Which Drugs Have the Strongest Negative Impact on Mental Health?
Meta description: Various factors can adversely affect mental health, including drug abuse. Here are the drugs that have the strongest negative impact on mental health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in June 2022, highlighting the need for a transformation in mental health and the care given to maintain mental health worldwide. According to the report, depression and anxiety went up by over 25% in 2020 alone, with trends still ongoing. Various factors can negatively affect mental health, including drug abuse. Here are the drugs that have the strongest negative impact on mental health.

Various Mental Health Disorders

Depression is a mental health disorder affecting 350 million people worldwide. Although not everyone who has a mental health disorder is someone who uses or abuses drugs, poor mental health and drug abuse are closely linked. Sometimes, people who develop a mental health disorder turn to drug use, while other times, people begin using drugs with no previous mental health disorders. However, developing a drug addiction can often result in addiction and the withdrawal symptoms associated with those drugs, including mental health disorders.

WHO identifies eight common forms of mental health disorders as the following:



       Bipolar disorder

       Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

       Eating Disorders

       Disruptive Behavior and Dissocial Disorder

       Neurodevelopmental Disorders

This order follows the number of people who struggle with these disorders worldwide, from greatest to least, making anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder the top three. But what role is medication playing in these numbers?

The Key Players

According to VeryWell Mind, a 2018 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that more than one-third of U.S. adults take prescription medications that could cause depression or an increased risk of suicide. Along with the research that appears in JAMA, various published studies show the link between prescription medications and the risk of suicide. While these medications cannot be said to directly cause depression or suicidal thoughts, it is important to consider their potential as contributing factors to negative mental health.

Not all drugs that have the potential to contribute to poor mental health are the same class of drugs, and nor do they all carry the same level of warning for abuse. However, some of them are notoriously known for high dependency and abuse. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration identifies them with its black box drug warnings. The drugs include anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, anticonvulsant medications, such as barbiturates, and attention-deficit hyperactivity ADHD stimulant drug medications, such as Ritalin.

Unlike stimulant drugs, benzos and barbiturates are depressants, which does mean they work in the body differently. However, what both depressants and stimulants have in common is that they directly affect the central nervous system. Both drugs manipulate the signaling between the brain and the rest of the body. When the drugs work as intended, they achieve their desired effects with little to no side effects.

However, everyone has different body chemistry and lifestyle, as well as a different diet and dosage amount when taking these drugs. When these things are considered together, they result in a different experience, which can explain why sometimes the negative side effects that contribute to poor mental health take place. It also explains why the FDA provides these important warnings concerning these drugs.

What to Do About This Issue

While it is impossible to guarantee whether a drug can cause certain side effects in any given person, it is important to know the risks associated with these drugs. But it is also important to know what condition our mental health is in before taking these drugs. Added risks come into play when we might already be struggling with a mental health disorder, which is one of the reasons why it is important to take medications that have been prescribed specifically for us by a doctor who is aware of our medical history.

Additionally, it is important to pay attention to our mental health when we are on these medications and take all the necessary steps to maintain our mental health if it continues to trend in a negative direction.


World Health Organization. (2022 Jun 17). WHO highlights urgent need to transform mental health and mental health care. Retrieved https://www.who.int/news/item/17-06-2022-who-highlights-urgent-need-to-transform-mental-health-and-mental-health-care

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.) The Connection Between Depression and Drug Abuse. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/treatment-guide/dual-diagnosis/depression/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). What are the Differences Between Benzodiazepines? Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/benzodiazepines/differences/

World Health Organization. (2022 Jun 17). Mental Disorders. Retrieved https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders

VeryWell Mind. (2020 Sep 17). 10 drugs That Can Cause Depression. Retrieved https://www.verywellmind.com/drugs-that-can-cause-depression-1067458

The University of Chicago Medicine. (2019, Nov 4). Study Calculates Links Between Prescription Medications and Risk for Suicide. Retrieved https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/research-and-discoveries-articles/study-calculates-links-between-prescription-medications-and-risk-for-suicide

FDA. (2011 Oct). Warnings and Precautions, Contraindications, and Boxed Warning Sections of Labeling for Human Prescription Drug and Biological Products — Content and Format. Retrieved https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/warnings-and-precautions-contraindications-and-boxed-warning-sections-labeling-human-prescription

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Guide to Benzodiazepine Addiction and Treatment. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/benzodiazepines/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Nembutal Abuse: Symptoms, Overdose Help &Treatment. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/sedatives/nembutal/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.) Stimulant Addiction. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/stimulants/

Delphi Health Group. (nd). Effects of Ritalin: Can Nonprescription Ritalin Alter Brain Chemistry? Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/blog/effects-of-ritalin/

DEA. (2020 April). Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines. Retrieved https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Benzodiazepenes-2020_1.pdf

FDA. (2020, October 2). FDA Requiring Boxed Warning Updated to Improve Safe Use of Benzodiazepine Drug Class. Retrieved fromhttps://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-requiring-boxed-warning-updated-improve-safe-use-benzodiazepine-drug-class

U.S Department of Health and Human Services. (2008, May 7). Does Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Increase the Risk for Suicide? Retrieved https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/does-alcohol-increase-risk-of-suicide/index.html

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