Does Stress Cause Addiction?

Does Stress Cause Addiction?

Drug-addicted patients who are trying to remain off drugs can often resist the cravings brought on by seeing reminders of their former drug life, NIDA-funded researcher Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek of Rockefeller University in New York City has noted.

«For 6 months or so, they can walk past the street corner where they used to buy drugs and not succumb to their urges. But then all of a sudden they relapse,» she says. «When we ask them why they relapse, almost always they tell us something , 'Well, things weren't going well at my job,' or 'My wife left me.

' Sometimes, the problem is as small as 'My public assistance check was delayed,' or 'The traffic was too heavy.'»

Anecdotes such as these are common in the drug abuse treatment community. These anecdotes plus animal studies on this subject point toward an important role for stress in drug abuse relapse. In addition, the fact that addicts often relapse apparently in response to what most people would consider mild stressors suggests that addicts may be more sensitive than non-addicts to stress.

This hypersensitivity may exist before drug abusers start taking drugs and may contribute to their initial drug use, or it could result from the effects of chronic drug abuse on the brain, or its existence could be due to a combination of both, Dr. Kreek has proposed. She has demonstrated that the nervous system of an addict is hypersensitive to chemically induced stress, which suggests that the nervous system also may be hypersensitive to emotional stress.

How the Body Copes With Stress

The reacts to stress by secreting two types of chemical messengers — hormones in the blood and neurotransmitters in the brain. Scientists think that some of the neurotransmitters may be the same or similar chemicals as the hormones but acting in a different capacity.

Some of the hormones travel throughout the , altering the metabolism of food so that the brain and muscles have sufficient stores of metabolic fuel for activities, such as fighting or fleeing, that help the person cope with the source of the stress. In the brain, the neurotransmitters trigger emotions, such as aggression or anxiety, that prompt the person to undertake those activities.

Normally, stress hormones are released in small amounts throughout the day, but when the is under stress the level of these hormones increases dramatically. The release of stress hormones begins in the brain.

First, a hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is released from the brain into the blood, which carries the CRF to the pituitary gland, located directly underneath the brain.

There, CRF stimulates the release of another hormone, adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), which, in turn, triggers the release of other hormones — principally cortisol — from the adrenal glands. Cortisol travels throughout the , helping it to cope with stress.

If the stressor is mild, when the cortisol reaches the brain and pituitary gland it inhibits the further release of CRF and ACTH, which return to their normal levels. But if the stressor is intense, signals in the brain for more CRF release outweigh the inhibitory signal from cortisol, and the stress hormone cycle continues.

Researchers speculate that CRF and ACTH may be among the chemicals that serve dual purposes as hormones and neurotransmitters. The researchers posit that if, indeed, these chemicals also act as neurotransmitters, they may be involved in producing the emotional responses to stress.

The stress hormone cycle is controlled by a number of stimulatory chemicals in addition to CRF and ACTH and inhibitory chemicals in addition to cortisol both in the brain and in the blood.

Among the chemicals that inhibit the cycle are neurotransmitters called opioid peptides, which are chemically similar to opiate drugs such as heroin and morphine. Dr.

Kreek has found evidence that opioid peptides also may inhibit the release of CRF and other stress-related neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby inhibiting stressful emotions.

How Addiction Changes the Body's Response to Stress

Heroin and morphine inhibit the stress hormone cycle and presumably the release of stress-related neurotransmitters just as the natural opioid peptides do.

Thus, when people take heroin or morphine, the drugs add to the inhibition already being provided by the opioid peptides. This may be a major reason that some people start taking heroin or morphine in the first place, suggests Dr. Kreek.

«Every one of us has things in life that really bother us,» she says. «Most people are able to cope with these hassles, but some people find it very difficult to do so.

In trying opiate drugs for the first time, some people who have difficulty coping with stressful emotions might find that these drugs blunt those emotions, an effect that they might find rewarding. This could be a major factor in their continued use of these drugs.»

When the effects of opiate drugs wear off, the addict goes into withdrawal. Research has shown that, during withdrawal, the level of stress hormones rises in the blood and stress-related neurotransmitters are released in the brain.

These chemicals trigger emotions that the addict perceives as highly unpleasant, which drive the addict to take more opiate drugs. Because the effects of heroin or morphine last only 4 to 6 hours, opiate addicts often experience withdrawal three or four times a day.

This constant switching on and off of the stress systems of the heightens whatever hypersensitivity these systems may have had before the person started taking drugs, Dr. Kreek says. «The result is that these stress chemicals are on a sort of hair-trigger release.

They surge at the slightest provocation,» she says.

Studies have suggested that cocaine similarly heightens the 's sensitivity to stress, although in a different way.

When a cocaine addict takes cocaine, the stress systems are activated, much when an opiate addict goes into withdrawal, but the person perceives this as part of the cocaine rush because cocaine is also stimulating the parts of the brain that are involved in feeling pleasure.

When cocaine's effects wear off and the addict goes into withdrawal, the stress systems are again activated — again, much when an opiate addict goes into withdrawal.

This time, the cocaine addict perceives the activation as unpleasant because the cocaine is no longer stimulating the pleasure circuits in the brain. Because cocaine switches on the stress systems both when it is active and during withdrawal, these systems rapidly become hypersensitive, Dr. Kreek theorizes.

This theory about stress and drug addiction is derived in part from studies conducted by Dr. Kreek's group in which addicts were given a test agent called metyrapone.

This chemical blocks the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands, which lowers the level of cortisol in the blood. As a result, cortisol is no longer inhibiting the release of CRF from the brain and ACTH from the pituitary.

The brain and pituitary then start producing more of these chemicals.

Physicians use metyrapone to test whether a person's stress system is operating normally. When metyrapone is given to nonaddicted people, the ACTH level in the blood increases. However, when Dr. Kreek and her colleagues administered metyrapone to active heroin addicts, the ACTH level hardly rose at all.

When the scientists gave metyrapone to heroin addicts who were abstaining from heroin use and who were not taking methadone, the synthetic opioid medication that suppresses cravings for opiate drugs, the ACTH level in the majority of the addicts increased about twice as high as in nonaddicts.

Finally, when the scientists gave metyrapone to heroin addicts maintained for at least 3 months on methadone, the ACTH level rose the same as in nonaddicts.

Addicts on heroin underreact because all the excess opioid molecules in the brain greatly inhibit the brain's stress system, Dr. Kreek explains.

Addicts who are heroin-free and methadone-free overreact because the constant on-off of daily heroin use has made the stress system hypersensitive, she says, and heroin addicts who are on methadone react normally because methadone stabilizes this stress system.

Methadone acts at the same sites in the brain as heroin, but methadone stays active for about 24 hours while the effects of heroin are felt for only 4 to 6 hours.

Because methadone is long-acting, the heroin addict is no longer going into withdrawal three or four times a day. Without the constant activation involved in these withdrawals, the brain's stress system normalizes.

Recently, Dr. Kreek's group reported that a majority of cocaine addicts who are abstaining from cocaine use overreact in the metyrapone test, just the heroin addicts who are abstaining from heroin and not taking methadone. As with heroin addicts, this overreaction in cocaine addicts reflects hypersensitivity of the stress system caused by chronic cocaine abuse.

«We think that addicts may react to emotional stress in the same way that their stress hormone system reacts to the metyrapone test,» says Dr. Kreek.

At the slightest provocation, CRF and other stress-related neurotransmitters pour out into the brain, producing unpleasant emotions that make the addict want to take drugs again, she suggests.

Since life is filled with little provocations, addicts in withdrawal are constantly having their stress system activated, she concludes.


  • Kreek, M.J., and Koob, G.F. Drug dependence: Stress and dysregulation of brain reward pathways. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 51:23-47, 1998.
  • Kreek, M.J., et al. ACTH, cortisol, and b-endorphin response to metyrapone testing during chronic methadone maintenance treatment in humans. Neuropeptides 5:277-278, 1984.
  • Schluger, J.H., et al. Abnormal metyrapone tests during cocaine abstinence. In: L.S. Harris, ed. Problems of Drug Dependence, 1997: Proceedings of the 59th Annual Scientific Meeting, College on Problems of Drug Dependence, Inc. NIDA Research Monograph Series, Number 178. NIH Publication No. 98-4305. Pittsburgh, PA: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, p. 105, 1998.
  • Schluger, J.H., et al. Nalmefene causes greater hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation than naloxone in normal volunteers: Implications for the treatment of alcoholism. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 22(7):1430-1436, 1998.


Stress and Substance Abuse — The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab

Does Stress Cause Addiction?

Combining stress with drug abuse is dangerous. Stress is one of the most common triggers for experiencing setbacks related to recovery. However, for a person with a mild substance use disorder or who is only using substances socially, stress can be the tipping point leading to developing a substance use disorder.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Stress Symptoms

Every day, people have a drink to relax. This practice is a socially acceptable reason to drink alcohol. However, with all the symptoms of stress, is stress drinking helpful? Does using substances increase stress levels or help people cope with stress?

Stress and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol to relieve stress is a common practice. Despite the anecdotal suggestion that drinking can help a person unwind, drinking alcohol to cope with stress is ineffective.

Physical side effects of alcohol use paired with symptoms of stress can wreak havoc on the body.

In addition to potential concerns about health conditions turning to alcohol every time a stressful situation arises prevents the development of natural coping skills.

Stress and Marijuana

A person using marijuana will ly report feeling a decrease in stress and anxiety. While this outcome may be true for some people, the relationship between marijuana and stress is more complex. When the effects of marijuana wear off, a rebound effect of increased anxiety is ly. Many long-term marijuana users report feeling unable to handle routine stressors.

Stress and Stimulants

When overwhelmed with stress, the thought of taking a drug and suddenly having the energy to be able to complete more tasks in less time may seem appealing. The hopes of reducing workload often motivate people to use stimulants, especially prescription stimulants. One of the largest problems with the stress and stimulant connection is the high risk of developing an addiction.

Stress and Smoking

Stress smoking is common. Many people feel that smoking a cigarette is a stress reliever.

While this may seem true to a person who has already developed nicotine dependence, beginning an association of smoking and stress may increase the risk of becoming addicted in people not yet dependent on nicotine.

Repeatedly turning to a substance such as nicotine in times of stress creates an association of needing that substance to cope.

Statistics on Stress and Drug Abuse

Stress is one of the most common risk factors of relapse. Experiencing chronic stress can also increase the lihood that a person will develop a substance use disorder. Stress and drug abuse statistics can help clarify the stress and substance use link.

Even after long periods of abstinence, experiencing stress increases thoughts of returning to drug use and increases the lihood of relapse.

Studies have shown that even when substance use is not present prior to experiencing stress, alcohol and other drugs are more ly to be sought out when stress occurs.

Can Stress Cause Drug Addiction?

Experiencing chronic stress greatly increases a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder.

When a person routinely uses drugs to cope with stress, they are less ly to develop healthy coping skills for stress. A person may begin to feel that the only way they can cope with stress is by using drugs. This cycle has the potential to lead to addiction. Others may consciously use drugs as a form of self-medication. This is particularly true for people with chronic stress.

Treating Stress with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse

Treating stress alongside co-occurring substance abuse increases the probability of a person entering recovery. Successful treatment should include stress management.

Developing new, healthy coping skills can greatly reduce the risk of relapse. If you or a loved one is using alcohol or other drugs to cope with stress, The Recovery Village is ready to help.

Speak with a representative today to learn more about our individualized treatment programs.

Hassanbeigi, A., Askari, J., Hassanbeigi, D., and Pourmovahed, Z. “The Relationship Between Stress and Addiction.” Science Direct, July 9, 2013. Accessed March 12, 2019.

Heshmat, S. “Studies Link Stress and Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, April 1, 1999. Accessed March 12, 2019.

Sinha R. “Chronic Stress, Drug Use and Vulnerability to Addiction.” National Library of Medicine, October 2008. Accessed March 12, 2019.


The Relationship between Stress and Addiction

Does Stress Cause Addiction?

According to researchers, meditation is one of the most effective stress relievers out there as well as treating substance abuse itself. You need to meditate and focus your mind so that you won’t fall victim to excessive worrying and pressure.

What’s more, even without addiction in the equation, stress can be dangerous to your health in and of itself because it increases the amount of the hormone cortisol in your body, which in turn can lead to a number of sicknesses that should decrease your overall life quality.

Lanna Rehab should have meditation seminars and therapies available to assist you.

  • The Human Stress Response: Addiction to substances is just one of many ways humans can go about responding to being stressed out. This natural reaction to damaging, dangerous situations occurs whether you’re faced with an actual or perceived danger. Even if it’s something becoming embarrassed or losing social standing, you can be as stressed out as when you’re faced with a threat to your life. This is why peer pressure is so effective in pushing someone to drink or use drugs for the first time. The stress of losing face or being seen as lame by your peers might stress you out enough to take that hit on the bong or down that shot glass. It can come in many forms and degrees.
  • How Stress Is Defined by Hans Seyle: Many of the common notions of stress were taken from Hans Seyle, an endocrinologist who called stress as a nonspecific response towards demands for change. Many of the texts and studies today still cite Seyle’s understanding and definition of the concept. However, throughout the years, new information about stress has come up that show how insufficient this definition of stress is when it comes to how it affects the mind and body. It’s what many drug rehab centers work with when helping addicts better deal with their stress during and after rehab.
  • According to Seyle, the stress response consists of three stages as defined by his “General Adaptation Syndrome” concept:
    • Alarm: When your mind and body experience stress-filled circumstances, your body mobilizes to deal with the perceived threat with the primal response of flight or fight. You either avoid the stressful situation or you confront it head-on in an aggressive manner in a bid to “survive” or at least “save face” if it’s an embarrassing social situation. This can lead to a bit of an overreaction to stress.
    • Resistance: If the exposure to stress keeps on happening despite the initial flight-or-fight response, then the body continues to resist against it, mobilizing its many different resources to deal with stress increasing cortisol emissions, finding avenues for escape, or becoming aggressive or even combative given the circumstances in order to avoid things social humiliation, failure, getting an F on a test, having a merger dead on the water, and so forth.
    • Exhaustion: If the cause or source of the stress isn’t resolved in time, the person experiencing the pressure from the continuing situation will then suffer from burnout. This is particularly common in today’s 24/7 workplace wherein the Internet and smartphones allow offices to contact their employees even after work. If you’re stressed and it’s not resolved after a period of time, your system breaks down and you’ll become vulnerable to different ailments, diseases, and conditions including addiction.
  • Unreliable Self-Reporting and Stress Studies: Much of the reports on stress are subjective or from self-report measures that differ from individual to individual that serve as research volunteers. Self-report measures, anecdotal evidence, are notoriously unreliable. Nevertheless, it’s all researchers have to work with. According to the American Psychological Association, most Americans report their stress levels increase over time instead of decrease when rating it from a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. In 2011, the mean stress rating taken from these studies is about a 5.2.
  • How Stress Is Defined in Modern Times: According to Seyle, animals that are exposed to prolonged stress were more vulnerable to disease due to simple exhaustion from dealing with a perceived threat they couldn’t escape or couldn’t fight against. Researchers then followed up the on these discoveries, suggesting that people exposed to prolonged stress can also become weak to developing certain conditions such as depression and other psychological issues or even physical ailments stomach ulcers. Stress might even aggravate or cause the formation of cancer. This eventually led to the modern-day definition of stress.
  • Aside from overreacting to simple sudden change, stress nowadays is defined as an emotional and physical response between people and their surroundings that are perceived to be threatening or excessively stimulating. Stress happens when someone is unable to adapt himself to a situation in time through practice, habit formation, and desensitization, leading to a feeling of incongruence that exceeds their adaptive capacities and keeps them in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Too much stress response, in turn, can exhaust their physical health, leaving them vulnerable to a host of conditions that include drug addiction.
  • Stress Is Neither a Useful or Objective Term: There’s something nebulous about the concept of stress. This is why it’s not considered a useful, objective term to be used to describe a scientific phenomenon that people can qualify, quantify, and study. It cannot be measured or defined in objective terms even though its effects, conditions, and symptoms are quite apparent. It’s simply not possible to objectively measure stress amounts, especially in light of how the same environment of stress affects individuals differently, test day in a classroom. What’s more, individuals interpret or view the same situation differently. Stress is a subjective concept.
  • Taking Advantage of the Subjectivity of Stress: Discussions have taken place on whether or not stress is more of a psychological interpretation or reaction to a stressor or negative stimuli. It’s also possible that it’s an external response that can be measured not by the stressor but by the chemical changes in your brain, the arousal of your sympathetic nervous system, and your skin reactions as well as other physical manifestations of anxiety. It can even be both psychological and physiological at the same time. With that said, many of the methods of dealing with stress have something to do with reinterpreting the stressor and changing your point of view.
  • To be more specific, you have cognitive behavioral therapy that tackles both addiction and stress by recognizing stressors that lead you to becoming stressed and abusing substances then reinterpreting them so that you’d stop reacting in a self-destructive way. Ditto when it comes to mindful meditation techniques that allow you to become self-aware of the things that make you troubled, anxious, or itching for a drink or two, thus allowing you to calm down and reach a Zen State where you’re no longer a slave to your passions or compulsions. You can also desensitize yourself to stressors to finally cope with them without using coping mechanisms drug abuse.
  • A More Positive Lifestyle: One other way to avoid letting stress take control of your life is to practice a healthier and more positive lifestyle. In other words, if you can find ways to reduce stress triggers in your life, then do so. Cut off toxic people that stress you out from your life, especially if they’re merely friends and acquaintances you don’t have to hang out with instead of family members you have no choice to be with for the most part. Reduce your workload, find a career that isn’t so high-pressure, or obtain hobbies that should relax you. This way, you won’t have to turn to drugs in order to cope with excessive stress. This should also treat your cortisol hormone imbalance as well.

In Summary

Stress can cause someone to become an addict. For most laymen, it works this. You’re stressed out at work, school, or home, so you use drugs to better cope with the stress. However, the more you use a drug, the more it changes your brain and the more you become desensitized with its effects.

Therefore, in order to get the same initial calming or euphoric effects of the drug before, you might try to chase your initial high as before to better cope with stress. Drugs change your brain chemistry as well, which can be helpful for those with anxiety issues and problems dealing with stress.

It just gets worse as the pressure and negative stimuli from your environment increases. You’re encourages to take more of the drug to deal with the increased stress. This escalating usage of drugs in increasing doses eventually leads to addiction. In order treat stress to prevent addiction or relapse, a change in one’s point of view might be called for.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, 12-step rehab programs, and mindful meditation techniques might be called for in order to identify stressors and approach them through a new lens or perspective in order to better cope with them. It might involve desensitization or increased exposure to stress until you can get used to it as well.

Lanna Rehab in Thailand Teaches You a Better Way to Deal with Stress


Добавить комментарий

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: