How Stress Can Lead to Substance Abuse

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All humans experience stress in their lives. Stress is, of course, our body’s natural response to outside events or issues that add pressure to our daily lives or threaten to uproot our futures, such as an upcoming test or a car accident. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in fact, confirms there are three types of stress: routine stress from everyday occurrences, stress that comes after some negative change, and stress that occurs after a traumatic experience. Stress can lead to negative side effects that impact your physical and mental health, such as migraine headaches, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and diabetes.

Some of the most common triggers of stress include:

  • Serious illness
  • Injuries after accidents
  • Conflict with loved ones
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Moving homes
  • Changing jobs
  • Legal problems
  • Heavy workload
  • Breakdown of a relationship

However, where humans differ is in how we respond to this stress. Unfortunately, many Americans turn to unhealthy coping methods such as alcohol and drug abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people who are exposed to stress are far more likely to use mind-altering substances. Drugs and alcohol can provide warm feelings of euphoria and an escape from reality – an escape from stress.

Though it may seem harmless to treat yourself to a beer after a stressful day at work, alcohol and drugs are extremely addictive substances and it can be easier to turn to them for support every time you experience stress. As a result, prolonged use of alcohol or drugs can lead to abuse and addiction, and suddenly you’re no longer equipped to manage stress without the crutch of a drink or drug of choice. People with addiction often have trouble holding down a job, and their relationships are more likely to suffer.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Stress

  • Alcohol: While drinking to relieve stress is a common practice, heavy drinking can wreak havoc on a person’s body and exacerbate feelings of stress. In addition to the physical side effects, relying on alcohol for comfort whenever a stressful situation arises can prevent the development of natural coping skills and lead to dependency.
  • Marijuana: People who use marijuana often report feelings of relaxation during the initial high, however once it subsides, a rebound effect of anxiety is likely. Like alcohol, it is not uncommon for long-term marijuana users to experience difficulty handling routine stressors without the drug.
  • Stimulants: The thought of instantly taking a drug and suddenly having a surge of energy to complete tasks may sound appealing during a stressful situation. This is a particularly strong motivating factor for people who use prescription stimulants. Like other substances, abusing stimulant drugs can quickly lead to addiction.
  • Smoking: Cigarettes and other nicotine products have long been portrayed in pop culture as an effective reliever of stress. While this may seem true to a person who has already developed nicotine dependence, beginning an association of smoking and stress may increase the risk of becoming addicted in people not yet dependent on nicotine. Repeatedly turning to a substance such as nicotine in times of stress creates an association of needing that substance to cope.

Stress Can Be Caused By A Tramatic Situation

Sometimes people don’t realize that the stress they’re dealing with is a mental disorder known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is commonly associated with substance use disorders. Individuals can develop PTSD after witnessing a traumatic event, being sexually or physically abused, or in military combat. PTSD frequently leads to drug abuse as individuals attempt to block out bad memories or temporarily relieve their symptoms.

If you identify with any of the following symptoms, you may have PTSD and should seek a diagnosis from a medical professional:

  • Insomnia
  • Changes in mood
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidance of people or places that remind you of the trauma you endured
  • Cognitive issues such as loss of memory or dissociation
  • Panic attacks

Alternative Ways to Handle Stress

Stress happens and none of us can completely avoid stressful situations or life events. However, there are alternative, drug-free ways of dealing with stress that are often used by rehab centers to promote calmness, mindfulness, and healthy coping mechanisms.

Meditation is one of the most popular coping techniques and is often used to help people in recovery from addiction. By practicing meditation through a helpful phone app, you can learn how to acknowledge a stressful situation without allowing anxiety to overtake your mind and life. Yoga is another stress-relieving activity that is popular because meditation is involved and it’s also a form of exercise. And, of course, attending therapy can help people with stress because it gives you an outlet to process and express your emotions. A therapist can work with you to identify your triggers and offer you tips on how you can better manage stress.

If, however, you or a loved one have developed addictions, seeking the professional help of a detox or rehab facility is the best way to get sober while also learning valuable coping techniques along the way.

Call Us for Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The Nestled Recovery Center recognizes that many individuals who struggle with addiction also have a mental disorder, which is why our facility offers dual diagnosis treatment – both issues must be treated at once in order for recovery to happen. At our Las Vegas facility, our treatment focus is trauma-informed, meaning that we assess each of our patients by first understanding the circumstances of their life that led to their addiction. At our 10-bed residential facility, our patients are able to undergo treatment and get the personalized attention they need to heal and lead meaningful lives.

The Nestled Recovery Center treats both substance abuse and mental health disorders through medical detox and various treatments. Learn more about our services by calling us today at (702) 299-6406, or fill out our online form.

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