Stress is often a healthy reaction to prompt us of our surroundings, body, and mind. Stress is considered normal and it only becomes an issue when you fail to understand how to cope with it or when the levels of stress become too high.

Stress, when it goes beyond a certain point leads to anxiety. The combination of stress with anxiety is a mentally shattering experience for an individual. However, stress combined with anxiety can be reduced by different techniques like meditation, circular breathing, and proper rest.

The issue becomes very complex when stress leads to an initiation of substance abuse, and/or relapse.

The link between stress and substance abuse is often very strong and can have far reaching consequences if not managed in a proper way.

Below we look into the link between stress and substance abuse in a little bit of detail.

The Causal Link –

Here we examine the causal linkage among stress and substance misuse.

Some people are prone to more stress in their lives, and they are the ones who normally fall into the hands of substance abuse or get addicted to alcohol and drugs.

One notable thing here is that these individuals may not have a causal relation between stress and substance abuse but some evidence is enough to prove that stress is a somewhat related factor.

When stress is mismanaged, the individuals generally don’t understand how to let it out or how to disintegrate it.  This often comes out in the form of excess alcohol intake and/or drug abuse.

Careers which demand high levels of responsibility and work are regarded as high-stress jobs. The levels of these job-related stress varies from individual to individual.

Some of the on-job experiences can cause the stress to disintegrate in the form of excessive drinking and substance abuse.

Similarly, school and college pressure on students is said to have caused record levels of stress and anxiety leading to a higher risk of drug abuse.

Therefore, millennials are rightly said to have more cases of stress-related substance abuse than their predecessors.

Stress hormones are given temporary relief through the intake of drugs but this is not a permanent solution. Timely relief is equally as destructive as the substance being taken. It creates an illusion in the mind that taking the drug will reduce or eliminate the stress, which is obviously not true.

An interesting thing to note is that sometimes it is the substance abuse which brings on the stress. It is in fact, the inverse of the widely known notion that stress leads to substance abuse.

Mostly it happens when a lifestyle which includes parties, alcohol, and other drugs causes financial woes, quarrels with friends and family, increased pressure at the workplace, and other such problems. Thereby confirming the statement that sometimes substance abuse leads to stress, not the other way around.

Even after letting go of the unhealthy substance, some cases of relapse can occur when stress relief is sought through these drugs again. The individual’s mind is adamant to kick off the stress in an instant as it did in the past, which causes the relapse.

Stress and Substance Choice –

The choice of substance is often related to the issue which the individual is dealing with.

For instance, an individual suffering from panic attacks and anxiety will choose depressants, whereas the ones suffering from depression opt for methamphetamine and cocaine.

Likewise cigarette smoking among teenagers is often the byproduct of school related stress.

Individuals under immense stress look for readily available and cheap drugs like marijuana and alcohol.

As mentioned before, these are temporary fixes to reduce stress and are in no way healthy. Short term fixes for mental or physical health related issues are almost always destructible in the long run.

Managing the stress in a healthier way is what is needed. The government should regulate the drugs that are easily available and being misused at a large scale.

Manage Stress in a Better Way –

I mentioned at the beginning that stress is a normal occurrence within the human environment, body and brains. It is the failure of a coping mechanism which causes stress related issues like anxiety, depression, and ultimately substance abuse. Hence, better ways to manage stress are needed by an individual to prevent falling into this dungeon.

Therapy sessions are a decent way to start stress management and prevent substance misuse. Professional therapists should be sought for getting out of this pit.

Likewise, support groups are a good source of interaction and sharing where the right kind of environment is available to let it all out and make relations with like-minded people.

Exercising on a regular basis helps too. Meditation is another stress buster. The calmness and focus it brings to the table can help counter stress of everyday lives.


This article was written and provided by Hassan Khan Yousafzai