How can Stress lead to Addiction?

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Addiction is a disease that affects millions of Americans a year. In 2017, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) placed the number of Americans suffering from a Substance Abuse Disorder at 19.7 million. This epidemic costs the U.S. taxpayer 223.5 billion dollars a year in lost productivity, enforcement efforts, and medical costs (CDC, 2019).

The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence defines addiction as a compulsive increased intake of substances after an initial contact/s characterized by an inability to stop or cope without said substances.

Given the unspoken prevalence of drug use in our communities and the growing instability in the world, it is easy to understand why the number of cases of drug use is growing constantly. The stress created by the pandemic alone has led to increased cases of mental illness worldwide and this is symptomatic of the stress of the lockdowns and a stagnant economy.

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s natural response to outside pressure. This pressure can be physical or psychological stress. We all experience it and, in certain situations, it can be useful and can push you to do things that you thought were beyond your limits.

That being said, stress can be subdivided into two types:

Acute stress: we experience this all the time. This is our response to more mundane, daily events that seem to pop up in our day, such as a surprise project, traffic, deadlines, social events e.t.c.

Chronic stress: this manifests as a repeated response to a stimulus over time. Most often, it occurs as a result of a traumatic or negative event, such as a loss of a job or loved one, divorce, abuse, deteriorating mental health e.t.c. The effects and duration of these are much more intense and long-term.

Chronic stress seems to be the main culprit when it comes to drug addiction. These are often triggered by very traumatic events and in most cases, even global events, like a war or pandemic can exacerbate this.

How does it affect addiction?

Stress is harmful. A lack of effective coping mechanisms could be the main culprit for this. When a person does not have a stable perspective or good coping mechanisms to deal with the stressful circumstances in their life, they turn to drugs as a way of coping. Persistent chronic stress also inhibits a person’s ability to regulate and identify risky behavior that could lead to drug use.

PsycologyToday and the National Institute of Health both indicate that early traumatic experiences in childhood can be linked to both increased chronic stress and a higher risk for addiction later in life.

What steps can you take to minimize stress to minimize addiction?

By far the biggest step one can take towards minimizing stress is identifying it and being able to understand to what level you can affect it. Getting help from others, self-care, Cognitive Behavior Therapy are also great options to minimize stress.

If a person is suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder as well, getting professional help would make a world of a difference. Additionally, many drug rehab Austin offers individualized programs that offer tried and tested coping mechanisms.

This is also true of many sober living homes. These are communities that are centered around providing long-term sustainable solutions to staying sober for those who suffer from Substance Abuse Disorder. They offer recovering patients a chance to network, find mentors and spend time looking at behavioral and psychological reasons stress causes them to return to their addictions. Many sober living Austin homes also provide an aftercare program, which follows up with recovering patients for months after they finish their program

References

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics

https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/features/excessive-drinking.html

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201705/stress-and-addiction

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732004/