Teen substance-induced mood disorders are characterized by the mood variation by drug intoxication or its withdrawal. These mood disorders are hard to diagnose since teens are not always able to adequately communicate or express how they feel. Mental health experts believe that substance-induced mood disorders in teens can be some of the most complex disorders to diagnose and treat, particularly because the effects of medications and / or illicit substances can be inconsistent and erratic, for example – at times increasing energy levels; other times causing extreme lethargy; sometimes affecting a mood for a day; or at other times affecting a mood for a number of weeks.

Substance Abuse that Triggers Teen Substance Mood Disorders

  • Alcohol Dependency: The dependency on alcohol is common among teenagers. Their mental health is badly affected as a result, leading to substance-induced mood disorders.
  • Benzodiazepine Drug: Drugs like Librium and Valium fall into this category. Addiction to these drugs can be very damaging, triggering mood disorders.
  • Illicit Drugs: There are a great number of illicit drugs, such as marijuana, heroin, etc. that one could become dependent on. Both their intoxication and subsequent withdrawal symptoms when attempting to abstain are equally dangerous to the brain. Addicted teens require careful and appropriate rehabilitation to treat these addictions, as well as any mood disorders that follow.

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Symptoms of teen substance-induced mood disorders may vary with the extent of the respective addiction. The most common symptoms may include:

  • Ongoing feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy
  • Excessive guilt feelings
  • Feelings of wanting to die
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of interest in usually enjoyed activities
  • Trouble with relationships
  • Sleep problems (for example, insomnia)
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Frequent physical complaints (like fatigue)
  • Running away or making threats of running away
  • Sensitivity to failure or rejection
  • Irrational behavior
  • Decreased performance in school

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Substance-induced mood disorders are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain when chronic use of drugs or alcohol leads to changes in the brain’s neurotransmission to compensate for the constant changes and intensity during intoxication.

Some drugs mimic neurotransmitters. Heroin and prescription opioids, for example, chemically resemble the brain’s natural opioids (endorphin and enkephalin) sufficiently to engage and stimulate their specialized receptors. Since heroin stimulates many more receptors more strongly than the natural opioids, the result is a massive amplification of opioid receptor activity causing extreme or erratic moods. Marijuana mimics cannabinoid neurotransmitters, the most important of which is anandamide (also known as the “bliss molecule”) therefore causing high feelings of bliss, euphoria and joy while under the influence, followed by extreme lows afterward. Nicotine attaches to receptors for acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter for the cholinergic system (parasympathetic nervous system).

Other drugs alter neurotransmission by interacting with molecular components of the sending and receiving process other than receptors. Cocaine, for example, attaches to the dopamine transporter, the molecular conduit that draws free-floating dopamine out of the synapse and back into the sending neuron. As long as cocaine occupies the transporter, dopamine cannot re-enter the neuron. It builds up in the synapse, stimulating receiving-neuron receptors more copiously and producing much greater dopamine impact on the receiving neurons than occurs naturally. This is significant because dopamine helps a person experience pleasure. If the brain’s natural ability to create dopamine is altered, the addict may be unable to feel any kind of pleasure, contentment or joy in daily activities for ongoing periods of time.

Frequently Asked Questions


A full professional psychiatric evaluation is required to diagnose all mood disorders, including substance induced mood disorders. A family evaluation, as well as information from teachers and care providers may also be helpful for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Cautions and Precautions

  • Substance induced mood disorders can often be effectively treated. Treatment should always be based on a full evaluation of the teen and family. Treatment is a process that should be adopted carefully, strategically and in gradual stages.
  • A good rehabilitation program is one of the best ways to gain support and address the disorders. Remember that parents play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.
  • Medicines, when combined with psychotherapy, can prove to be very effective in treatment of mood disorders in teens.
  • Psychotherapy, most often cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy are highly effective methods of therapeutic treatment aiming to change a teen’s distorted views about himself and his environment. The treatment works by shedding negative thoughts, changing old narratives and thought patterns, and providing/identifying tools for effective action to be taken in the case of triggers etc to and ultimately allow the teenager to control and manage his / her dependency on the drugs or alcohol.

Treatment at Beachside Treatment Center

Although substance-induced mood disorders can be difficult to treat, the right detox therapy, consultation, professional care, and patience can help your teenager recover. At Beachside Treatment Center, we operate with expertise, experience, and hope. With stellar consultants, personalized therapeutic care and dedicated involvement in your child’s detox program, we are the ideal rehabilitation facility for you and your loved one. Feel free to contact us today. We are here to support you every step of the way.

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