Why Stress Is A Major Contributor To Substance Abuse

Home » Blog » Why Stress Is A Major Contributor To Substance Abuse

Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life, it’s an escapable fact of reality, and it affects all of us at some point in our lives. Stress triggers can come in a range of forms. A variety of factors, such as work pressure, academic performance, financial problems, relationship issues, health concerns, or any other type of stressful event, can cause it. 

Since stress is unavoidable, it’s up to every one of us to learn to deal with advertising and employ constructive action to overcome stress. If not, we can become a slave to stress, which will take a toll on our mental, physical and spiritual well-being. 

The way we cope with stress can have a profound impact on our lives, and unfortunately, some tend to look for quick fixes or something that can provide instant relief or gratification, which is not always a healthy remedy, but one that only treats the symptoms of stress and not the causes. 

Some people, when faced with a stressful situation, don’t try to deal with the situation causing them angst, and instead turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope or subdue the feelings of stress. 

While we can all appreciate kicking back on the couch with our favourite show and a glass of wine after a hard week, when that glass becomes more frequent, or the substances increase in strength to help you attain that feeling of relaxation, it can become problematic. 

When you’re starting to rely on a certain habit, when you’re focusing on escapism or numbing the feelings of stress, and avoiding responsibilities, in favour of a substance, this can be categorised as substance abuse, and it is a major contributor to addiction and other mental health problems. 

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is the use of drugs (prescription and illegal) or alcohol in a way that harms the user or others. It is a serious public health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. 

Substance abuse can lead to addiction, mental health problems, physical health problems, and social problems. It can also have a negative impact on relationships, employment, and overall quality of life.

When the word “addict” or “substance abuse” is brought up, many of us have the idea that it is someone who has lost everything to the battle with drugs and alcohol, but that is by no means the case. Substance abuse can be well hidden by friends, family and colleagues and go years without treatment.  

People do not become addicts overnight; it’s a gradual process in which stress can be the constant trigger pushing a person towards drugs and alcohol. 

How Does Stress Contribute to Substance Abuse?

Stress can contribute to substance abuse in several ways, some that feed on each other and others that work in combination to drive some people towards self-medication. 

  1. Firstly, stress can trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that is associated with the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol can increase feelings of anxiety and make it difficult to cope with stressful situations. When people feel overwhelmed by stress, they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape their problems temporarily.
  2. Secondly, stress can also reduce the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward. When people experience stress, their dopamine levels decrease, which can lead to feelings of sadness and despair. Drugs and alcohol can increase dopamine levels in the brain, which can provide a temporary feeling of pleasure and relief.
  3. Thirdly, stress can also affect the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. When people are stressed, they may find it difficult to make rational decisions and control their impulses. This can lead to impulsive behaviours, such as drug or alcohol use.
  4. Lastly, stress can also lead to social isolation, which is a risk factor for substance abuse. When people are stressed, they may withdraw from social interactions and turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their problems. This can lead to a cycle of addiction, where substance abuse leads to further social isolation and negative emotions.

What are the Consequences of Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse can have serious consequences, including addiction, mental health problems, physical health problems, social problems and financial problems. In some cases, the process of medication through substance abuse only further adds to stress by adding friction at work, in conjunction with family, and compounding financial worries, not to mention your body reacting poorly due to being run down by the combination of stress and substance abuse. 

Mental health issues

Stress can lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. These mental health problems, if left untreated, can lead to a cycle of negative emotions and self-medication.

Physical health issues

Physical health problems such as liver disease, heart disease, and cancer are also associated with stress and later substance abuse. These health problems can be life-threatening and can have a significant impact on the overall quality of life.

Social and family conflict

Social problems such as financial problems, legal problems, and relationship problems are also common among people who abuse drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can only make these stressful situations worse by leading to unemployment, legal trouble, and damaged relationships with friends and family.

While stress can be the instigator of substance abuse, it can also drive up users’ tolerance levels, which means that people need more drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effect.

How Can We Address Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach to address. One of the most effective ways to address substance abuse is through prevention. Education and awareness programs can help individuals understand the risks and consequences of substance abuse and provide them with healthy coping strategies to manage stress.

Treatment and recovery programs are also essential for addressing substance abuse. These programs can help individuals overcome addiction and learn healthy coping strategies to manage stress and other triggers. Counselling and therapy can also be helpful for addressing underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to substance abuse.

In addition, addressing the root causes of stress can also be an effective way to prevent substance abuse. This can involve addressing workplace stress, financial problems, or other sources of stress that may be contributing to substance abuse.

Don’t let stress send you spiralling. 

Stress is a major contributor to substance abuse, and it can have serious consequences for individuals and society as a whole. Understanding the link between stress and substance abuse is essential for preventing and addressing addiction. 

By promoting healthy coping strategies, providing education and awareness, and offering effective treatment and recovery programs, we can help individuals overcome addiction and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

If you are feeling stressed out or completely overwhelmed and have been turning towards substance use as a coping mechanism, but don’t feel you have the support you need from those around you, then your next step should be seeking out counselling from professionals in the field of addiction. 

Our team of addiction counsellors will work with you to identify the key stress triggers and help you find healthy methods of coping with these feelings so you don’t become overwhelmed and resort to using substances that will further damage your life. Learning about proactive steps to combat stress can make all the difference.

Get in touch with us

If you have any additional questions on addiction, would like to speak to one of our team members, or want to hear more about the admissions process, feel free to make contact with us at any time. We look forward to helping you and your loved ones.