How Substance Abuse Affects Your Mood

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Substance abuse can affect every area of your life. Many people turn to substances like drugs or alcohol for relief from mental health conditions, find some sense of escape from ongoing trauma, or deal with the pain of grief or another debilitating event in life.

But in the long run, substance abuse will only worsen the issue. And substance abuse can affect your mood in your day-to-day life.

At first, using a particular substance might make you feel less anxious or even blissful. But over time, your tolerance builds. Going without using can cause frustrating mood swings, but after a time, even using the substance won’t provide the relief that it once did.

Here are a few ways substance abuse can affect your mood.


Over time, substance abuse can lead to depression. You might feel down for long stretches of time, especially when you don’t have access to the substance you’ve been using. And when the effects start to wear off, depression can hit you hard.

Depending on which substance you use, your habit might affect your brain’s production of mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Furthermore, thinking about how substance abuse has disrupted your life can also leave you feeling depressed.


When you no longer feel the effects of a substance, you can easily become irritable. This can also occur when you have to go for days or weeks without taking the substance that you’ve developed a dependance on.

You may resent that you have to deal with the inconveniences of daily life without the numbing effects of the substance. You might snap at your loved ones or coworkers or feel a general sense of discontent throughout the day.

Brain Fog

Substance abuse can make it hard to concentrate. Long-term usage of certain substances may have a lasting effect on your long- or short-term memory. Overall, your forgetfulness can lead to poor performance at work, in school, or other environments.

woman looking at the camera

You may find it difficult to focus on anything, even activities you used to be passionate about. Brain fog can be frustrating. You might feel annoyed at yourself for making mistakes when you can’t concentrate, but no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to focus like you used to.

Guilt and Shame

If you’ve been struggling with substance abuse and faced negative consequences because of it, you might harbor a deep sense of guilt over your past. Even when things seem to be improving for you, you may feel you don’t deserve to be happy because of the mistakes you made before.

Perhaps you’ve apologized to people whom you’ve hurt, but it hasn’t alleviated your guilt. And if you haven’t been able to quit a certain substance, you may feel ashamed that nothing has worked for you yet. You might try to keep your struggles a secret out of embarrassment.

Loss of Control

Sometimes, substance abuse can make you feel you don’t have any control over your emotions. When you’re angry at someone, you can’t hold back. If you feel anxious, you don’t have any healthy outlets to turn to.

Instead, you feel like the only way to get rid of the feeling is by using the substance that you’ve come to rely on. You don’t know how you’ll feel on a given day or how you’ll manage it. You can feel like the substance has come to control your life, and you’ve lost your agency.

Are you struggling to rebuild your life after substance abuse? Working with a substance abuse therapist can help. Feel free to contact us at 916.740.6424 or

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