There are many reasons people turn to mood-altering substances; one of the most common is stress. The thing about stress is that it is different for everyone. Some people tend to get more stressed out than others over similar situations while some are able to deal with stressful situations better than others are.
While stress can be a trigger for substance abuse in a number of individuals, others have a better handle on it and use alternative methods to deal with it. It’s hard to define what stress is because it is subjective, but those who get stressed out may be tempted to self-medicate with substances such as alcohol or drugs.
Stress can affect the physical and mental health of the person in question, but substances such as drugs and alcohol only provide temporary relief. These mood-altering substances can help a person relax and forget about the issues that are troubling them. However, it is important to note that, as mentioned, relief is only temporary and those who continue to abuse these substances run the risk of developing a tolerance, which in turn can lead to dependence. When this happens, the individual will have even more stress to deal with, but will likely find it even harder to deal with.
Causes of Stress
While people get stressed out for various reasons, and although some can handle these situations better than others, there are a number of common causes of stress, including:
- diagnosis of illness in oneself or a loved one
- the death of a loved one
- conflict at home or work
- being bullied
- being abused sexually, emotionally or physically
- breakdown of a relationship
- significant changes in life such as a new job, getting married or moving home
- legal issues
- a loved ones addiction or substance abuse problems
- problems at work i.e. deadlines to meet or overwork.
Not learning to deal with stress properly can mean starting to experience other issues both physically and mentally. Chemicals released by the body during stressful periods are not harmful in short bursts, but prolonged periods of stress can lead to a host of problems, including fatigue and depression. Those who are dealing with stress may find it difficult to sleep, which can result in other problems as the bodys immune system is also affected. Stress can result in physical conditions such as ulcers, diabetes, heart disease, and digestive problems. In addition, those who are dealing with chronic stress are more likely to turn to substance abuse and could find themselves struggling with addiction.
The Dangers of Self-Medicating with Chemical Substances
There is a real danger for those who self-medicate their stress with drugs or alcohol. If the individual finds that the substance is providing temporary relief, he or she may be tempted to continue drinking alcohol or taking drugs. This can lead to addiction and the inevitable problems that will follow. Those who suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol often end up losing their family, friends, jobs, homes, possessions, and self-respect.
Substance abuse will eventually make stress levels worse, and while the person is abusing these substances, he or she will find it harder to learn other ways to deal with the issue.
Before turning to substances such as alcohol or drugs in times of stress, it is a good idea to look for alternative methods of dealing with the problem. Many experts recommend meditation techniques, which will help to relax the person. Mindfulness is a very effective tool for dealing with stress. Those who practice this technique learn how to take a step back and look at their problems without allowing themselves to be negatively affected by them.