Substance Induced Mood Disorders

Substance Induced Mood Disorders

Substance abuse can have a negative impact on your mood and even cause disorders. If you find yourself turning to substances more and more, you may be at risk of developing a substance-induced mood disorder.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at substance induced mood disorders.

Substance Induced Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are a class of diagnoses that refer to the inability to maintain a stable, neutral – or even positive – state of emotion. A person’s mood consists of more than simply having feelings, as a mood describes the types of feelings which permeate the majority of waking hours. Feelings can come and go throughout a day, but mood becomes a pattern.

When experiences of negative mood are created as a result of using drugs or alcohol, the mental health diagnosis changes to reflect one of being substance-induced. This clarification in terms is used to indicate the possibility that, without the influence and effects of the drugs or alcohol, the person in question may be able to manage life more effectively. In order to receive a diagnosis of substance-induced mood disorder, the symptoms of low or fluctuating mood must not have been present prior to beginning to use the substance, must have occurred within one month of use, and must cause significant distress for the individual or loved ones.

So, what are some common substance inducted mood disorders?

Common Substances Contributing to Mood Disorder

It is possible for any substance to alter our ability to effectively manage our mood. It is in the very nature of chemical substances to enter our bodies and produce a change in our minds, emotions, and perceptions. While most people start out with using substances to have a good time, this biological hijacking can quickly turn into a problem.


When we take our first sips of alcohol, it is typically a pleasurable experience. This is because the mechanisms of alcohol work to direct our brains to release pleasurable chemicals. Alcohol hijacks the normal brain and body functions, initially encouraging us to relax and live in the moment. As the number of drinks – or the number of months drinking – increases, this initial euphoria begins to take a bad turn. Chemically, alcohol is classed as a depressant drug. This means that it shuts down some of the processes of our central nervous system, including our brain. 

As short-term memory is impaired and cognitive filters are removed, we can end up tapping into the deeper recesses of our irrational side. Due to the effects on the brain, drinking can result in experiencing the intense, negative, emotions that we had been successfully able to suppress while fully conscious. If we end up regretting our primitive behaviors in the morning, we are setting the stage for ongoing feelings of guilt and anxiety. If we persist in making drinking a regular part of our week, we are priming ourselves for a vicious cycle of drinking to forget the negative feelings while simultaneously creating more of them.

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Opioids are one of the most dominant drug addictions in the United States. This is largely due to the over-prescribing of opioids by medical doctors. While it is common for those who already suffer from a mood disorder to seek relief in using opioid medications, it has also been found that opioid use increases the likelihood of developing a first-time mood disorder. It is believed that this creation of depression stems from the way that opioids hijack the brain’s reward system. Over time, the brain will adapt to the substance in a way that causes it to wait for more of the opioids before releasing the pleasurable hormones and chemicals which are necessary to regulate mood.

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The fact that sedatives are in a class of drugs that are literally called depressives can give you a clue about how they can contribute to the development of a mood disorder. While classing a drug as a depressive technically refers to the effect of the substance on the functioning of the nervous system, this effect also works on the mood. Due to the effects of sedatives in slowing down brain function, users may find themselves trapped in a mental fog. It can become hard to find inspiration and enjoyment in activities or interactions, which is a hallmark of multiple mood disorders.


Unlike some classes of drugs, amphetamines are the opposite of a depressant. These drugs provide the nervous system with a boost of production energy, resulting in an increase in focus, inspiration, and tenacity. What goes up must come down, however, and the periods following the high of the drug are often ones of severe lows. Those suffering from the withdrawal symptoms of amphetamines can experience listlessness, disinterest in previously enjoyed activities, and feelings of emptiness. These are all symptoms of a depressive disorder, and the intensity of the negative mood can increase over time.


Hallucinogens have seen an increase in interest and attention over the past few years. The LSD focus of the hippy movement has largely given way to a fascination with drugs such as DMT and ayahuasca. Even mental health professionals are currently experimenting with the idea of utilizing these hallucinogens as a means of treating conditions such as depression. As is typical with any other substance – prescribed or not – the very same drugs that can treat a mood disorder are also capable of producing one. Those who end up experiencing the quintessential “bad trip” can end up riding that train for hours, days, or even longer.


Those who are protective of their right to enjoy their morning coffee without guilt continue to have a bit of reprieve from the ever-growing risks of substances contributing to mental health disorders. While there is an increasing focus on the negative effects of caffeine on our ability to maintain a regulated mood, the verdict is still out as to whether there are more benefits than drawbacks to consuming our caffeinated beverages. That being said, there is always the issue of moderation when it comes to consuming substances. Becoming too dependent on the boost that is provided by caffeine can carry similar – albeit less extreme – side effects to those produced by amphetamine use.


The verdict on the effect of nicotine on mood is similar to that for caffeine. Smoking and vaping are increasingly discouraged by health officials, primarily due to the negative physical effects that arise. When it comes to mental health, researchers are at odds as to whether nicotine helps to regulate mood, or contributes to mood dysregulation.