now the damage is done the best thing you can do is get up and out of bed, drink a pint of water and eat some food and speak to your friends. Connecting with others will reduce the anxiety.
Comedown - the term used to describe feeling low, anxious, exhausted, emotionally fragile following a night on stimulants (MDMA, Cocaine, Amphetamine). Whilst using drugs is going to impact how you feel in the days after, there are things in our control which can lessen the damage.
Staying up until 5am even without using substances is going mess with your sleep pattern and throw your routine up in the air leaving you feel groggy and grumpy, just remember nothing exciting happens after 3am! You wouldn’t do a 6 hours HIIT work out and expect to feel great at the end of it.
Dancing for hours on end, with the occasional smoke break and a lack of water its going to hurt in the days after! Using isotonic drinks can be a great aid if you struggle to get off the dance floor!
Whilst we know the advice is to avoid alcohol whilst using drugs, this doesn’t always happen – whilst you may not want to avoid alcohol completely, I’m sure you’d like to lessen the hangover! Drinking isotonic drinks or water 500mls per hour will help your recovery in the days to come.
Paranoia - many people find that they experience paranoia when using cannabis. Paranoia is thinking and feeling like you are being threatened in some way, even if there is no evidence, or very little evidence, that you are – this might present itself as thinking your friends are laughing at/talking about you.
This appears to be able to come from nowhere but once it's started it seems to stick around, meaning some people find after years of smoking and having no problem that once the paranoia starts it returns each time they smoke.
High levels of THC are associated with paranoia and as it’s hard to know the levels of THC in cannabis products, it can be a game of Russian roulette when you choose to smoke.
Fortunately most people find that once they stopped smoking the paranoia when away!
For more information about Becky Risley's role as UWE's Specialist Drug and Alcohol practitioner click here Meet your Specialist Drugs and Alcohol Practitioner (thestudentsunion.co.uk)
For further support and information about UWE services click here Drugs and alcohol - Stay fit and healthy | UWE Bristol