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Substance Misuse: 3 Steps to Finding and Dealing with the Deeper Reasons

Many factors that can influence substance misuse.

Often, there is still a perception that the misuse of substances is strictly a reflection of one’s character. This can cause those who struggle with it to experience judgment, isolation, and shame.

It also prevents these people from getting the help and treatment they need.

However, modern research has helped us to better understand the deeper reasons why substance misuse occurs. By getting a clear picture of these factors, you can better support someone you know who is in recovery, or yourself.

Consider these three steps to finding and dealing with the deeper reasons of your or someone else’s substance misuse.

Step #1: Understand the Neurological Effects of Addiction

First, it helps to learn more about the neurological effect of addiction. Research shows that addiction causes the brain to change, especially the parts that are the “reward” center of the brain. When you use drugs or alcohol, dopamine is causing you to experience pleasure. Over time, your brain learns to associate the substance with pleasure.

Simultaneously, it also becomes harder to experience the same kind of high that you initially felt. This is because your brain adapts to the levels of drugs or alcohol that you were initially using. Thus, you may look for other means to achieve that same feeling. So, you may start to abuse substances—either consuming more or looking to other, stronger substances to create the effect you’re seeking.

In the end, the brain begins to communicate that it wants and needs that substance all the time. That’s when substance abuse turns into addiction.

Step #2: Know the Connection Between Trauma and Substance Misuse

Second, in order to grasp how addiction and substance misuse can take a hold on someone, it helps to understand the link to trauma.

Oftentimes the root cause for why someone becomes addicted to substances is because of experiencing trauma. This can either be from a singular incident or from experiencing multiple traumatic events over a period of time.

There are two potential avenues for trauma to be connected to substance misuse:

  • Some people experience trauma and then turn to substances as a means of trying to cope with the ordeal.
  • Others may already be using substances, which increases the likelihood that they participate in risky behaviors that can lead to trauma.

Either way, trauma can be extremely hard to cope with. There are so many unpleasant and troubling emotions and memories that get embedded deep within the mind. Often, they plague a trauma victim for years. And triggers that take them back to the moment that the trauma occurred can cause horrible flashbacks at any time of the day.

Thus, it’s easy to see why some turn to substances to numb those feelings and to escape.

Step #3: Learn About the Role Substance Misuse Plays in Mental Health

The third step to understanding the deeper reasons behind substance misuse has to do with a person’s mental well-being. People may have an issue affecting their mental health, which often exists alongside a substance abuse problem.

These mental health problems could include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

What this means is that, if you’re struggling with substance abuse, it may be that you have some form of a mental health issue as well. Conversely, if you have a mental health problem or are experiencing a major crisis, that too could be a risk factor for misusing substances.

In fact, studies have found that 43% of those who are in substance abuse treatment for painkillers also had, in particular, depression and anxiety.

Dealing with Substance Misuse

Perhaps some of the aforementioned explanations of deeper reasons behind substance misuse have opened your eyes to a problem you or a loved one has. And now, you understand a bit clearer. What can you do to deal with it, though?

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse, the universal and most vital step to take is to seek professional help. Working with a counselor who understands addiction issues is key. Please, don’t try to handle the problem by yourself.

Aside from getting professional help, a few other avenues are also important, such as:

  • Support groups
  • Family involvement
  • Finding healthier outlets for emotions
  • Developing communication skills
  • Using better coping mechanisms

In therapy, you’ll have the opportunity to add these factors to your treatment program. A trained therapist can help you determine which would be of special help for your individual situation.

The reasons why substance misuse occurs can be deeper than you realized. By following the steps listed above and getting professional help, it is possible to deal with the underlying problems and recover. Please, contact us today for more information.

Author

Joshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

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