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Does Loneliness Cause Substance Abuse?

Loneliness is a state of mind, so being physically alone is not necessarily a sufficient condition for being lonely. One can have relationships or be in a romantic relationship and still experience loneliness. Loneliness is characterized by a dissociation between what a person gets or experiences in a relationship and what they expect out of that relationship. One study produced by Harvard said that 25 to 60% of older Americans experience loneliness. Another study said that 79% of individuals aged 18 to 22 report feeling lonely, and 71% of Millennials say they are lonely. Loneliness is often viewed as a negative state, but some alone time is necessary for us to recharge. Being alone can be healthy as some people find being alone as a way to disconnect from the stress that life can bring.

How Loneliness Impacts Well-Being & Health

Loneliness Impacts our entire health and well-being, from our physical, mental, and emotional health to social experiences. Loneliness is a common risk factor for increased stress, bad sleep patterns, weaker immune systems, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. Not including low self-esteem, antisocial behavior, anxiety, poor cardiovascular health, increased cigarette use, increased drug and alcohol use, poor memory, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and an increased mortality rate. Due to the recent pandemic of Covid-19, loneliness has gotten worse among individuals. The lockdowns and quarantines have caused major isolation. Those already experiencing loneliness are dealing with worse cases of depression and anxiety, and some are also dealing with grief. This can cause people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like using alcohol and drugs for comfort. Luckily, treatment is available to correct the course in these unfortunate situations.

The Connection Between Loneliness and Substance Abuse

Loneliness and substance abuse go hand-in-hand for a big number of people that suffer from an alcohol or substance use disorder. This is due to the increased likelihood of low self-esteem and depression and lack of healthy coping skills. The National Institute of Health gives the following assessment:

Estimates suggest 30% of adults report the highest levels of loneliness. Though men are more likely than women to use illicit substances and engage in heavy drinking, the prevalence of substance use in women is growing, and their escalation toward dependence occurs more rapidly. (NIH)

We know that there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and those that suffer from depression and anxiety. In addition, loneliness can cause depression and anxiety, which is also a risk factor for alcohol and substance use.

Substance Abuse is NOT the Answer to Loneliness or Isolation

Drugs and alcohol can temporarily increase mood, and pleasurable feelings produce increased energy levels and euphoric feelings due to some substances’ effect on certain neurotransmitters in our brain. For example, drugs and alcohol cause increased dopamine production, making us happy and decreasing depression and anxiety, if even for a short period. Unfortunately, once someone has developed a dependence on drugs and alcohol, the body and mind crave these substances. That can further cause someone to isolate themselves, which can often cause a person to become more lonely and experience even more depression and anxiety. It is a spiraling, out-of-control effect that the individual doesn’t see coming, a vicious cycle.

Recovery From Substance Abuse

Evoke Wellness MA offers evidence-based addiction treatment to cater to each patient’s individual needs. Our solution-focused treatment provides men, women, and families integrated and comprehensive care geared towards leading you on the road to long-lasting recovery. At Evoke Wellness MA, our primary goal is to make your treatment experience as comfortable as possible. If you are having issues with any substances, let us help you. Our specialists and professionals are highly qualified and supportive and will help you start today’s recovery journey. Recovery today for a better tomorrow