Can Outside Influences Cause Substance Abuse?

2 min read · 1 sections

Today is Election Day in the United States. Tensions are high. Morale may seem low. Buildings are boarded up. Needless to say, voters from both parties feel like everything is on the line. Perhaps, it is. This is one of the most polarized election years in modern history.

Some struggle to handle their emotions and reactions to events outside of their control. When attempts for distraction like reading a book, watching a movie, or going for a walk don’t calm down worked-up nerves, what do people turn to? Drugs? Alcohol?

Substance abuse is a pattern of using any type of substance in a harmful way for the purpose of altering one’s mood. The word “substances” is inclusive of: alcohol, prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs, as well as substances that are not considered drugs.

At American Addiction Centers, the nationwide leader in addiction treatment, we provide medical detox and treatment for substance use disorders for those in need. If you find yourself struggling with an addiction to substances, please reach out for help.


Is Substance Abuse the Result of Reacting to the Environment or is it a Disease?

An individual can use a substance and not have a substance use disorder or be addicted to the substance used. However, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that addiction is a chronic, long-term condition characterized by the individual’s compulsion to seek and use drugs regardless of the consequences.

These organizations define addiction as a disease when:

  • Changes are long-term and have the ability to persist after an individual stops the use of a drug.
  • Addiction alters how the brain reacts under circumstances regarding stress, self-control, and rewards.

In other words, for example, drinking a glass of wine as one watches the election coverage as a way to alter their mood to something that is more manageable is not necessarily an addiction or a disease.

According to Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, there are six ways the environment can influence anCartoon image of 3 people sitting inside prescription bottle. addiction.

Environmental influences:

  • Peer groups. The friends that an individual associates with is a heavy influence on behavior for all people within the group. If an individual associates with those who use drugs and/or alcohol, chances are they will use alcohol and drugs as well.
  • Family interactions/dynamics. Parental influence on those early years weighs heavily on how an individual sees and experiences the world. Parenting styles and interactions can potentially play a significant role in mental health challenges, such as substance abuse.
  • Media. The portrayal of drugs and alcohol in movies, television shows, and video games can potentially influence individuals by glorifying the act and eliminating the consequences to the abuse of substances.
  • Religion/culture. Some individuals may experience specific feelings about the expectations of the culture and/or religion from which they’ve come from. These points of view may have an impact on their use of substances.
  • Social media. Although social media has many positive and interactive perks, it also comes with a negative impact on some people’s lives. For example, seeing others have a successful and happy life in posts, may cause an individual to feel like their own life doesn’t measure up, which could serve as a trigger for those who have a propensity to use substances.
  • Environment. Being in an environment that supports substance use, can cause a trigger for those individuals who are susceptible to substance use. For example, attending “Happy Hour” with colleagues or going to a bar with friends.

Substance use disorder or addiction can’t be immediately explained away by any one particular factor. Sometimes environmental variables weigh in and contribute to an individual’s substance use, as well as their genetic makeup.

If you’re struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. We’re here. There are resources available to help you achieve long-term sobriety and to live a productive life. Don’t let a battle with substance abuse hinder you. Please reach out to get the help that you need.

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