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How drugs and alcohol can affect your mental health

Learn how recreational drugs and alcohol can affect your mental health, and whether they can cause mental health problems.

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

The effects of recreational drugs might feel pleasant or unpleasant. They may last for a short time or a longer period. Some effects may continue after the drug itself has worn off.

How you react to recreational drugs is likely to depend on what you take, how you take it, and how you feel at the time.

Young White man with a blonde beard looking into the camera.

One more pint

Alcohol only serves to make things worse when you feel low.

Can recreational drugs and alcohol cause mental health problems?

In certain cases, using recreational drugs can lead to long-term mental health problems. For example, taking they might lead to depression or schizophrenia. Or they may cause similar feelings to those you already experience as part of a mental health problem.

You may also depend on recreational drugs and alcohol to help with feelings that you struggle to deal with in other ways. If you use drugs and alcohol in this way, you may be experiencing addiction. See our page on useful contacts for drug and alcohol addiction to find support.

Visit FRANK’s A-Z of drugs for detailed information about how specific drugs can affect your mental health.

When I was using, I didn't have to be me. I could put on a persona or a mask; I could be a totally different person.

Medical uses of recreational drugs

Some recreational drugs may be available for medical use, even if they are usually illegal for the general public. This might include using them to help with mental health problems. For example:

  • Synthetic versions of cannabis are available in some medical settings. Our page on complementary and alternative therapies has more information on cannabis-based medicines.
  • Ketamine, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and LSD are being researched in the UK for possible use in treating mental health problems.

This information was published in June 2022. We will review it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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