With drugs hitting the UK headlines, it seems only fitting to write a short note about alcohol, drugs and mental illness. In clinical practice people commonly tell me that they are unaware about the mental health risks of illicit drug taking, and I am always keen to highlight mental health promotion.
It is known that drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy, LSD and heroin in some people can precipitate an acute mental illness, as well as dependency. Of course, some people who develop a psychotic illness following drug abuse had precursor symptoms of a psychotic illness, and were trying to self-medicate with drugs, which led to an exacerbation of the illness, and sometimes schizophrenia.
Whilst talking of mental health preservation it is also worth briefly discussing alcohol. With alcohol consumption increasing in some age groups and pubs being open longer hours it is important to be constantly vigilant to vulnerablities of alcohol dependence. One way of preventing this is to try and ansure at least two or three days a week are completely alcohol free. Another useful alcohol indicator is to ask the CAGE questionnaire:
Have you ever tried to Cut down on your drinking?
Have you ever got Annoyed because someone mentioned your drinking?
Have you ever felt Guilty about the amount you are drinking?
Have you ever started to drink Early in the morning?
Mental Health Promotion is not about waiting until the sickness has set in, but trying to increase education to help people make informed choices.