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Seven common causes of problematic drug and alcohol use

By Tim Woodley

Although there is no one picture of addiction, there are challenges and events in life that commonly contribute to addictive, harmful behaviour and self-abuse. We are exploring these today in a little more detail in the hope that, after reading this, you are armed with a better understanding of the behaviours of yourself or a loved one.


Stress and anxiety: While these are two distinct issues, they follow similar patterns in using addiction as a coping response. Addiction is something we turn to when we feel the need for comfort in the face of life, and a person prone to anxiety may find themselves more easily drawn to substance abuse.

Stress follows a similar pattern, with obligations from common causes such as work and family becoming a tough reality for us to bravely face head-on. While substance abuse will never resolve this stress, it may provide immediate and temporary relief from them.

 

Self-esteem: Addiction is self-abuse, and low r self-esteem is extremely common amongst those struggling with problematic drug and alcohol misuse.

The mind of a person abusing substances is rarely a positive one; contempt for one’s self is usually born out of how we perceive failures in our lives, with addiction being a convenient way to punish ourselves for not meeting the unrealistic standards we often place upon ourselves.


Anger and resentment: Difficulty with these emotions are common in addicts. Many have experienced traumatic events in their lives such as bereavement or sexual, mental or physical abuse. Denying the feelings an addict may have about their traumatic events is common and is mentally unhealthy.

In time, unexpressed emotions accumulate into a toxic blend of resentment and anger. Substance abuse can numb this pain, providing temporary relief but leaving these harmful emotions and sentiments unresolved.


Depression: Depression is a complex and varied subject, and we encourage you to seek the support of a professional therapist if you are concerned you may struggle with it. Some substances such as alcohol are central nervous system depressants, meaning they may trigger symptoms of depression such as feelings of despair, sadness and a sense of mental and physical lethargy.

For many addicts, substance abuse provides temporary relief from the weight of simply living day to day. This can form a harmful feedback loop where depressive symptoms are reinforced by substance misuse, which is itself used to avoid feelings of depression.

Isolation makes this worse. There are strong ties in addiction research to isolation and self-abuse, with the lack of connection to others acting as a common path towards heavier substance abuse.


Trauma: Our brains change physically in response to events, particularly at a young age. As we grow and mature, this ‘plasticity’ as it is known sees the brain strengthen certain connections and discard or weaken others. Both positive and negative events in our younger years have a significant effect on our mind and tendencies of thought as adults, with traumatic negative events potentially leading to cognitive, social and behavioural difficulties later in life.

Emotional trauma is linked strongly to addiction. It is estimated that two-thirds of addicts have experienced sexual or physical trauma during childhood. As adults, such individuals turn towards substances to self-medicate the feelings that are still present in their minds due to events in their childhood.


Peer conformity: Peer pressure is linked to addiction, particularly in young adults and teenagers. Harmful habits and behaviours relating to substances can form during this time, with the media often portraying substance misuse and addiction positively.

The responses we have to risk-taking can also be similar to those experienced when taking drugs and alcohol. These substances stimulate the release of dopamine and serotonin – two chemicals that make us feel happy and bonded. Breaking the rules with peers can cause similar response in the brain. This, together with other factors such as poverty, lack of parental supervision and the availability of substances combine to make young people particularly at risk of developing addiction and addictive behaviour.


The role of rehabilitation in conquering these challenges

For many who suffer from any of these issues or a combination of them, healing and recovery lie in education. Rehabilitation and therapy help to disconnect addicts from the warped views and negative narratives they have developed about themselves. It provides impartial and accurate education on the influences and tendencies in our minds, helping us to resolve traumatic feelings. In time, an addict may learn to minimise and live alongside their compulsions and behaviours in a way that is healthy and conducive to a sober, addiction-free future.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you deserve help and support. Our Digital Dayhab programme is designed to be attended remotely from the comfort of your own home and incorporates all the intensive elements of traditional rehabilitation courses.

If you’d like to chat with a member of the team here at no obligation, please feel free to reach out by calling us on 0208 191 8920 or by using our contact form.

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