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November 27, 2022

Stress and Addiction: Can Stress Lead to Drug Abuse?

It's hard to imagine anyone would wake up one day with the goal of becoming an addict. It's not something to which people will aspire.

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November 27, 2022

With that in mind, there are very specific reasons why decent people like you end up falling victim to drug abuse. High levels of stress effects can cause impulsivity, which is why some may turn to substance abuse in order to cope.

The circumstances behind every addiction to drugs and or alcohol will vary greatly from one addiction sufferer to another. While that's certainly a true statement, there is one issue that seems common among a great many addiction sufferers. That one issue relates to their enduring and dealing with stress.

Can Stress Lead to Drug Abuse?

We'll cut right to the chase. Yes, stressful events can lead to drug abuse and drug addiction. It's also quite possible for drug abuse and addiction to create stressors.

Sure, they are plenty of substance use disorder sufferers who started down the road of recreational drug use, only to become addicted. The two key questions far too many people fail to ask are, "why do people feel the need to use drugs recreationally," and "why is it they end up showing no ability or willingness to stop the drug use until problems arise."

The answer to both of these questions is pretty much the same: Most addiction sufferers are using drugs or alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism. With what are they trying to cope?" You guessed it. Many times, it's stress. Risk factors usually progress as follows.

A person feels enormous stress because of life issues. It could be anything from

  • Traumatic life occurrences (abuse, natural disasters, death in the family)
  • Relationship issues
  • Problems related to personal finances
  • Legal issues
  • Emotional/mental problems

In the search for chronic stress relief, far too many people turn to drugs or alcohol use. In the worst cases, people learn that drugs do offer temporary relief from stressful situations  with no regard for how short-lived that relief might be. They eventually learn to repeat their drug abuse as needed for as long as stress has a place in their lives. There are two issues with this thought process.

First, all the drug-taking and drinking in the world will do nothing to alleviate the root causes of stress on a long-term basis. Second, drug abuse will eventually reach the point where it ends up exacerbating the stress. From these two facts, we can surmise that stress can lead to drug abuse and addiction, and drug abuse and addiction will only make it worse.

Addiction Treatment When Signs of Stress Are Apparent

At Hollywood Hills Recovery, we treat a lot of clients who complain about the stress in their lives and aim to improve their well-being. We focus on prioritizing improving mental health by identifying acute stress responses that cause prevalent addictive behaviors that affect young adults and older generations alike. When our therapists hear these complaints, they take note. They take note because they quickly realize that part of the treatment program’s process will need to focus on stress management and identify what are the higher levels of stress.

First and foremost, our efforts go toward addressing the real root causes of the addiction, those seemingly also being the root causes of the stress. Traumatic event, stress-related workplaces and life events can all be examples of stress causes that leads to turning to addictive substances to receive the much desired dopamine. Once we can get a client to understand why they feel the need to self-medicate away their problems, we can get them to own that knowledge. That will serve as the basis for us helping them develop the coping skills they will need in the future should the root causes come calling again and cravings persist.

After a client seems in good stead with the right coping skills, we can start imparting them with knowledge about stress management. Some of the tools for coping with the effects of stress we preach are things like:

  • Reaching out to support groups and supportive loved ones
  • Creating new interests to serve as distractions
  • Implementing a good exercise program
  • Maintaining a good diet
  • Getting plenty of sleep and allowing time for relation
  • Serving others who are dealing with problems
  • Additional therapy and counseling

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