More and more healthcare experts are talking about stress’s effects on addiction, but what does that mean? Does stress play a role in whether or not a person is susceptible to drug addiction? Does it have an impact on recovery? How about relapse prevention? Will an addiction treatment program help you recover?
These are all important questions for you and families of individuals with a drug use disorder to ask. Here are some facts you need to know.
Stress is a Risk Factor for Substance Use Disorders
The answer is yes to all of the above. Chronic stress is a known risk factor for substance use disorders, according to multiple studies. Things that can increase the stress that puts you at risk of drug use include negative environments both at home and at work, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and mood or anxiety disorders.
The stress response associated with these stressors can also influence how you respond to a specific drug. Stress can be cumulative, as well. Those with high levels of cumulative stress are more likely to look for ways to self-medicate to control symptoms of the stress response.
What is a Stress Response?
The stress response is how your body reacts to stress. It can trigger a cascade release of key hormones. The goal is to give you what is called the fight-or-flight response. It’s part of the ingrained survival instinct in most animals. The release of these stress hormones will:
- Increase your heart rate
- Tighten your muscles
- Quicken your breathing
- Make you sweat
- Increase your blood pressure
- Dilate your pupils
Some of these effects will help you take action to protect yourself. For example, if you’re faced with a dangerous situation, the increased heart rate and blood pressure will give you more energy to either fight or run away. The tight muscles will also give you more strength. And the increased breathing will give you more oxygen.
In other words, the fight-or-flight mechanism allows you to respond quickly to a life-threatening situation, but it tends to work a little too well sometimes. Not every stressful situation is life-threatening, yet, you still feel the physical effects of the stress.
Stress and Addiction: What’s the Connection?
The connection between stress and addiction is two-fold. It boils down to enduring stressful life events like losing a job, for example, and not having the proper skills to cope with that stress. For many, drugs or alcohol provide a way to self-medicate, so they don’t feel that stress even for a short time. High stress can also impact impulse control and lead to a need for fast gratification. These are all factors that create this stress and addiction connection.
What Can You Do if Stress is Triggering Drug or Alcohol Use?
The best answer is to look for treatment. San Antonio Recovery Center (SARC) is an independent drug and alcohol treatment center that offers affordable, effective treatment programs. We offer a staff experienced in trauma, stress, mental health disorders, and addiction.
Our treatment focuses on the 12-step philosophy, which is all about learning better ways to cope. Services at SARC include:
- Detox: This is the first step of treatment, and it’s important to do this under medical supervision.
- Residential treatment: A live-in treatment program that offers 24/7 support so that you remain safe at all times.
- Intensive outpatient programs: A step-down from residential treatment, this program still offers frequent support and care.
- Gender-specific treatment: We understand that men and women sometimes have different needs in treatment, so we offer separate programs.
- 90-day treatment program: Our most intensive program, this offers long-term support for lasting recovery.
- Aftercare: Once you’ve completed a treatment program, we offer resources and support to help you stay on track.
SARC also provides programs that focus on stress management, such as yoga therapy, recreational therapy, and meditation. Our family therapy program allows us to work with the people in your support network to ease tension and learn coping skills.
By offering aftercare services, we will continue to support you even after you complete the program. We will have a staff member available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case the stress gets to be too much for you. Aftercare also includes continuing therapy, 12 step meetings, and alumni events. We will be there if you relapse, too. Relapses are common, and getting treatment as soon as possible is key to keeping you on the sober path.
Stress is something everyone experiences, but if you find you are reaching for drugs or alcohol to cope, it’s time to ask for help. Give us a call at 866.957.7885, or contact us online. Our experts at SARC will be there for you.