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The Emotional Effects of Drugs and Addiction

The Emotional Effects of Drug Addiction

Addiction, alcoholism, and substance abuse can be harmful to your mind and body.

While many people understand how addiction hurts your appearance or other physical changes that take place due to prolonged substance use, the emotional effects of drugs, alcohol, and their abuse are often less understood. Banyan Boca Mental Health is here to take a closer look at what these effects are, how deeply they may run in a person, and how said individual can effectively manage them to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

What Addiction Does to Your Emotions

Addiction typically exists hand in hand with negative emotions like depression, anxiety, loneliness, and even anger. When a person who is struggling with addiction or alcoholism feels these negative emotions, they often abuse substances to quell the emotions. Then, as withdrawal sets in, the emotions worsen, and they must use more just to feel normal. This creates a vicious cycle of addiction that the affected individual may substantially struggle to break out of, especially with time.

The emotional challenges aren’t limited to withdrawal; people often experience greater difficulty controlling their emotions at all stages of alcoholism and addiction. The very mechanisms of addiction, cravings, and impulses are linked to changes in the brain that only intensify as the addiction continues.1 People who are struggling with addiction may face heightened feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness, and anger.

Active addiction can worsen existing mental health challenges, such as anxiety. The very mechanisms that reinforce drug abuse in brain regions like the amygdala can also enhance problems like anxiety through the same pathways that reinforce addiction.2 As a person’s addiction worsens, their emotional challenges and changes often worsen as well.

Emotional Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse

Different substances affect the brain and emotions in different ways. Prescription drugs, such as prescription opiates, lead to a different set of emotional changes. Opiates, for example, are prescription drugs that can lead to striking emotional changes. Long-term opiate use was found to alter blood flow between both hemispheres of the brain, with one hemisphere receiving slightly more blood than the other. In patients who have greater blood flow in the right hemisphere of the brain, these blood flow changes caused by opiate abuse are linked to more negative moods.3 Other prescription drugs like benzos are also associated with emotional changes like mood swings, increased anxiety, and depression.

What Are the Psychosocial Effects of Drug Abuse?

The emotional effects of drugs are not the only factor the user should be concerned with. Drug misuse can also have a significant negative psychosocial impact on a person's relationships and general quality of life. Drug abuse is a complicated problem with consequences that go well beyond its immediate physical effects because of the interaction of psychological and physical elements. The emotional, social, and behavioral changes that are included in the psychosocial repercussions can drastically change a person's course in life.

Some of the psychosocial consequences of abusing drugs can include:

  • Impaired cognitive function: Chronic drug use can impair cognitive function, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making abilities.
  • Social isolation: Drug abuse can strain relationships with family and friends, leading to social withdrawal and isolation.
  • Financial strain: The cost of sustaining a drug habit can lead to financial instability, contributing to poverty and economic hardship.
  • Legal consequences: Involvement with illegal substances can result in legal troubles, including arrests, fines, and imprisonment.

Drug abuse's psychosocial effects frequently result in a vicious cycle whereby the negative impacts of substance use exacerbate pre-existing issues and increase the desire to use drugs as a coping mechanism. One may experience strained relationships, career setbacks, and stunted personal growth. The stigma attached to drug abuse can also cause social distancing, which makes it difficult for people to ask for assistance or support. We encourage those in this situation themselves to contact the professionals at our Florida mental health center and learn about the resources we can provide.

Types of Drugs That Are Often Abused

Drug abuse is a broad term that includes a variety of substances with different effects on the body and psyche of humans. Drugs influence a person's emotions, perceptions, and behavior, and when someone becomes addicted to said influence, it can lead to a myriad of problems. Addressing the complexities of addiction requires an understanding of the psychological effects of drugs and their different types. Substances that either intensify or modify emotional experiences fall into two broad categories that encompass a substantial portion of drug abuse.

Drugs that make you emotional include:

  • MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): MDMA heightens emotions of empathy and closeness. In social situations, parties, and concerts, it is frequently abused.
  • Cannabis (Marijuana): Although cannabis can elicit a variety of emotions, such as euphoria and relaxation, it can also exacerbate anxiety or paranoia in certain people. The pursuit of altered emotional states is frequently linked to its use.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin): These can elicit a wide range of intense emotional experiences, from profound insights to heightened emotional sensitivity. Misuse, however, can result in erratic and sometimes upsetting emotional responses.

Drugs that numb emotional pain include:

  • Opioids (Heroin, Prescription Painkillers): Opioids are strong analgesics that can cause both emotional numbness and euphoria. Addiction and dependence are unfortunately very likely to occur, which makes them a serious public health risk.
  • Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium): Prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders, benzodiazepines can induce a calming effect, numbing emotional distress. Misuse, however, can lead to dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol depresses the central nervous system, which temporarily eases emotional pain. It is frequently used as a self-medication method. On the other hand, excessive and ongoing alcohol consumption can worsen emotional problems and lead to addiction.

Effective preventive and intervention strategies require an understanding of the motivations behind substance abuse, including the desire for heightened emotional experiences or the numbing of emotional pain. It emphasizes how critical it is to treat underlying emotional and mental health problems, encourage healthy coping strategies, and give people the support they need to face obstacles in life without turning to substance abuse. For long-term recovery from the emotional effects of drug addiction, an all-encompassing approach to treatment is essential.

Treating the Emotional Effects of Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

At Banyan Treatment Centers Boca Raton, we are here to help our patients heal from the numerous effects of addiction. This includes support for the physical effects of substance abuse as well, such as addiction’s effects on the skeletal and nervous systems.

Healing the emotional damage done by addiction and alcoholism requires dedication, therapy, and support. Although our Boca Raton mental health facilities do not treat addiction itself, we are highly equipped to address the emotional damage that prospective patients may be experiencing. We are proud to offer the Boca behavioral health programs and guidance our patients need to get and stay healthy.

Verify your insurance or call 888-280-4763 to learn how we can help you heal at our Florida rehabs and which treatment programs are the best possible fit for recovery.


  1. NCBI - The dark side of emotion: the addiction perspective
  2. NCBI - The detrimental effects of emotional process dysregulation on decision-making in substance dependence
  3. NCBI - Opioid Addiction Changes Cerebral Blood Flow Symmetry


Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.