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Throughout the United States, drug abuse and addiction are serious issues. In fact, they cost the American people over $740 billion each year in terms of crime, health care, and lost productivity.
Do you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction? If so, you may have noticed that they’ve become more isolated recently. There’s a strong link between social isolation and addiction, and understanding it can help you get your loved one the help they need to recover.
Read on to learn more about the connection between these two things, as well as how addicts can overcome the effects of isolation.
How are Isolation and Addiction Connected?
It’s not uncommon for people who are dealing with addiction to isolate themselves. There’s a reason isolation is a well-known warning sign of drug abuse (especially teen drug abuse). On the flip side, addicts are often lonely people who turn to drugs to help them cope with their loneliness.
There are many reasons why addicts have a tendency to become isolated, including the following:
Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to help them numb certain negative feelings they may experience.
This is why people who already suffer from issues like depression and anxiety are more prone to drug abuse than those who do not. They’ll often rely on these substances to help them feel more in control or to try and manage the symptoms that affect them on a regular basis.
At first, it may seem that drugs and alcohol are useful tools. Over time, though, they start to take control and prevent the abuser from socializing and engaging with others in healthy ways.
Fear of Judgment
Often, a person who abuses drugs or alcohol knows deep down that they have a problem. However, it’s difficult to acknowledge this.
Instead of spending time with people who may encourage them to confront this problem, they may choose to isolate themselves instead. That way, they can deny that there’s anything wrong with their substance abuse, and they’re less likely to feel judged by their friends or family members for their behaviors.
Some addicts may also choose to isolate themselves so that they don’t have to engage in any kind of conflict with their friends or family members.
This may come from a place of self-preservation if they have concerns about their loved ones having a negative reaction to their drug use. It may also serve as another tool to help them avoid having to face their addiction head-on.
The Effects of Social Isolation
There’s nothing wrong with someone taking some time to be alone and recharge every once in a while. In fact, it’s healthy.
For addicts, though, their isolation does not stem from a place of self-care. Instead, their addiction is running the show and they’re using isolation for the reasons outlined above.
Long-term isolation among addicts can lead to all kinds of negative feelings and behavior patterns, including the following:
- Feelings of disconnection (both physically and emotionally)
- Worsened symptoms of depression and anxiety (despite using drugs to help cope with these feelings)
- Feelings of shame and/or guilt
- Feeling as though they’ve been abandoned or that no one wants to be around them
- A lack of contentment and general life satisfaction
- Feelings of hopelessness
When a person feels this way on a regular basis, their physical and mental health can suffer. They may be less inclined to engage in basic self-care behaviors (exercising, getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, etc.), their symptoms of depression and anxiety may get worse, and they may find themselves becoming more and more reliant on their drug of choice.
These individuals may eventually find themselves at risk of self-harm and even suicide if they do not get help.
How to Overcome Isolation and Addiction
The good news is that there are plenty of techniques an individual can use to reconnect socially and work to overcome their addiction. If your loved one is isolating themselves and struggling with substance abuse, here are some steps you can take to help them:
Be There for Them
In many cases, when someone dealing with addiction isolates themselves from their friends and family, the people they need the most have a tendency to retreat. They may think they’re doing something positive by giving the person space, or they may be angry or resentful toward them for shutting them out.
In reality, what this person needs most is support. Let your loved one know that you’re still there for them and want to help them get better.
Let Them Grieve
If your loved one is coming to terms with the seriousness of their addiction and has shown an interest in getting help, remember that they need to be able to grieve the losses that their addiction has brought upon them. They also need to grieve the loss of the substances themselves.
Give your loved one space to do this and let them know that it’s okay.
Encourage Them to Seek Outside Help
Encourage them to seek help from a professional, too. This could be an addiction counselor, staying at an inpatient rehabilitation facility or addiction treatment centers, or attending 12-step meetings. Whatever type of help they choose, let them know you support their decision.
Support Them in Their Recovery
Continue to support your loved one in their recovery journey. Remember, too, that recovery is often non-linear, and they may have setbacks along the way. Let them know that you don’t love them less for relapsing and continue to show up for them as long as it’s healthy for you to do so.
Get Help Conquering Addiction Today
Combating social isolation can help an individual who’s struggling with substance abuse to feel more empowered to take charge of their life and overcome their addiction.
Now that you know more about the connection between social isolation and addiction, as well as how you can help your loved one combat common social isolation effects, it’s time to take steps to help them get better.
Contact us today at River Walk Ranch to learn more about our addiction recovery services. We can help your loved one to know they’re not alone and make sure they get the treatment they need.