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Can Too Much Stress Lead to Substance Abuse and Addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition that often has many roots in a person’s biology, environment, and behaviors. Because it is such a complicated condition, addiction usually requires comprehensive treatment and ongoing support for a person to truly leave it behind. 

Addiction can lead to severe consequences without treatment, including damage to a person’s physical and mental health, financial and legal problems, and relationship issues. Regular or heavy substance abuse can alter the way your brain and body function, making it nearly impossible to stop using drugs and alcohol–even as the consequences pile up.

Understanding addiction can help people avoid addiction or get the treatment they need. So, how does addiction develop? 

Some risk factors seem to make it more likely that a person will develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol in their lifetime. But even without having known risk factors, environmental and behavioral factors can lead someone down the path toward addiction. 

Stress is a known risk factor for substance abuse and addiction. But why? Learning about stress, learning to manage it, and being able to get substance abuse treatment is essential to addiction prevention and recovery. 

If you or someone you love need addiction treatment or support at any stage of recovery, help is a phone call away. Reach out to the caring Mandala Healing Center staff today. 

What is Stress?

Everyone on the planet experiences stress. The definition of stress is a change that leads to physical, emotional, or psychological strain. 

People may feel stress in a wide range of situations. Being late for an appointment, having to speak in public, having arguments, major life changes–these and other clear sources of stress happen from time to time in every person’s life. People may have chronic stress from parenting, working a demanding job, living with a medical condition, or having too much to do in too little time. 

Stress has physical and behavioral symptoms that include:

  • Changes in your mood
  • Clammy hands
  • Low libido
  • Digestive problems, including diarrhea and nausea
  • Sleep troubles
  • Dizziness
  • Grinding teeth
  • Lack of energy
  • Muscle tension, especially in the shoulders and neck
  • Aches and pain
  • Shakiness
  • Racing heartbeat

People may feel irritable, frustrated, anxious, or afraid when stressed. They may feel physically drained or that they are unable to cope with their current situation. 

Stress is not always a negative thing–in fact, humans require the ability to feel stress in order to respond to the outside world. But high levels of stress or chronic stress can take a toll on your body and mind. People may attempt to dull stress by drinking or doing drugs, which can eventually result in addiction. 

You can’t avoid stress, but you can learn healthy ways to cope with it. Learning healthy ways to manage stress is one possible way to reduce your risk of developing drug and alcohol addiction. 

The  Connection Between Stress and Substance Abuse

When a person’s stress levels overwhelm their ability to cope, they may turn to any means necessary to reduce it–including using substances to give them temporary relief. This is called self-medicating. Over time, prolonged substance abuse can develop into an addiction that is hard to overcome.

Self-medication is never effective at relieving stress and can lead to an addiction that causes even more stress. Healing from chronic stress requires comprehensive treatment that can address addiction’s physical, behavioral, and emotional aspects. During treatment, people learn how to identify and manage stress and practice healthy coping skills. 

Treating Stress and Addiction

Detox is often the first step of a comprehensive addiction program, but treating the physical part of an addiction is not enough to help people move past it. Instead, those with stress and substance abuse must learn how to reduce or cope with stress so they can avoid drug and alcohol relapse for the rest of their life.

Substance abuse treatment programs usually include a combination of evidence-based and holistic treatments that can lead to whole-person healing and recovery. These treatments include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medications
  • Medical care
  • Mental health treatment
  • Education
  • Holistic therapies–massage, exercise, nutrition support, mindfulness, and other healing practices
  • Stress management skills such as mindfulness-based stress reduction

During treatment, people receive emotional support and can learn to identify the sources of their stress. They may begin to use holistic practices that help them manage stress, such as yoga,  exercise, good nutrition, and meditation.  

The skills people learn in treatment can help them understand their stressors, reduce their overall stress levels, and cope with stress in healthy ways. 

The better someone can cope with stress, the less likely they’ll return to substance abuse. These skills and practices can prevent people from having a relapse and make life in recovery more appealing. 

Get Help for Stress and Addiction at the Mandala Healing Center

If you or someone you love needs support to cope with stress, substance abuse, and addiction, reach out to the caring specialists at the Mandala Healing Center to learn about your treatment options. You are not alone. Get the help you need today.