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Substance-Induced Mood Disorders

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 6, 2019

Substance-induced mood disorders are often the result of stopping the use of a drug and can alter the way a person feels, thinks, or acts for days or sometimes weeks at a time. Stopping medication once a person has become dependent on it, whether the medication is legal or illicit, can cause depression and a feeling of loss of control over actions. Seeking treatment for addiction is the best way to safely stop the use of drugs.

There have been many reports of substance-induced mood disorders since the 1950s, though there is still a lot unknown about this condition. Despite the many cases reported, few case studies have been conducted about it.

If feelings of depression or mania were present prior to taking a medication, then the condition is not considered a substance-induced mood disorder (SIMD). SIMDs mimic mental illness in many ways, making it difficult for health professionals to tell the difference between the two at times.

How Do Substance-Induced Mood Disorders Occur?

Almost all drugs alter the chemical reaction in the central nervous system in some way, causing a fluctuation in chemicals and hormones. This fluctuation can cause permanent changes in the brain’s reward center after taking drugs for a long time.

The 10 Substances that can cause substance-induced mood disorders include:

Substance-induced mood disorders are unique from co-occurring mental disorders because all the psychotic symptoms are a direct result of substance abuse. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that there are nine different substance-induced mood disorders. It is difficult to say which disorder a certain drug will cause in a person.

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The most common among these disorders are mood and bipolar. Researchers like to use the “what goes up must come down and vice versa,” thinking to explain it. This idea is also reflected in the withdrawal symptoms of the drug of choice. With stimulants, for example, the high gives a person energy while withdrawal leaves them feeling fatigued and groggy.

Symptoms Of Substance-Induced Mood Disorders

Unpredictability is common with substance-induced mood disorders. The symptoms are unique to each individual, and depend on: how much and what types of drugs they’ve taken, the amount of time they have been taking the drugs, and whether they mixed multiple substances.

Depending on these factors, the symptoms can sometimes be felt before even stopping the drugs and sometimes are not felt until a few days after stopping them.

Depressive Symptoms

  • feeling sad or uninterested in something a person typically enjoys
  • difficulty sleeping, waking, or sleeping too much
  • changes in appetite and weight
  • low energy
  • low libido
  • feeling worthless and guilty
  • unable to concentrate or remember specific things
  • experiencing physical symptoms, like joint pain or headaches
  • thinking often about suicide or death

Manic Symptoms

  • high sense of self-worth
  • being very talkative and sociable
  • racing thoughts, talking so fast people don’t understand
  • being very restless
  • having feelings of paranoia and mass anxiety
  • going for days with little to no sleep
  • getting into fights with people

Complications Of Substance-Induced Mood Disorders

SIMDs also have risks associated with the diagnoses. Potential complications in people suffering from a SIMD include:

  • suicide
  • homicide
  • lost time at work
  • interpersonal issues
  • prolonged hospital stays

Regular mental evaluations are required for anyone diagnosed with a SIMD to ensure that suicide doesn’t become an issue. These complications are also more likely to happen in someone who has a family history of mental health issues or psychiatric admissions.

Substance-Induced Mood Disorder Diagnosis And Treatment

SIMDs are now diagnosed under the substance/medication-induced mental disorders. Included are mood disorders that develop in the context of the effects of substance abuse and medication. To be classified as a substance-induced mood disorder, the onset of symptoms must happen when the drugs are started, when they take effect, or when withdrawn from the system.

Treatment for SIMD is complex and may require many components. It is recommended that inpatient care is used first. When people suffer from hallucinations, it is not likely that they will talk about it and communicate the extent of their symptoms. Treatment is especially recommended if the person is showing signs of suicide, severely impaired judgment, and a general inability to take care of themselves safely. Treatment stays are typically short.

Once the drug causing the issues has been completely removed, due to a process called detoxification (or detox), a full recovery may be made possible. The detox phase can take up to a month, but is often completed prior to that time.

Therapy is also a recommended treatment avenue for SIMDs. It is important that the person experiencing these extreme feelings and mental states be taught the tools and skills to deal with them. Therapy helps by educating participants on how to regain self-confidence and use external tools to break free of the toxic mindset of a SIMD.

More research is being conducted all the time on SIMDs. If a person has inexplicable feelings after using a substance, he or she could be suffering from a SIMD.

To find a treatment program for a substance-induced mood disorder, contact us today.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition - Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Mood Disorders and Substance Use Disorder: A Complex Comorbidity

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