Drug use and Mental Health


If you are HIV positive, you are more likely to have to contend with mental health issues at some point in your life than someone without the virus.
'Mental health' means your overall well-being, such as your emotions and moods, can often be overlooked when you are busy trying to stay physically healthy. Mental health issues can be further complicated when we add drugs into the mix.
For example, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, using recreational drugs puts you at higher risk of these getting worse or developing more serious mental health problems. If you're prone to mental health problems, using drugs can trigger them; but you might not realise you are vulnerable at the time and only discover this when drugs trigger a problem.

It is also important to keep in mind that the side-effects of some HIV medication can lead to depression.
Someone diagnosed with schizophrenia and other serious mental illness should definitely not use illegal recreational drugs. The heavier and longer your drug use, the more likely you are to have mental health problems which can result in even more dangerous problems, such as forgetting to take your HIV medication or having very risky sex. Serious mental illness like psychosis (i.e. not knowing what is real and what's not) can be the result of heavy use of some drugs.
It is still unclear whether ecstasy increases the risk of depression or long-term memory loss. It's worth remembering that alcohol is a depressant, so it will make someone who has depression feel worse.

Early diagnosis of a mental health problem is essential to help you get the best treatment and attention - particularly if you are HIV positive and using drugs.

Remember that sometimes your best source of help and support could be closer than you think - talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you're experiencing. They can also support you in looking for professional help.
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