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What’s the Link Between Stress and Addiction?

What’s the Link Between Stress and Addiction?

Even if a person does not have to have a genetic predisposition to suffer from substance use disorder, the toll it takes can be immense if it hits. More often, people are exhibiting signs of stress that alter the brain, making it susceptible to addiction. Everyone has triggers that lead to people drinking, using drugs or eating too much. Stress and addiction may be linked, which can be both good and bad news for people who struggle with addiction.

Stimulating the Brain

The brain’s reward center gets stimulated with the use of drugs, alcohol, and certain foods. The brain remembers the reward and seeks it out again by repeating the behavior. We are becoming more aware of the evidence that stress can impact the brain in a way that leads to addiction. The more D2 receptors a person has, the higher the natural level of stimulation and pleasure. Both stress and the use of addictive substances contribute to lower levels of D2, even in otherwise healthy people. The deficiency in the receptors continues long after a person stops using drugs. A person who is not hard-wired for addiction can become dependent on drugs if they are stressed. This person will literally have a different brain that, when exposed to stress, does not mean they will become addicted to drugs, but may become addicted if exposed over time to increasing amounts of stress, and of course, drugs or alcohol.

Falling Prey

Stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges can appear in a person’s life at any time. As a child, stress can have a huge impact on a person’s life, which can lend itself to stress and anxiety as a teen, then as an adult. People naturally want to find ways of coping with stress so it makes sense that some will turn to alcohol or drugs to numb painful life experiences. Stressors in a person’s life early on, mental illness, genetics, and other factors can create a perfect storm for the brain to become addicted.

Dealing with Stress

The best way to work through stressful life events that can lead to using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism is to find better ways of coping with stress. Stress relief activities may include:

  • Restorative yoga, gym, or weight-lifting activities
  • Journaling, blogging, writing
  • Attend a support group to get connected to others
  • Support the body with proper nutrition, vitamins, and minerals
  • Get 8 hours of sleep a night
  • Try a bath, reading a book, quiet time, or being in nature to help relax

Getting rid of stress can help ease the desire to use alcohol or drugs but it is not the only way a person can stop using these substances to cope. Sometimes the brain and body become addicted and you need help to quit. If that is you, call us. We have a detox program with a medical support team that will help walk you through addiction recovery. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401