Substance Abuse and Problems with Stress

Everyone experiences stress in their life, but some people may be more sensitive in stressful situations or have trouble handling them. Not everyone turns to substance abuse to cope with their feelings but in most cases of addiction, stress is a major factor in development and relapse. When people have certain vulnerabilities such as genetic history of substance abuse, social and environmental influences or symptoms of a mental illness, they use drugs or alcohol to deal with stress and quickly develop an addiction. Looking for fast and efficient ways to reduce stress is a natural human response but self-medication puts people into a cycle of emotional distress that perpetuates and worsens their problems with stress.

Physical and Psychological Reactions to Stress

The human body has adapted a number of physical responses to stress that are designed to protect us from a physically dangerous situation. Stress hormones create a “fight or flight” reaction any time we experience stress until we are able to escape the danger. In the modern world it can be hard to overcome this chemical response since we are not often in any physical danger but simply deal with the abstract stresses of daily life at work, school or in relationships. When stress hormones build up, the brain will seek any means necessary to eliminate the stressful state of your body. In certain individuals, their issues with stress will cause them to use drugs or alcohol so that they can temporarily relax their body and mind, relieving the buildup of stress. Although it may be a natural response for the body to seek the instant relief and reward of some type of substance, drugs are not a long-term solution for stress and can actually create more physical and mental stress over time.

The Patterns of Stress and Addiction

Every time a person who is suffering from emotional distress reaches for a drink or some intoxicating substance they will feel better for a brief period of time. However, the following day or even sooner than that in some cases they will start to feel the effects of withdrawal from the drug. Withdrawal symptoms usually involve some type of anxiety, depression or physical discomfort that can further contribute to stress levels. Symptoms of withdrawal can also cause cravings for more of the drug. By using substances to alleviate stress, a person only increases their problems in the long run because of the effects of withdrawal and cravings. Aside from simple physical symptoms, drugs can increase stress in other ways especially when addiction develops. A serious addiction to drugs or alcohol can affect a person’s finances, ruin relationships and cause them to perform poorly at work. They will soon deal with the repercussions of their dependency and all the negative consequences connected to it which creates much more stress than they ever had when they first started getting involved in substance abuse. Unfortunately, the only they know how to deal with this additional stress is to consume more alcohol or drugs to escape. This is the cyclical snowball effect that is characteristic of addiction and keeps people stuck in the substance abuse lifestyle even when they want to quit.

Although it may seem hopeless to escape the cycle of stress and substance abuse, it is possible for people to learn how to alleviate their stress in more positive ways so that they can live sober. Dr. Paul’s By The Sea treatment centers provide people the support they need to handle any type of stress and learn to avoid the triggers that cause them to use drugs or alcohol. With the right kind of treatment anyone can become sober and learn to live a healthier and less stressful lifestyle.