How Using Drugs to Cope with Stress Can Lead to Addiction

Legacy Healing Center Blog

There are alternatives to using drugs to cope with stress.

Stress is a reaction that the body has to make to compensate for changes and adjustments in life. These changes can be seen in physical, mental and emotional manners and although stress is a normal part of life, sometimes it can be difficult to deal with.

Because stress is normal, it can be brought on by even positive changes in life as well as negative. More often than not individuals who are unable to deal with their stress start using drugs to cope with stress, and unfortunately, it is a key risk factor in addiction.

Here we’re going to focus on the relationship between stress and addiction and what you can do to help yourself or someone you love if they’re dealing with stress and drug abuse.

Relationship between Stress and Addiction

Changes in life events mixed with the inability to deal with the changes may be a risk factor for using drugs as an outlet. Oftentimes when it becomes difficult to deal with the situation on hand, individuals seek out ways to self-medicate in order to eliminate what they are feeling.

As stated above, stress can come from positive changes but normally comes from situations such as poverty, grief, and changes in daily life. Stress naturally causes a rise in blood levels and a release of stress hormones that can create a fight or flight response to those changes.

Sometimes stress can be chronic and certain individuals seek out situations in which their body releases the stress hormones and these individuals tend to search for and enjoy these situations.

On the other hand, certain stressful events that are prolonged and create depressive situations can lead any certain individual to search out using drugs to cope with stress.

As stated before, the relationship between stress and addiction oftentimes comes from a theory of self-medication which infers that individuals use drugs to relieve the symptoms that they are feeling.

This reasoning for using drugs to cope with stress allows the individual to soothe themselves for a time from the psychological distress felt.

Stress and Drug Abuse

NIDA, The National Institute on Drug Abuse gives an explanation for how stress affects the body and why people may look for an outlet from it. Each and every person has a different level of stress threshold and because of that, not one case is alike.

When individuals experience stress, a set of biological events go on that leads to a release of chemicals from the brain and body, in reaction to a stressful event in the environment. When this happens, the brain complex, the hypothalamus, releases CRH which is a hormone that triggers the release of another hormone, adrenocorticotropic.

Adrenocorticotropic then travels to the adrenal glands, releasing additional hormones and continues in this cycle until the stressor is removed from the surrounding environment.

Because of the cycle outlined by NIDA, individuals who have a lower threshold of stress tolerance may search for a way to stop the cycle in which they are feeling constant stress without removing themselves from the stressful environment.

Here is a list of different facets of the relationship between stress and addiction:

• High stress can be a predictor of the use of opiates

• Individuals exposed to stress can face the likelihood of abusing alcohol and drugs and are more likely to experience relapse

• Stress is a biological phenomenon, small amounts of stress can improve memory, and chronic stress can impair cognitive functioning.

On a final note, certain individuals who don’t deal with stress well may be more likely to use drugs as an outlet and therefore develop an addiction. On the other hand, if you notice that yourself or someone you love is living in a stressful environment, look for a way to help them cope and speak openly about what they’re feeling in order to help guide them towards a healthy relief.

If you find someone who you know is showing signs of using drugs,  please consider getting them into the treatment program at Legacy Healing Center. We offer a wide range of treatment programs such as partial hospitalization, intensive outpatients, outpatient programs, and family programs. Help is just a phone call away – reach out to someone at Legacy Healing Center today at 888-597-3547.

At Legacy Healing Center, our approach to recovery is built around a holistic methodology. We look at addiction as a comprehensive issue and offer a complete set of services to heal the physical body, the mind, and the spirit. Combining research-evidenced practices from medicine and psychology, our team of highly trained professionals looks at all aspects of our clients’ lives on an individual basis. Our holistic approach to healing encompasses more than dealing with addiction through primary treatment strategies like therapy and meetings. We offer a full range of services to heal the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.