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The Link Between Grief And Substance Abuse

Grief and substance abuse are life-changing experiences on every level. Unfortunately, the two often go hand in hand, which compounds both issues. 

People who healthily process their grief usually rebound and regain their zest for life with joy and gratitude. However, if someone reacts to grief by abusing alcohol or drugs, life can be much darker.

The link between grief and addiction is strong but not unbreakable. With support, the pain of loss and the agony of addiction won’t ruin your life. 

Grief Explained

Grief is the powerful and painful reaction that humans experience in the aftermath of a profound loss. 

The death of a loved one is the most common cause of grief but not the only thing that can set off grief. Other causes of grief include the death of a pet, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job. In each case, losing someone or something triggers the onset of grief.

Anger, despair, denial, sadness, insomnia, loss of appetite, and anxiety are among the most common reactions to grief. However, this is not a comprehensive list of how people grieve. Everyone grieves differently. The amount of time people grieve and the physical and emotional effects they experience vary considerably from person to person. 

Factors influencing a person’s grief may include age, cultural norms and expectations, support networks, religious faith or spirituality, and dealing with stress. Also, the presence or absence of mental health issues makes a difference in how one handles grief. 

While grief is a normal and healthy response to a significant loss, if a person suffers from grief for an extended period and partakes in alcohol, drugs (or both) due to the grief, it may be time for some professional help.

The Link Between Grief and Substance Abuse

Many people deal with the effects of grief, such as stress, sadness, and personal setbacks, by using alcohol or drugs. Considering the extreme emotional pain that people feel after the death of a loved one, it’s no surprise that substance abuse is directly linked with grief.

Several studies have explored various aspects of the link between grief and substance abuse. One study in Frontiers in Psychology found an association among complex grief, poor coping skills, and substance use disorders. Another study in the August 2019 edition of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found evidence of a positive relationship between complicated grief and substance misuse.

How Grief Leads to Substance Abuse

Even though researchers have found links between grief and substance abuse, determining a cause-effect relationship is more complicated.

For example, the authors of the August 19 study noted that those with a history of substance abuse may be more likely to struggle with complicated grief. The study also reported that the onset of complicated grief can put a person at increased risk for alcohol abuse.

When looking hard at the relationship between grief and substance abuse, it’s easy to see how emotional pay may push someone to use alcohol or drugs.

Using Drugs and Alcohol to Cope With Grief

The urge to avoid or hide the pain of grief is entirely understandable. However, stifling the inevitable negative emotions is unhealthy and can bring additional problems.

If a person tries to mask grief with alcohol or drugs, the result could be physical damage, emotional harm, and the beginning of an addiction. 

It’s common for people who have already developed a habit of using alcohol or drugs to cope with the stress and pressure of life to increase their substance use. For these types of people, this can be especially true during a bout with grief.

After losing a loved one, the thought of getting through the day without them can feel overwhelming. Those who struggled with the stress of life before losing a loved one may not be able to respond to stress healthily. Drinking alcohol or using drugs to cope and fill the empty hours is a way of escaping the grief, albeit an unhealthy escape. 

Grief Without Substance Abuse

There is no simple set of instructions for navigating grief. Not surprisingly, nearly every expert would agree that hiding from grief or numbing it with alcohol or drugs is ineffective and self-destructive. 

Moving on after a significant loss takes dedication and the proper steps to protect one’s health and well-being. The link between grief and substance abuse must be broken for this to happen.

When the mind and body are free of alcohol and drugs,  mental clarity and physical strength kick in, making it easier to move forward and rebuild a happy and healthy life in the aftermath of loss.

Reaching out for professional treatment for addiction in the thwarts of grief can save a person on many levels. Effective communication, stress management, and conflict resolution skills are set in place to prevent grief from taking over while taking the steps to recovery.

Get Help for Grief and Substance Abuse in Nashville, TN

If your life has been rocked by the pain and despair of grief compounded by substance abuse, know you are not alone. Our compassionate professional team at Brentwood Springs Detox in Nashville, Tennessee, is here to return to a life of health and happiness in a safe and judgment-free environment. Lasting wellness awaits, reach out to us today!

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24/7 Help Is Standing By, Call Us Now.