Divorce and substance abuse can sometimes go hand in hand, particularly for people who have a genetic disposition to alcoholism. A divorce is a complicated process bound to create mental and emotional turmoil.
The piles upon piles of paperwork, the lawyers, the fees, the arguing, the child custody rules – it can all put a massive strain on a family. When feeling at a loss and at a low point with so much weight on their shoulders, many people may turn to drugs and alcohol for solace.
Even more so, the weight of these complications can take a toll on children. Teenagers are just as likely, if not more, to turn to drugs and alcohol as a mechanism for coping with their parents’ divorce.
Link Between Divorce and Substance Abuse
In a study published by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, there was a distinct link between divorce and substance abuse. Wherever there was an increase in the abuse of alcohol, the divorce rate increased by around 20%.
What are the scenarios where substance abuse appears after a divorce? What factors play a role in these scenarios? In this article, we’ll address why divorce can lead to substance abuse and what you can do to prevent it.
The link between divorce and substance abuse stems from a sense of loss.
When it comes to divorce, not everyone involved wants it to happen. Many take it as a loss – similar to when someone you love passes away. The natural cognitive and emotional response to loss can produce the following symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate
- Initial numbness
The combination of these negative emotions appearing all at once is a nightmare on the psyche. You may find this stress continuously building up to a point where it becomes unbearable. In turn, you turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medicating.
Drug Abuse in Teenagers of Divorced Parents
It’s vital to remember that teenagers tend to deal with pain differently than adults. Similarly, a child will handle a divorce as a loss and experience the same emotions mentioned above. However, without as much life experience, it’s understandable they may not know how to handle these emotions.
Without strongly developed coping mechanisms, they might try drugs and alcohol as a way of coping. Inevitably, simply trying drugs can quickly escalate to using drugs. Before a teenager can comprehend it, they’ve developed an addiction.
It’s understandable that not every teenager who experiences a divorce will turn to drugs. Likewise, neither will every adult. There are a number of other factors which play a role in why someone might develop a substance abuse problem.
Initial Risk Factors of Substance Abuse
People who have struggled with drug or alcohol abuse previously are much more likely to relapse and return back to their substances of abuse after a divorce. This is due to the numerous risk factors involved in a substance abuse problem.
Though researchers aren’t entirely sure why some people develop substance abuse problems, there are a number of factors we do know that play a distinct role. The two most important are:
- Genetics: if a family member has suffered from substance abuse, there’s a stronger chance someone else within the family will likewise suffer. Scientists believe genetics alone contribute to 60% of a person’s risk for substance abuse.
- Environment: if a child grows up in a home where parents or other family members are either using drugs or breaking the law, there’s an increased chance that child will develop a future substance abuse problem. There’s also a substantial risk if a child goes to a school where substance use is prominent. Not only does this make drugs widely available but it also means their peers will have an influence over the child.
Other risk factors include:
- Aggressive conduct in childhood
- Community poverty
- Drug experimentation
- Lack of parental supervision
- Poor social skills
Work Together to Solve the Problem
It’s important to note when one family member is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it inevitably affects the entire family. This is why substance abuse is often referred to as a family disease.
Recovering from both divorce and substance abuse can be difficult. However, the purpose of drug addiction treatment isn’t solely to get you sober. Instead, through psychotherapy, you’ll have the ability to better understand why you initially started, the thoughts and patterns which continue to cause you to take drugs, and what you can do to prevent relapse in the future.
Robert Tropp is a functional nutrition practitioner whose primary focus is substance abuse and mental health disorders. Robert is an advocate for the importance of nutrition in addiction recovery and works as the health and wellness director at Nuview Treatment Center in Marina Del Rey, CA. www.nuviewtreatment.com