addiction in times of sorrow

Stress, anger, and sorrow are extremely difficult emotions for anyone to manage. If you think you’ve mastered them, you’re among an extremely minute minority.

But still, some people struggle more than others. It could be that they’ve experienced extreme trauma in their lives and are having trouble processing. Or it could be that they never learned healthy coping mechanisms. But these are the people who are most likely to turn to substance abuse when things get emotionally hard to handle.

Why substance abuse? There are a few reasons why people turn to drugs to fill the void.

Substances of abuse increase dopamine

Dopamine is a brain chemical that has many responsibilities, but it’s best-known for its role in pleasure. When something feels good, whether it’s drugs or an ice cream sundae, dopamine is at work in your brain. This is also why some people abuse food instead of drugs or alcohol.

But the difference between drugs and an ice cream sundae is that the drugs provide an intense rush of dopamine. And when you’re having a rough day, that may be a welcome thing. Regardless of what has happened or what will happen, drugs can make you feel good in the moment. They can make you forget your worries and focus on pleasure instead. Of course, all this comes at a major long-term cost, but it does work in the moment.

Substances can interfere with your memory

If you’re worried about something, you may want to “erase your mind” for a moment. Many substances of abuse can do this for you when you take high enough doses. In this medication-fueled society, it may seem like a pill is the best way to forget your worries, but that’s a dangerous and slippery slope.

Outside influences play a role

How likely do you think you’d be to take drugs if you’ve never seen anyone do it before? Probably not so likely. But we grow up watching people do drugs and abuse alcohol on television almost daily. Addiction is so ingrained in our society that we are all prone to it. But the closer you are to addiction, the more likely you are to fall victim. People who have parents with addictions are more likely to become addicted.

Poor coping mechanisms

You may have heard someone with a hard life say that they had no other options. They were bred to become addicts. But believing this narrative leaves no room for free will. If bad experiences alone made addicts, there would be many more people suffering from addiction. In fact, by the time we’re in our 30s, most of us have had at least one major life-altering issue. It’s the way we handle these issues that define us. On the other hand, people who manage stress and anger effectively are much less likely to turn to substance abuse to solve their problems.

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn better coping skills. Meditation, yoga, and exercise are all great places to begin your stress-management journey.

If you question your ability to handle stress, uncertainty, and sorrow, it may be time to make a change. Consider talking to a counsellor to work through your issues. Or try one of the stress-management techniques mentioned above.

It’s scary when you feel like substance abuse is your only escape. But if you’ve identified a problem, it’s not too late to get help. It’s also not too early to get help. Even if you’re not yet addicted, you can talk with an addiction counsellor about the unhealthy patterns that concern you.

Article written by Trevor McDonald