Dealing With Fear and Substance Abuse

Today, United States citizens are prolific at buying retail products on Amazon, having their meals delivered to them and dealing with fear.

In Chapman University’s recently released Survey of American Fears 2017, more than half the country identified themselves as being afraid, or very afraid, of corruption of government officials, healthcare legislation, and pollution of oceans, rivers or lakes. Half or close to half the population (as shown in the graphic below) identified other topics related to government and environmentalism, plus economic pressures and man-made disasters like war and terror, as making them afraid or very afraid.

The study’s aim wasn’t specifically to portray a nation consumed in fear. It shows moreso the correlation between individual concerns, and how much psychological vulnerability certain subjects can bring — and of course, this poll doesn’t even take into account the inevitable fears related to personal matters such as family, housing and work.

Boiled together, all these factors can be liable for starting the relationship between dealing with fear and dealing with substance abuse.

A 2016 research paper by analysts from Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado-Denver, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published findings showing a strong inverse relationship between drug abuse and distressing time periods (specifically, when the U.S. economy struggled overall). They were conclusive that eras showing an economic decline happened as patterns of drug use increased.

The study, which excluded alcohol and dealt directly with illicit drugs other than marijuana, concluded “strong evidence [exists] that economic downturns lead to [distinct] increases in substance use disorders involving hallucinogens and prescription pain relievers.”

Author Stan Popovich, who specializes in emotional health research, covered the topic three years earlier in an article titled “Alcohol and Substance Abuse Will Not Take Away Your Fear.”

“Alcohol and substance abuse or any other addictions will not take away your problems and fears,” Popovich writes. “In the short run, they might make you feel better, but in the long run these addictions will only make things worse.”

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“The best solution is to tackle your fears head-on no matter how strong they may be. The key is to be smart in how you try to manage these fears.”

Overwhelming anxiety and/or depression from being fearful, especially while alcohol or substance use has been prevalent, may require professional treatment to manage effectively. For more general forms, Popovich summarizes four techniques when dealing with fear and substance abuse: 

1. Focus on Today

“Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems.”

“Focus on the present and stop trying to predict what may happen next week. Next week will take care of itself. Remember that no one can predict the future with one hundred percent certainty.”

2. List Positives

“It is very helpful to have a small notebook of positive statements that makes you feel good. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in a small notebook that you can carry around with you in your pocket.”

“Whenever you feel depressed or frustrated, open up your small notebook and read those statements. This will help to manage your negative thinking.”

3. Be Attack-Minded

When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, break the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.”

4. Focus on Today

“The important thing is to get the proper help by seeing a professional (instead of) avoiding your problem through the use of alcohol or other substances. It will just make things worse. Managing your fear and anxieties will take some hard work. Be patient, persistent and stay committed in trying to solve your problem.”

Talking to an assigned counselor, or any supportive person, helps Northbound clients engage with others, and avoid the feelings of loneliness and solitude that can trigger a drug or alcohol relapse. To inquire about our Support and Monitoring Program, call 866-311-0003, or visit our Support and Monitoring page.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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