What is the connection between being alone and having a drug problem?
Often, people don't think about how isolation plays addiction. Addiction is commonly thought of as a moral failing when the reality is that those suffering from addiction lack connection. The global COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns had the negative side effect of substantially increasing isolation and exacerbating addiction. According to Debbie Kelley from the Gazette, Colorado saw a 38% increase in fatal drug deaths from pre-pandemic 2019 to pandemic 2020.
Working as a mental health professional in the Addictions field, I have seen our success rate drop in half from pre-pandemic levels.
We all crave close family and personal relationships, no matter our personality type.
Even more important than food and shelter are the need for love and belonging. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs shows that these are essential things for people. Without community and relationships, we start to think that our lives don't have any value, leading to anger, frustration, and sadness.
This sadness and anger can result in self-harm and high-risk behaviour, leading to more profound isolation. Seeking professional help is a good idea if you or your loved one desires to break the isolation and drug use cycle.
How to understand Isolation and Addiction?
Psychologists have likened loneliness and isolation to an epidemic because it spreads quickly and can be very bad. In addition, the roots of isolation are more complicated than a simple lack of exposure to other people.
Isolation can be caused by genetics, just like physical illnesses. Some people are more likely to feel isolated and disconnected than others. Crime, poverty, and drug use can make people afraid and hopeless in their communities. Like a disease, isolation can spread through communities, especially if there is a lot of crime and poverty in them. In these situations, distrust can be pervasive.
According to a recent study, 80 percent of those who suffer from substance abuse said they sometimes or always felt alone. The impact of this is significant concerning substance abuse.
Scientists have found a link between being alone and high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weak immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and even chemical addiction when people become addicted to certain drugs.
Isolation does affect addiction.
There is a myth that addiction comes from a "party" culture where people drink and take drugs with their friends, and they lose their sense of self. However, this isn't entirely true.
Many people may start using drugs or alcohol at a party, but most of the time, it's not because of their friends or the party.
Isolation and addiction form a self-reinforcing cycle, as we've seen in the past. Many people start taking risks because they already feel isolated and like their lives don't matter to anyone else.
On the other hand, high-risk behaviour makes people even more isolated because their friends and family distance themselves from frightening or erratic behaviour.
Another thing that happens when people become addicted is that they start to close themselves off from other people. Aiming to protect their shame and continue their habit, they stop talking to their spouses, siblings, and parents.
During the throes of addiction, if the person with the addiction is prone to theft or violence, their relationships may worsen. Self-isolation can happen because people are ashamed of their addictions. Still, it can also occur because of changes in the brain.
Soon, the brain is wired to focus on the need for more drugs or alcohol. As the chemical dependency grows, family, friends, work, and other things fall by the wayside. Tragically, this lack of connection can make it hard for people to get better.
When people who are addicted start to look for help, they may no longer have friends and family who can help them get help.
It can be hard to deal with mental illness, being alone, and having a problem with drugs.
If someone is isolated, their mental health can suffer for no reason, no matter their age or background. And even though substance abuse is a common way to deal with a mental health crisis, it only makes the addict's physical and emotional well-being worse for a short time.
To put it another way, people who use drugs or alcohol to deal with things like depression or anxiety only push away their feelings and the people they care about away. One of the saddest things about being isolated is that it can also be caused or made worse by institutional factors like generational poverty, lack of reliable transportation, disabilities, language barriers, and lack of community engagement resources.
As a result, it can't always be solved with more connections and better social skills.
This is because people with many isolation problems need help from professionals to deal with other issues, like not having enough money. If they stop using drugs "cold turkey," their isolation and mental health problems will still be there, and they will come back again and again even if they stop.
Treating isolation, addiction, and mental health problems can help people who aren't getting what they need.
Addiction treatment teams know that isolation can lead to a cycle of anguish and addiction, and they know how to help people break that cycle.
With the help of a professional, isolated men and women can develop treatment plans like living in Sober Living Homes that will help them with both their physical and mental health. They will also start to look for resources and programs that can help them get a job, get resources, and connect with people in a meaningful way.
Treatment for Isolation and Drugs
Most people who want to get clean can benefit from staying in a treatment center. Still, it can be especially beneficial for both isolated and addicted people. This is because, for these people, a variety of therapies and treatments can be used at the same time to help with their underlying problems.
For example, someone who has a chemical addiction and general anxiety and loneliness is more likely to find relief in a treatment environment that includes physical and psychological recovery resources.
Medical detoxification may be the first step on the road to recovery, depending on the nature of the substance abuse. Healthcare professionals will be there to help.
This is called medical detox, and it helps the body get used to living without an addictive substance. Medical staff also can help control and monitor the pain and anxiety that comes with withdrawal.
As a drug or alcohol user, withdrawal can be very stressful. Still, suppose you go through it in a safe and supervised environment. In that case, you are less likely to have an accident or get into a bad situation.
It can also be very effective at breaking the cycle of addiction by helping people deal with stressors, self-sabotage, and guilt.
Another way to help people who need to connect is to use sober living near you, group therapy, one-on-one counselling, and twelve-step programs. These can help people who need to connect form healthy relationships with people who understand their situation.
One implement that we have done at Serenity Falls is to experiment with requiring in-person meetings to encourage the building of relationships within the recovery community. This is a significant change because due to the pandemic we encouraged Zoom 12-Step meetings for safety.