The Connection Between Loneliness and Substance Abuse

Man on hill

When society considers substance abuse and loneliness, the image that is portrayed is often misconstrued as an older man or woman, sitting in a bar all alone, drinking their sorrows away from dawn to dusk. While this popularized visual has lasted through movies and common misconceptions, loneliness and substance abuse can become virtually anyone’s present experience. Neither loneliness nor substance abuse discriminate, making it even more important for support, guidance, and resources to be available for those who need it.

There is a theory that humans have basic needs, including physical needs, safety, love and belonging. When a person becomes addicted to substances, those substances demand all their attention – activities that were once enjoyed with friends and/or family are now being replaced with the substance of choice; basic requirements of sleeping and eating healthily are now placed lower on the totem pole as addiction grabs the person’s undivided attention. Some people rely on substances to fill voids of loneliness, while others perpetuate it as their substance use takes over crucial social components of their lives. If you or a loved one has struggled with substance abuse, can you relate to either of these scenarios?

A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Medical Toxicology and Forensic Medicine sought to explore the relationship between loneliness and emotion dysregulation that stems from substance abuse. Four hundred and fifty-two students completed questionnaires relating to loneliness, emotional regulation, and drug abuse. The results from the study showed that the more difficult it was for a person to regulate their emotions due to their substance abuse, the more loneliness they experienced. This is likely because substance abuse dulls a person’s ability to think clearly and logically with awareness surrounding the events of their life; as their substance abuse continues to demand their attention, their own ability to process their attention, cognition, motivation, and emotional and behavioral effort declines.

Overall, it seems that loneliness and substance abuse can serve as a two-headed sword. Some people may self-medicate their loneliness with substance abuse, leading them to experience further psychological problems down the road. Others may become too involved with substances, which eventually take over their ability to reason with themselves and consumes activities that negate loneliness. The best way to combat either of these scenarios, is to seek treatment. Make the decision to seek help today. You are not alone, and recovery is possible.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.