Stress And Addiction

What Is Stress And Addiction?

Many clinicians and addiction treatment specialists back that stress is the number one cause of relapse to drug abuse and alcoholism, including smoking.  Now, research is clarifying a scientific basis for these clinical observations.  For individuals, stress magnifies the brain levels of a peptide known as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF).  The increased CRF levels, in turn, triggers a cascade of biological responses.  [1]

Stress is a well-known risk factor in the progress of addiction and addiction relapse vulnerability.  In addition, a series of population-based and epidemiological studies have recognized specific stressors and individual-level variables predictive of substance use and abuse.  Furthermore, people subjected to chronic stress or those who show symptoms of PTSD often have hormonal responses that are not sufficiently regulated and do not return to normal when the stress is over.  This may make somebody more inclined to stress-related illnesses and prompt individuals to relapse to addiction.

“Good And Bad” Stress And Addiction Correlation

“Stress” refers to manners affecting perception, appraisal, and response to harmful, threatening, or challenging situations or stimuli.  Stress encounters can be emotionally or physiologically challenging and activate stress responses and adaptive processes to regain homeostasis (Homeostasis is a healthy state maintained by the constant adjustment of biochemical and physiological pathways.)

Everyday Physiological Stressors Are:

  • Hunger or food deprivation
  • Sleep deprivation or insomnia
  • Extreme hyper- or hypothermia
  • Drug withdrawal

In addition, frequent and binge use of many psychoactive drugs serves as pharmacological stressors.

While stress is often linked with negative affect and distress, it can include “good stress,” which is based on external and internal stimuli that are mild/moderately challenging but limited in continuation and results in cognitive and behavioral responses that generate a sense of mastery and accomplishment and can be perceived as pleasant and exciting.  [2]

You may be undergoing stress and addiction at the same time and needs understanding about your condition. Emotional stressors may include interpersonal conflict, loss of a relationship, death of a close family member, and child loss.
You may be undergoing stress and addiction at the same time and needs understanding about your condition. Emotional stressors may include interpersonal conflict, loss of a relationship, death of a close family member, and child loss.

However, the more lengthened, repeated, or chronic the stress—for instance, states correlated with increased intensity or persistence of distress—the greater the uncontrollability and unpredictability of the stressful circumstance, lower the sense of mastery or adaptability, and more significant magnitude of the stress response and risk for stress and addiction to co-occur.

Types Of Adverse Life Events, Trauma, Chronic Stressors, And Individual-Level Variables Predictive Of Addiction Risk

  • Loss of parent
  • Physical neglect
  • Negative emotionality
  • Parental divorce and conflict
  • Physical abuse by parent/caretaker/family member/spouse/significant other
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Isolation & abandonment           
  • Poor emotional control
  • Single-parent family structure 
  • Emotional abuse and neglect      
  • Forced to live apart from parents             
  • Sexual abuse     
  • Loss of child by death or removal             
  • Rape     
  • The unfaithfulness of significant other                       
  • Loss of home to natural disaster               
  • Death of significant other/close family member         
  • Victim of gun shooting or other violent acts               
  • Observing violent victimization

The stressors tend to be exceptionally emotionally distressing events that are uncontrollable and unpredictable for children and adults.  The themes vary from loss, violence, and aggression to poor support, interpersonal conflict, isolation, and trauma.  There is also evidence for a dose-dependent relationship between accumulated adversity and addiction risk—the greater the number of stressors an individual is exposed to, the higher the risk of developing an addiction.

Work-related stressors have weaker support, but individual-level variables such as trait negative emotionality and poor self-control (probably comparable to poor executive function) appear to also contribute uniquely to addiction risk.  In addition, exposure to such stressors early in life and increased stress (chronicity) result in neuroendocrine;  physiological, behavioral, and subjective changes that tend to be long-lasting and negatively affect the development of brain systems involved in learning;  motivation, and stress-related adaptive behaviors. 

Managing stress and addiction needs professional help. Otherwise, it'll be an uncomfortable battle doing it alone.
Managing stress and addiction needs professional help. Otherwise, it’ll be an uncomfortable battle doing it alone.

How Stress And Addiction Form A Correlation

There are several reasons many turn to particular substances such as alcohol or drugs.  Individuals often start experimenting with these substances out of curiosity or because of peer pressure.  However, stress is a determinant for a significant number of individuals, and it causes many to be addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Interim Relief

Stress is something that influences the physical and mental well-being of individuals.  Those who cannot deal with stress positively and efficiently may turn to alcohol or drugs for momentary relief.  Unfortunately, those who self-medicate with alcohol or drugs risk several other problems, including addiction, eventually worsening their problems.

What Induces Stress

Many things can leave people feeling stressed and in danger of turning to chemical substances. Some of these can include:

  • Conflict with loved ones
  • The death of a loved one
  • Serious illness
  • Breakdown of a relationship
  • Moving home or changing a job
  • Legal problems
  • Heavy workload
  • Chronic Stress

Most people get stress from time to time, but they can handle it effectively.  It may leave them feeling upset or frustrated, but it will pass.  Although, some individuals live with stress regularly, which can harm their lives.  Chronic stress causes certain chemicals to be released by the brain, affecting the immune system.  Those dealing with chronic stress will develop physical and mental health issues because they are run down, and their immune systems are not working adequately.

Chronic stress can cause depression and exhaustion, and some will turn to drugs or alcohol to make themselves feel better.  Alcohol, for instance, is a central nervous system depressant, which makes the user feel carefree and calm in the short term.  But, continued abuse of alcohol can lead to dependence, ending in even more stress for the individual.

Dangerous Self-Medication Of Stress And Addiction

It is never a good plan to drink alcohol or take drugs to make oneself feel better.  Self-medicating with chemical substances can lead to several concerns, not least of which is addiction.  Those influenced by alcohol or drug addiction are in danger of losing their friends, families, jobs, wealth, and homes.

Substance abuse may make a person feel better in the short term, but it will intensify problems if it proceeds.  Those who are bound to use drugs or drink alcohol will be powerless to live everyday healthy lives.  They could find it troublesome to hold down a job, and their relationships will suffer as the impact of the addiction begins to affect other individuals in their lives.

Ways Of Dealing With Stress And Addiction Treatment

Nobody can entirely avoid stress as life has a way of throwing up circumstances that can leave people feeling disconcerted and miserable.  But, there are practical ways of dealing with stress that does not include alcohol or drugs.

One of the most valuable techniques for dealing with stress is meditation.  Techniques such as mindfulness are generally used in addiction recovery to help people stay sober.  These tools are also instrumental in helping to deal with stressful situations.  Learning how to acknowledge a stressful situation while separating yourself from it can often be enough to make a person feel better.

We Level Up New Jersey treatment center provides evidence-based therapies and medically assisted detox that approach all aspects of your life including the coping mechanisms for stress and addiction.
We Level Up New Jersey treatment center provides evidence-based therapies and medically assisted detox that approach all aspects of your life including the coping mechanisms for stress and addiction.

Exercise is another powerful way to alleviate stress.  A good workout or a long walk can help to make you feel calm and comfortable.  Working out with others is also a good plan, as talking about your problems will help subdue any feelings of stress you may have.

Not Sure What To Do Next?

Free personal, private consultations with one of our counselors 24/7 for stress and addiction programs.

Here at We Level Up NJ, creating a treatment plan that addresses the physical aspects of withdrawal to substances of abuse;  the psychological connection with drug use, and managing underlying mental health disorders is part of setting clients up for success. [3]  A thorough mental health analysis identifies opportunities for treatment.  Meeting with mental health counselors and medical care providers means access to behavioral therapy and medication treatment.  Proper treatment leads to change for better, healthier living.  This is all possible at our dual diagnosis treatment center in We Level Up, New Jersey.

Sources:

[1] Stress and Stress and Substance Abuse: A Special Report After the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks – National Institute On Drug Abuse

[2] Types of Adverse Life Events, Trauma, Chronic Stressors, and Individual-Level Variables Predictive of Addiction Risk – National Center for Biotechnology Information

[3] Stress and Addiction – We Level Up