Loneliness and Addiction are Linked

As your drug use increases, you may find that it’s increasingly difficult to go without the drug. Attempts to stop drug use may cause intense cravings and make you feel physically ill. Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins when they take prescribed medicines or receive them from others who have prescriptions. Loneliness has become a significant public health issue – to the degree that Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared it an epidemic. While there are many factors contributing to this trend, addiction and loneliness are closely linked and often mutually reinforcing.

drug addiction and loneliness

She has been working in the field of mental health, trauma, and substance use since 2014. She has managed a detox facility and held a leadership role as a Recovery Technician for residential treatment facilities. She has gained a wealth of knowledge related to the needs of people who are recovering from substance abuse, and struggles with mental health. As our Admissions Manager she uses this knowledge to connect with women and provide a safe space to begin their healing.

The U.S. surgeon general’s advisory recommends policies for social connection.

I’ve worked in the recovery field since 2007 and have also been the recipient of treatment services. I know how important it is to have access to good care by committed providers. If not for those women who came before me I would not be the woman I am today.

By acting now, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of people struggling with addiction and loneliness. In a recent survey, nearly three out of four adults reported feeling a deep sense of loneliness. This item was graded on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

How Common Is Chronic Loneliness?

A Harvard study mentions “25% to 60% of older Americans suffer from loneliness. Being alone and being lonely are characteristically different with varying effects on our mind, body, and emotions. Furthermore, being alone can be seen as healthy as people can find being alone as way to disconnect from a stressful life. For example, perhaps you are at a park enjoying the scenery around you. Your mood may be peaceful and joyful; there is a sense of feeling complete despite being in solitude. These effects, combined with the already adverse physical and emotional effects of addiction put the health of an addict at increased risk.

drug addiction and loneliness

“There’s a bidirectional relationship and that’s what causes spiraling,” he said. Spiraling is a downward cascade of negative thoughts that feed into loneliness, making the condition worse and eroding a person’s self-esteem. “We have to be intentional about building social connections in our life,” he said.

How loneliness can impact health

Volunteers are an essential part of society and tend to have excellent relationship skills. To start volunteering, reach out to hospitals, animal shelters, or long term care facilities. To be clear, loneliness is not depression, though the two may be linked.

  • Going cold turkey may prove to be extremely difficult as alcohol withdrawal symptoms like cravings, nausea, vomiting, and hallucinations can encourage prolonged drinking.
  • For Tamsin, the stresses of everyday life could be moderated through specific forms of substance use, usually in which heroin was combined with various other psychoactive substances, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol.
  • Tamsin, for instance, notes the ability of substances to make “things fall away” but at other times gestured toward the satisfaction to be found in simply “letting things fall apart” (37).
  • People who are experiencing loneliness may turn to drugs to cope with the negative feelings caused by a lack of connection with others.
  • After confirming the relationship between anxiety and depression in male drug addicts, it is necessary to explore further whether there is a mediating effect between anxiety and depression in male drug addicts, loneliness, and drug craving.

Loneliness is far more than merely personal, but the depth of the personal may be agonizing. Providers can practice “social prescribing,” Nobel said, a concept that’s already embraced by the U.K. Doctors screen for loneliness, as they would for depression and anxiety, and guide patients to community-based organizations that have partnered with health care facilities to address it. Social media has accelerated loneliness as research shows feeling lonely is more common among heavy users of these sites. Although “likes” and “followers” may make a person feel good at the moment, they don’t foster genuine connectedness with other people, Murthy said.

The Pandemic Exacerbated an Epidemic of Loneliness

The study employed a quasi-experimental study design, and therefore, selection bias and confounding cannot be ruled out given that participants were not randomized to groups. A statistically significant difference between groups at baseline was detected for age, however age was not a significant predictor in the analysis. No other significant demographic differences were detected between groups at baseline. We also cannot definitively conclude that the OUD treatments caused the positive reductions in loneliness reports given the study design. Future randomized controlled trials are necessary to fully understand the effect of interventions targeting loneliness in this population. Our study sample also identified primarily as white, which while representative of the Appalachian region, it does limit generalizability to other populations.

  • Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director.
  • People who are suffering from addiction tend to isolate themselves, then further exacerbating their feelings of loneliness.
  • According to physician and childhood trauma and addiction expert Gabor Maté, addiction is so commonplace in our world that most people don’t even recognize its presence.

And that means if you’re a person with use disorder, you might have to travel up to two hours one way to get your dose. Further, addiction is a serious medical condition that requires professional treatment. Your loved one will need to attend an addiction treatment program to overcome this serious disorder.

Design and Participants

When someone accepts your apology, schedule quality time with them so you can start rebuilding a healthy relationship. You could also suggest family therapy to help you resolve any lingering conflicts. This won’t be easy, especially if you have come to view drugs as your main source of happiness and connection.

And what it would do is it would allow any doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine to prescribe methadone. And it would allow pharmacies to carry methadone and to dispense it to people who have a prescription for loneliness in sobriety opioid use disorder. One of the biggest problems is that we don’t have enough treatment options available. And one of the reasons for that is that we have a very serious workforce crisis among all of behavioral health care.