Substance-induced mood disorders, or mental disorders, are persistent mental health conditions impacting mood that stem from the physiological effects of substances, certain medications, heavy metals, or toxins.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is the manual that helps mental health practitioners diagnose and evaluate mental conditions, lists several conditions that would fall under this umbrella term.

These disorders include substance- or medication-induced depressive disorder and substance- or medication-induced anxiety disorder.

People who have substance misuse disorders, such as alcohol, cocaine, or opioid use disorders, are more likely to develop substance-induced mental disorders.

People who take certain medications that can cause substance-induced mental disorders also have a higher risk of developing them.

This article discusses what substance-induced mood disorders are, what causes them, some risk factors, and symptoms of the conditions.

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According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a substance-induced mood disorder is a persistent, significant emotional disorder or disturbance that stems directly from the physiological effects of:

  • substances, including legal substances, such as alcohol or marijuana (in some states), or illegal substances
  • some medications
  • exposure to heavy metals or toxins

Several specific conditions fall under the term “substance-induced mental disorders,” such as:

  • substance- or medication-induced depressive disorder
  • substance- or medication-induced psychotic disorder
  • substance- or medication-induced bipolar or related disorder
  • substance- or medication-induced anxiety disorder
  • substance- or medication-induced obsessive-compulsive or related disorder

Being exposed to, taking, or misusing some substances and medications is the primary cause of substance-induced mental disorders. In particular, the psychological effects of intoxication and withdrawal from certain substances tend to cause substance-induced mental disorders.

Someone may develop a substance-induced mood disorder from being exposed to or misusing the following:

  • prescription medications, such as:
    • steroids
    • psychotropic drugs
    • hypertensive medications and other heart medications
    • interferons
    • sedatives
    • antianxiety medications
  • substances and medications that can cause intoxication, such as:
    • alcohol
    • legal and illegal opioids, such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl
    • cannabis
    • hallucinogens, such as psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
    • stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines
  • caffeine
  • tobacco
  • toxins, such as those found in:
    • gasoline
    • paint or paint thinners
    • pesticides
    • some glues and other adhesives
  • heavy metals, such as:
    • lead
    • arsenic
    • cadmium
    • mercury
    • chromium

Researchers think that substances cause substance-induced mental disorders by altering or interfering with the transmission of chemical messengers in the brain in important neural circuits.

Research suggests that substance-induced mental disorders are fairly common in people with substance misuse disorders. An estimated 40–60% of people with alcohol use disorders experience periods or episodes of substance-induced depression. Around 55% of people with opioid use disorders experience substance-induced depression.

Symptoms of substance-induced mental disorders tend to mimic those of other mental conditions, such as:

Symptoms associated with some substance misuse mental disorders include:

A doctor may have trouble distinguishing primary mental disorders from substance-induced mental disorders, as they often cause similar symptoms.

To diagnose a substance-induced mental disorder, a doctor must first determine that the person is using, or being exposed to, a substance or medication that can cause a substance-induced mental disorder.

After confirmation of this, symptoms must:

  • cause significant impairments to functioning or distress
  • appear within a month of intoxication with, withdrawal from, or exposure to a substance or medication
  • not have developed before substance or medication use or exposure
  • not only occur during active delirium from a substance or medication

Before they diagnose a substance-induced mental disorder, a doctor may also need to observe or evaluate someone’s symptoms after they have stopped taking, using, or being exposed to the substance believed to be causing the disorder.

In most cases, the treatment for substance-induced mental disorders involves stopping use, misuse, or exposure to substances or medications causing the disorder.

However, people who experience severe or complicated symptoms of substance-induced mental disorders may require medical monitoring or supportive care during withdrawal.

People with substance-induced depressive disorders may also benefit from taking antidepressants during withdrawal from the causative medication.

People with substance-induced mania may benefit from taking second-generation antipsychotic medications for a short time, such as olanzapine or quetiapine.

In some cases, people with substance-induced mental disorders may also benefit from psychotherapy or familial support to help them stop using, or abstain from, the substances or medications causing the disorder.

Symptoms and treatment of withdrawal are based on the substance a person has used.

Learn more about types of therapy here.

Most symptoms of substance-induced mental disorders resolve naturally up to 1 month after someone stops taking, misusing, or being exposed to the substance causing the disorder.

People who are able to successfully abstain from or stop exposure to medications or substances that cause the substance-induced mental disorder are more likely to recover and stay healthy.

People with substance-induced mental disorders that live in settings that increase their risk of substance use or misuse, or who continue to be exposed to toxins or heavy metals that cause their disorder, are less likely to recover and have a less favorable outlook.

Substance-induced mental disorders occur when the use or misuse of medications or substances, or exposure to heavy metals or toxins, causes someone to develop conditions that mimic mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Symptoms tend to resemble those of other mental health disorders.

Most people recover from substance-induced mental disorders within a month after they stop using or being exposed to the substance or medication that caused the disorder. Therefore, stopping the use of the substance causing the mental disorder is often the first line of treatment.

In certain cases, medications may also help, as well as talk therapy. If a person is concerned, they should contact a mental health professional to receive a diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

Seeking help for addiction may seem daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support.

If a person or someone close to them is living with addiction, they can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:

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