What are Substance-Induced Mood Disorders?

substance-induced mood disorder

What are Substance-Induced Mood Disorders?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 9.2 million adults in the United States have a substance abuse issue and mental health condition occurring at the same time.[1] While many people develop addiction due to self-medicating the symptoms of their underlying mental health conditions, sometimes substance abuse comes first and triggers the mental illness. When someone develops a mental illness as a result of drug abuse, it is sometimes considered a substance-induced mood disorder.

What is a Substance-Induced Mood Disorder?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines a substance-induced mood disorder as a “significant and persistent emotional disturbance believed to be caused directly by the physiological effects of a substance, which may be a drug of abuse, a medicinal drug, or a heavy metal or toxin.”[2]

When you are suffering from a substance-induced mood disorder, the symptoms you experience are not directly caused by the current use of a drug. Instead, these symptoms stem from damage or changes to your brain because of long-term drug abuse. The mood disturbances are also typically more severe than the symptoms typically caused by intoxication or withdrawal.

Several conditions fall under the umbrella term of substance-induced mood disorders, including:[3]

What Causes Substance-Induced Mood Disorders?

The primary cause of substance-induced mood disorders is being exposed to, taking, or misusing certain substances and medications. Specifically, the psychological effects of intoxication and withdrawal can lead to the development of one of these conditions.

You could develop this condition from being exposed to or abusing one of the following substances:

  • Prescription medications like steroids, psychotropic drugs, hypertensive medications, sedatives, or anti-anxiety medications
  • Alcohol
  • Legal and illicit opioids
  • Cannabis
  • Hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin
  • Stimulants like cocaine or amphetamine
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco
  • Toxins such as the ones found in gasoline, paint thinners, pesticides, or certain glues
  • Heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury, or chromium

Many experts believe that these conditions are caused by substances altering the transmissions of chemical messages in the brain in important neural circuits. Substance-induced mood disorders are fairly common among alcoholics, as 40-60% experience substance-induced depression.[3]

Symptoms of Substance-Induced Mood Disorders

The symptoms of substance-induced mood disorders mimic the symptoms of other psychiatric conditions. For example, someone may experience symptoms similar to depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad, guilty, or worthless
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unexplained fatigue and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mania
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Anxiety
  • Reoccurring thoughts or behaviors that you feel like you must repeat continuously

A mental health professional must determine that you were using or exposed to a substance or medication that can cause these illnesses in order to receive a diagnosis. In addition, your symptoms must:

  • Cause significant impairments to function or distress
  • Appear within a month of intoxication from, exposure to, or withdrawal from a substance
  • Not have developed before exposure to a substance or medication
  • Not only occur while intoxicated by a substance or medication

If you or a loved one experience the above-mentioned symptoms after a period of substance abuse, you may have a substance-induced mood disorder. Without comprehensive treatment, your addiction and mental health condition could continue to worsen, making it even more difficult for you to function in everyday life.

Find Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Today

While many people begin abusing substances to numb their emotions and issues, sometimes drug use can lead to the development of mental illness. If you or a loved one begin experiencing the symptoms of a mood disorder after abusing prescription or illicit drugs, you may have a substance-induced mental health condition.

Substance-induced mood disorders can be treated with the help of a dual-diagnosis rehab program. Both the substance use disorder and the mental health condition must be treated simultaneously to ensure that you remain abstinent from the drug that caused your illness. Reputable dual diagnosis treatment programs like Florida Recovery Group can provide you with the support and tools you need to maintain sobriety and manage the symptoms of your psychiatric condition.

To learn more about our treatment programs or to find help for yourself or a loved one, contact Florida Recovery Group today.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/medications-counseling-related-conditions/co-occurring-disorders
  2. https://dictionary.apa.org/substance-induced-mood-disorder
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555887/