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Isolation and Addiction

Isolation and loneliness can be powerful amplifying forces for substance use disorders. A lack of connection to others can allow bad habits to form or be reinforced.

Social Aspects of Addiction

Both social behaviors and antisocial behaviors are associated with addiction. On one end of the spectrum exists the “party animal” archetype, who’s the kind of person who always seems to have an issue with controlling their intake during social events. The opposite counterpart is the “loner” drug user or drinker who avoids contact in order to maintain their substance use disorder.

While most people suffering with substance dependencies fall within these 2 stereotypes, they function as an important reminder of the degree to which social connections influence people and their drug use. Someone dependent on social situations to begin using often require different care than someone who avoids social connection in order to maintain their habit. While the treatment methods may differ, it’s important to understand that isolating increases risks for many different health issues.

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Effects of Isolation

As social creatures, humans require some level of social engagement. Regardless of age or socioeconomic status, without normal connection to other people, certain adverse mental and even physical health effects can take root. Isolation can result in:

  • Increased likelihood of depression and anxiety
  • Reduced sleep quality
  • Hindered executive function
  • Cognitive decline
  • Impaired cardiovascular functions
  • Reduced immune system capabilities

If someone faces issues like depression and anxiety before dealing with isolation, their symptoms can augment and worsen over time. The psychological benefits of healthy social relationships aren’t totally understood, but they do show a general positive impact on many aspects of physical and mental health. Studies around this topic have even found that healthy relationships are more closely associated with long life than meticulously maintained diet and exercise routines.

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Isolation and Addiction

The strain and deleterious effects of isolation can impact every facet of someone’s life, especially their experience with addiction. Like depression, a substance abuse disorder will grow when neglected and without the accountability and support of others, there’s not much to keep it in check.

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Most addiction treatments rely in some way on people surrounding the suffering individual to help them recover.

These social interactions serve to keep moods in check and reduce the likelihood that someone will fall into a depressive state. The judgement people feel from close relations about their substance use can drive them into solitude to use. If loved ones can transform that judgement into positive reinforcement and accountability, then it becomes a tool for healing.

Forced Isolation

Certain circumstances in people’s lives force them into situations where they have no regular connection to friends or loved ones. Whether they’re geographically isolated from their loved ones or under commands to stay inside, isolation can harm anyone’s progress in addiction treatment. Times like these may make group programs and regular therapy impossible, but in the modern world there are ways to get around these issues.

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Modern Solutions

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Alcoholics Anonymous has pushed towards technological solutions. During the pandemic, video chatting exploded in popularity in order to maintain contact between families, coworkers, and others. Meeting groups saw this opportunity and began using the same video chats to set up virtual meeting spaces where people could continue their therapy in some capacity. For those without access to video equipment, calling options as well as text options are being leveraged too. With the widespread availability of technology, even in times of crisis people are finding ways to break out of isolation and engage in productive healing and even therapy.

Dealing with Isolation

If you are feeling isolated from loved ones or people that can help you, know that you have options. Don’t let loneliness drive you into drug dependency and addiction. Even if you feel like you can’t reach out to family and friends, there are treatment providers who are willing to listen and help.

If someone you love seems to be struggling with the above situation, don’t let them face it alone. Talk to them. Even if you can’t see them in person, make the effort to reach out over video call, telephone, or text. Isolation is a dangerous state to be in and letting them know that you’re there for them can pull them out.

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