My story is about the effects that recreational drugs had on my mental health. I always thought that a drug problem meant that you had to be addicted to drugs. I never had any addiction, but social drug use really had a negative effect on me. That’s why I think it’s important to tell my story to others.

After secondary school I got a place studying science at university. At this time I began to smoke cannabis socially with my friends and classmates. All my friends were smoking it and it didn’t seem to have any negative effect on them. I also used to go clubbing and took Ecstasy and Speed a few times. I didn’t think there was a problem.

However, over time, smoking cannabis began to make me feel very uncomfortable and out of place. I began thinking that my friends were talking about me behind my back. It wasn’t long before I started to have panic attacks at college. Soon going to college became something that I dreaded.
Stupidly I continued smoking as I didn’t want my friends to think that there was anything wrong with me but this only made things worse. The more I smoked, the more uncomfortable I got, and the more uncomfortable I got, the more I would go in on myself and isolate myself from reality. I spent less time interacting with other people unless it was absolutely necessary.

I dreaded having to leave the house everyday as I felt very selfconscious in public. I felt like my mind was going a million miles an hour. I didn’t mingle with my classmates for more than a few minutes at a time and would spend my lunchtimes locked in the toilets as I was petrified of having to interact with people.

Eventually it got too much for me and I had a breakdown. I went to the doctor and was admitted to hospital as soon as my exams were over. I spent about 6 weeks in hospital. In a way it was good because I needed a break from everything. I was put on antidepressants which helped a great deal. For the first time in a long time my mind cleared up a bit.

However my time spent trying to fight my symptoms had taken its toll on me. It seemed as if I had run out of energy and my will to get on with life was very low. I had a lack of confidence in my ability to make decisions. I stopped thinking positively about my future as I felt that my symptoms would be always with me no matter what I tried to do. I felt lonely and depressed. I constantly had suicidal thoughts. It was very tough at the time.

One day I picked up a leaflet about a local GROW Mental Health support group. I instantly became determined to go to a meeting as I knew I needed to gain some control of my mental health.I have to say I felt very nervous in the first few meetings as I was among people I did not know and I felt quite panicky. However,I knew that I didn’t have to put up a front about my problems anymore and that I could be open and honest about my mental health problems without being ridiculed. I attend the support meetings every week and I feel like I have totally recovered from my breakdown.

Paul's Tips

You don't have to be addicted to drugs or drink for it to be a problem…..If it gives you negative side-effects then it is already a problem
Don’t feel under pressure to take drugs. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s ok to say no
Do talk to someone you can trust if you feel anxious, distressed or suicidal
It’s ok to talk to a G.P. or Counselor. You’d be surprised how understanding they can be