Stress and addiction - Drug Addiction

Many of us suffer from or will experience stress at some point in our lives. Stress appears to be a condition of modern life and even more so for those of us who are ‘asset rich but time poor’.

But too much stress can lead to addiction.

The pace of life has speeded up over the last decade or so and we find ourselves continually trying to keep up! Juggling the demands of work with family and friends can be difficult and this pressure often leads to stress.

But the problem with stress is that if affects people differently. What one person finds stressful another sees it as a challenge.

Causes of stress

Where do we start? Potential stressors include employment, family, money worries, moving house, bereavement, divorce etc. In fact there is a list of the most stressful life events in life which include:

  • Moving house
  • Financial difficulty/bankruptcy
  • Redundancy
  • Death of spouse/partner

These are just some of the most likely causes of stress.

We know that a small amount of stress or to be more accurate, pressure can be good for us. It motivates us, improves performance and drives us to succeed. But unrelenting or chronic pressure has the opposite effect.

It’s that point where we feel as if we can no longer cope with pressure that it becomes stress. And there are people who are more resistant to stress than others. Stress can cause physical, psychological and emotional problems.

Coping with stress

People deal with stress in different ways. Some people use exercise or sport as a means of working off their stress whereas others prefer something more relaxing. But there other people who turn to less beneficial forms of relaxation.

Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and drugs are used as forms of ‘stress relief’ but they only compound the problem. There are the effects of stress combined with the effects of the substance which can easily spiral out of control.

Cigarettes and alcohol are the most accessible forms of ‘drugs’ and usually the most affordable. Alcohol is also a socially acceptable drug and due to this is not considered to be a problem. So going for a few drinks after work with your colleagues is considered to be a normal part of the working day.

Smoking is still seen as a way of relaxing even though it has been banished out of the workplace as a result of the smoking ban. However, we still see small groups of people huddled outside their office having a cigarette. There are people who still continue to smoke in spite of this restriction and/or the dangers to their health.

Drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines are often used as a quick way of releasing stress and tension which has built up during the working week. A popular way of using these is at parties or socialising at the weekend and some people view these as an integral part of their social lives.

These type of people may be ambitious high-achievers who often live for the moment and tend to view their drug use as a part of their ‘scene’. They may act quite casually about it and consider it to be a normal part of their fast-paced lives. For them it is about risk-taking and living life on the edge and drug use is just one form of this.

Work-related stress

It can be the case that someone works in a highly stressful environment in which employees use alcohol or drugs as a way of winding down at the end of the day. This may start off on an occasional basis but as their tolerance to that substance grows then so does their addiction.

If you work in a highly competitive, target-driven environment then you will probably be running on adrenaline most of the time. This may help when it comes to making important decisions or reaching a deadline but a constant state of hyperactivity will be harmful in the long term.

There is also the fact that some jobs have a culture in which drinking is part of that culture. If your job requires you to entertain clients or join in on ‘bonding session’, which involves alcohol, then it is hard to refuse. In many cases a refusal to do so can be seen as not being a team player and may affect your chances of promotion or even your future with that company.

There is also the issue of money: if your job is well remunerated then this will enable you to spend money on these substances as and when you like. What happens then is that you spend more and more money in order to fuel your addiction which leads to serious financial problems, which then causes more stress, which results in an increase in your addiction and so on…

This reaches at point at which your addiction is out of control and affects not only you but others around you. 

The effects of a stressful job combined with the effects of an addictive substance add up to what can be a lethal combination.

If stress is a problem for you then talk to your GP. You will find that he/she will be sympathetic to your concerns and can advise you on ways to deal with this. It is better to do this early on rather than at the stage when it is affecting your health and has resulted in an addiction.


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