Loneliness and social isolation play a huge role in whether someone develops a substance abuse problem or not. In fact, someone may feel lonelier if they have an addiction than if they do not. While loneliness is an incredibly common problem, it can give someone a higher chance of developing a substance abuse problem.
What is Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse is when someone uses drugs or alcohol in an excessive or disruptive way. For example, using drugs may disrupt the individual’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship, finish classes at school, or keep a job. It is a recognized mental disorder and can eventually impact all aspects of your life.
Many people begin using drugs or alcohol casually. Before long, they are using drugs to feel normal instead of to have fun. They develop a dependence and tolerance to drugs.
If the individual doesn’t stop using during the dependence and tolerance stages, they can eventually develop an addiction. At this point, quitting substance abuse can be difficult without the right medical supervision and support. Unfortunately, loneliness and social isolation can make reaching this stage of abuse more likely.
What is Social Isolation?
Social isolation is when someone lacks normal connections to other people. This leads to loneliness. Over time, it can make someone more likely to develop a substance abuse problem.
Social isolation can happen for many reasons. People may experience it after changing schools, moving to a new area, or leaving a job. Sometimes, people become socially isolated because they leave an abusive relationship.
Long-term illnesses, transportation issues, unemployment, and disabilities can also contribute to isolation. No matter what the cause, lacking friendships and social connections can feel isolating.
Unfortunately, social isolation can happen in reverse as well. When someone suffers from substance abuse, they may avoid their friends and family members out of fear of being judged. They may be fired from work or expelled from school because of their addiction, which can lead to heightened feelings of loneliness and despair.
The Connection Between Substance Abuse & Social Isolation
Substance abuse and social isolation feed into each other. People become socially isolated because of their addiction, but they can also develop substance abuse to cope with their feelings of social isolation. Because of this, it is important to rebuild a sober community of peers and friends during rehab.
When someone suffers from substance abuse, they are more likely to have a mental health disorder as well. Unfortunately, social isolation is also common among individuals struggling with their mental health. Someone may lose friends who aren’t able or willing to support them. Additionally, someone who has depression or anxiety may not have the mental and emotional resources available for friendship.
When you don’t have strong social connections, you are more likely to suffer from stroke or heart disease. If someone doesn’t have social connections to bring them happiness and companionship, they may turn to drugs and alcohol instead.
Unfortunately, using drugs to fill a void isn’t a successful long-term plan. While someone may initially drink or use drugs to temporarily feel happy, they’ll likely keep using as long as they remain socially isolated. They may even push away the friends they have because they don’t want someone else getting in the way of their substance use.
Healing From Substance Abuse and Social Isolation
There are many reasons why social isolation may be unavoidable. Moving to a new city, leaving a bad relationship, and switching jobs can all leave you feeling lonely. Unfortunately, this kind of social isolation can make someone more likely to develop a substance use disorder.