Treatment Centers for Addiction and Stress

2 min read · 3 sections

Addiction and stress often go hand in hand. For those who are dealing with high levels of stress in their daily lives, alcohol and drugs are often used to diminish the symptoms of stress, sometimes leading to substance misuse and addiction.

When stress is a factor in addiction, finding a treatment center that can help manage that stress is a vital element in achieving recovery that will last for years to come.

Dealing with Stress

Man Traveler relaxing alone in Mountains Travel LifestyleStress is a fact of daily life for most people. Issues in relationships, jobs, traffic, and financial challenges are just some of the daily pressures that can result in feeling stressed. However, while most people have experienced stress, not everyone understands what happens when the body goes through the stress response.

Stress is a physical and emotional response to a perceived danger. It evolved as a reaction to direct threats to life and health, at a time when survival was much more difficult, and these types of dangers were encountered daily. When a person perceives danger, the body releases chemicals that increase readiness to fight the threat or run from it. This readiness involves:

  • Increased heart rate and breathing.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Decreased digestion and immune system function.
  • Jumpiness and heightened awareness.

When the stressor is gone, the body then releases more chemicals to counter this response, returning body function to normal.

These days, perceived danger takes on different forms. A person may have the same stress response to fear of losing a job that an ancestor may have had to encountering a large predator. Because today’s perceived dangers are nearly constant, stress has become a chronic condition for a large number of people.

Treating Stress and Addiction Together

Because stress has such a strong effect on addiction, it is important that substance use disorder treatment also involves therapies that help people learn to manage stress. To this end, many of the therapies used in research-based addiction treatment programs include aspects of stress management. This includes:

  • Exercise: Regular workouts can help people lower levels of anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise causes the body to produce endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and can lift mood, as well as improve quality of sleep. All of this can help ease stress. At the same time, these chemicals can help diminish cravings for drugs or alcohol, ease the discomforts of withdrawal, and develop a more positive outlook during and after treatment. All of this can help prevent relapse into substance use.
  • Meditation and mindfulness: A research review from the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that mindfulness meditation can result in lowered anxiety, depression, pain, and stress. At the same time, meditation can help a person remain calm in the face of substance use triggers, and soothe the feelings that lead to cravings.
  • Behavioral therapy: Therapies that are practiced in addiction treatment, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other approaches, help a person learn to recognize behavior patterns and their typical responses to situations. By recognizing these patterns, an individual can then learn to modify the behavioral response. This is valuable both for managing stress and for avoiding substance use in the face of triggering events or situations. A specific branch of therapy, trauma-focused CBT, can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder work through the trauma issues that may lead to increased daily stress and substance abuse.
  • Peer support: Peer support groups, such as 12-Step groups, are the basis of much of addiction treatment. These groups have been shown to promote accountability, motivation, and commitment, which improve a person’s ability to avoid relapse into drug use. At the same time, peer support has been shown to decrease levels of perceived stress. A study from Social Science & Medicine showed that people who had high job stress and low levels of peer support were likely to smoke cigarettes more than those who had lower stress and higher levels of support.

Finding Treatment for Stress and Addiction

When a person makes the decision to enter treatment for addiction it is important to bring up the possible influence of stress on the individual’s substance use. Discussing this with the intake specialist can ensure the program has the capacity to provide stress management as part of treatment.

When treatment for stress combines with substance addiction treatment, the result can be more positive, offering real solutions for managing one of the most common contributors to the development of addiction. A person who learns to manage stress is more likely to be able to manage the triggers and cravings for substance abuse, getting more out of treatment to maintain recovery and avoid relapse to substance use in the future.

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