What is The Link Between Stress and Substance Abuse?

Stress is a normal part of life. In fact, about 8 out of every 10 Americans are stressed once a week. Half of Americans admit that stress is one of the things keeping them awake at night and can be caused by anything. For some, it can be a single event such as starting school, change in career, or illness. For others, it can be an ongoing event such as the loss of employment, a prolonged illness, or a toxic work environment. But while there are people that have learned how to cope with stress, unfortunately, some people turn to substances such as drugs and alcohol to manage it. It starts as an experiment to forget these difficult situations, and soon it becomes an addiction.

Side Effects of Stress

When a person is stressed, there are some changes that occur in their body or mind. Some of these changes can be so significant that the brain goes in fight or flight mode as it perceives to be in danger. The heart rate accelerates, your ability to focus or concentrate decreases, and the need to eat or sleep is reduced. Chronic stress can lead to some serious effects on your mind and body, including:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Diabetes
  • Anger and irritability
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Irregular heart functions

As seen above, these are very overwhelming effects for one to go through. That is why stress falls among the top risk factors for addiction. Unfortunately, while people may turn to substances to cope with stress, addiction can also lead to other mental health issues.

Temporary Relief

People who cannot deal with stress positively turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief. These substances offer an escape from reality, even if it is just for a short period of time. The danger of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is that one risks an addiction, which eventually worsens the problem.

Why Self-Medicating With Drugs and Alcohol is Dangerous

Drinking alcohol or taking drugs to make yourself feel better is never a good idea. Besides addiction, you also risk losing your loved ones, home, job, or wealth. As much as substance use will make you feel better, it is only temporary, and you will not have addressed the root of the issue. Pinnacle Recovery (https://pinnaclerecoveryut.com/), for example, insists on the benefit of approaching addiction from a holistic approach. That means addressing the addiction and any other mental health issues that may have led to the addiction in the first place.

Healthy Ways to Handle Stress

One of the benefits of going to a recovery center is being taught how to manage stress positively. Stress management is a key element in almost all addiction treatment centers. It is particularly common in a dual diagnosis treatment center. Some helpful ways of handling stress positively include:

  • Mindfulness and meditation: These two can help lower stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Exercising: Exercise is a go-to activity for handling most mental health issues, including stress. Exercising helps release endorphins in the body, which helps improve your moods and sleep quality. Yoga is also a healthy way to release stress.
  • Peer support groups: Support groups such as 12-step meetings can help a person feel motivated, especially when they are in recovery.
  • Behavioral therapy: This form of therapy teaches a person to realize harmful negative emotions and find appropriate ways to deal with them.

Being able to handle stress positively will prevent someone from using drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Exercising, proper nutrition, therapy, and healthy sleeping patterns are all ways of managing stress. However, if you or a loved one is already using substances to manage stress, check in to a recovery center and get the help you need.

 

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