Mild Neurocognitive Disorders and Substance Abuse

Mild Neurocognitive Disorders and Substance Abuse

Mild neurocognitive disorders are characterized by life-interfering cognitive problems that go beyond the normal mental decline of old age. These disorders are characterized as mild because they have not developed into full-blown major neurocognitive disorders yet, such as dementia. People suffering from mild neurocognitive disorders may struggle with substance abuse. Some of the different problems that can occur among those with a mild neurocognitive disorder that can lead to substance abuse include the following:

  • Experiencing impaired or lost memory of when medications are taken, which can result in double or triple doses
  • Being overwhelmed by decisions
  • Abusing a substance to offset anxiety
  • Experiencing increased impulsivity
  • Making poor decisions to consume too much of a substance
  • Having increased feelings of depression, which can lead to self-medicating in order to feel happier
  • Experiencing increased irritability and excessive aggression, which can lead to self-medicating in order to relax
  • Experiencing excessive anxiety, which can lead to substance abuse in order to offset symptoms

Mild neurocognitive disorders are characterized by impairment in at least one or more of the following cognitive domains:

  • Complex attention
  • Executive function
  • Learning and memory
  • Language
  • Perceptual motor or social cognition

The evidence of the mild cognitive decline from a previous state is commonly witnessed by the individual or a family member or friend. People struggling with mild neurocognitive disorders often abuse substances such as alcohol in order to offset new problems.

In other cases, people who currently abuse substances or have abused substances in the past are at a greater risk for developing mild neurocognitive disorders that often lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Many substances produce chemical changes within the brain that can lead to permanent impairments. Many substances of abuse can damage neurological pathways and impair a person from properly receiving messages sent within the brain. Abusing drugs can negatively affect memory and abilities to learn new things properly.

Dealing with new mental impairments due to a mild neurocognitive disorder can be difficult. Many people will abuse substances in order to relieve the stress and worry that often accompanies the new mental impairments. Seeking out immediate treatment from licensed professionals to address problems, cognitive impairment, and substance abuse is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Early detection of dementia may also provide opportunities to receive treatment that is otherwise ineffective once full-blown dementia has developed.

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