While the Grand Canyon state is known for being one of the happiest states, that doesn’t apply to all of our residents. In fact, substance abuse in Arizona is concerning, with 20.5% of residents ages 12 and up reporting a substance abuse disorder over the past year.
Substance use disorders and loneliness have a complex, nuanced relationship. Whether one causes the other or the two create the performance storm for developing an addiction, it’s important to understand the connection and how to mitigate the risks–and how to heal from the effects of each.
The Complex Relationship Between Loneliness and Substance Abuse
Which came first: isolation or addiction?
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The relationship between loneliness and addiction can be a “chicken-and-egg” situation. Loneliness can be devastating and result in the deep desire to self-medicate feelings of disconnectedness, and those who are in the throes of substance abuse can, as a result, feel isolated due to the nature of addiction.
Let’s explore these scenarios a little deeper:
Numbing the Discomfort of Loneliness
Humans are, by nature, pack animals. We’re inherently social creatures who desire companionship, camaraderie, and connection–even those of us with more introverted personalities.
Experiencing persistent loneliness can result in feelings of emptiness and a desperate need to “escape” this discomfort–even if the relief is temporary. Using substances may provide a short burst of relief while the brain floods with feel-good chemicals, but this is short-lived.
When the substances wear off, the “come down” can be nearly unbearable. For someone who is experiencing extended periods of emotional pain, this can exacerbate negative feelings and lead to a cycle of substance abuse–and further isolation.
Substance Abuse and Its Subsequent Loneliness
Even someone with a rich social life, who is active in their community and has many friends, can fall victim to substance abuse. The nature of addiction is often secretive and wrought with feelings of self-loathing, negativity, and obsession.
When someone is in active addiction, the addiction can become their sole focus. This can strain relationships and lead to conflicts, trust issues, and even social withdrawal. As individuals become consumed by their addiction, they may prioritize obtaining and using substances over maintaining healthy relationships. The shame and stigma associated with substance abuse can also further isolate individuals as they may fear judgment or rejection from friends and loved ones.
Once the individual is immersed in their addiction and relationships have been damaged, they may turn to their addiction to relieve their newfound loneliness.
It’s a vicious cycle, and no matter whether addiction or loneliness came first, the result is the same–the individual is left with only their addiction to turn to.
The Long-Term Effects of Loneliness and Substance Abuse
How Loneliness and Substance Abuse Affect The Brain
Loneliness and substance abuse both have significant impacts on the brain.
Loneliness, especially when prolonged, can lead to changes in the brain and can affect the regions responsible for regulating emotions. These structural alterations can contribute to increased feelings of distress and heightened sensitivity to negative feelings and affect how we communicate and connect with others.
Substance abuse also has profound effects on the brain. Drugs and alcohol disrupt how our neurotransmitters work and can impair our decision-making abilities, memory, cognitive function, and the reward center of the brain.
Breaking the Cycle By Addressing Loneliness Substance Abuse in Arizona
Loneliness can be both a risk factor for substance abuse and a consequence of it. Addressing only one aspect of loneliness and substance abuse without considering the other can hinder the recovery process.
Breaking the cycle of addiction and loneliness may include:
- Developing healthier coping strategies to manage emotions
- Therapy and counseling to explore the underlying causes of their loneliness
- Building the skills necessary to cultivate meaningful relationships
- Finding social support networks, such as support groups, to connect with others with shared experiences
- Treatment programs to help you overcome addiction and any underlying mental health concerns that may be contributing to substance abuse
You can get help in developing these coping strategies and building healthier relationships through a substance abuse treatment center.
Healing Starts at Desert Cove Recovery
At the core of healing is connection. At Desert Cove Recovery, you don’t fight your battle with substance abuse in Arizona alone. With our holistic treatment plans and welcoming community, you can heal in an environment that makes you feel supported.
Call and speak with a member of our team today to learn more about our substance use disorder treatments, and let us help you get your life back.