Many people rely on prescription or illicit drugs to manage stress. Substances like Xanax and marijuana have a reputation for helping people relax and cope with life’s anxieties. However, while drugs may provide short-lived stress relief, in the long run, substance abuse will worsen your mental and behavioral health.

Even drugs you take for medicinal purposes, as prescribed by a doctor, can carry a risk of addiction as your tolerance builds and you need higher doses to provide the same results. That’s because these substances alter brain chemistry and create a physical and psychological dependence.

How Stressful Circumstances Impact Your Health

Humans adapted to endure some amount of stress, but only for short periods. Typically, your innate fight-or-flight reaction to a perceived threat will end once the danger has gone. But many people with mental health issues, including trauma survivors, have an overactive stress response that is on high alert almost all the time, leaving them edgy and irritable.

Chronic stress can adversely affect your physical and mental well-being, leaving you more vulnerable to illnesses like high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression and addiction. People carrying a heavy burden of stress may also become malnourished because they either forget to eat or make unhealthy dietary choices.

When you feel overwhelmed, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol to provide the extra energy you need to function. This survival mechanism happens while your brain’s built-in alarm system has triggered the shutdown of other processes you need to make thoughtful decisions, which is why you might find yourself acting purely on instinct.

Why Is Stress a Relapse Trigger?

Stress represents a significant threat to your addiction recovery goals. When you rely on drug use as your primary coping mechanism, it will become part of your lifestyle and mentality. Then, when you encounter a stressful situation, your drug cravings can go into overdrive and create the ideal circumstances for a relapse.

Even when you’ve accepted the reality that substance use is a problem, not a solution, the habit of “taking the edge off” a stressful day with drugs may have become ingrained into your subconscious mind. Once you are pursuing your sobriety, you’ll need to find healthier outlets for self-care and stress management, and Beach House’s treatment professionals have the skills and compassion to help you.

Professional Treatment for Stress and Drug Abuse

At Beach House, we believe love and connection are the opposite of the isolation, dishonesty and shame that accompany substance use disorders. If you’d like to learn more about our treatment philosophy, our industry-leading therapist-to-client ratio, our amenities or any of the other qualities that set us apart as one of our country’s best addiction treatment programs, reach out to our admissions counselors today.

Two women sitting outside sharing a conversation.