Chronic Stress and Addiction

chronic stress and addiction

You live in a stressful world and you work in a stressful job. On top of all of that, the pandemic of the past year has added stress to your everyday life. During Stress Awareness Month, take the time to understand your stress and how it can affect your mental and physical health. Your chronic stress and addiction are closely linked, particularly when your coping strategies lead to substance use disorders.

Stress Awareness

As a professional lawyer, pilot, or healthcare provider, your day is probably filled with stressful events. You have to argue a case or review documentation on a deadline. You are responsible for guiding a plane full of passengers safely to their destination. You have a patient who needs your assistance and oversight to be able to regain a healthy life. All of these are also part of the reason you chose your profession.

The stress you feel can actually be positive, when experienced in short bursts. Stress is your body’s reaction to a demand or a challenging situation. When stress is ongoing, though, it can harm your mental and physical health. Your stress is essentially physical or emotional tension, which can come from any incident or even a thought that makes you angry, nervous, or frustrated.

When you experience chronic stress, which professionals often do, your body remains alert even though the perceived danger or challenge may have passed. You may not realize that many of the symptoms you feel throughout the day are caused by your stress. One major sign of unresolved chronic stress is the perceived need to use drugs or alcohol to relax after a difficult day.

De-Stressing After Work

Do you often feel the need to have a drink after a long workday? You may experience a temporary sense of relaxation with a drink, but over the long term your attempts at coping with your chronic stress can turn into an addiction to alcohol.

While chronic stress itself can be harmful to your mental and physical health, excessive drinking can also cause many health issues. Health experts at the CDC emphasize that excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases, causing problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, as well as mental health and social problems. Excessive drinking can also weaken your immune system, which is important for your well-being now especially.

Other, more positive strategies for dealing with chronic stress at the end of each day include doing some stress-relieving activities such as jogging or yoga. In addition, drinking water and having a healthy, balanced meal that includes fresh fruits and vegetables can help your body be better prepared to re-adjust after a hectic day. You can also try practicing mindfulness after work, focusing on the present moment and shutting out regrets and worries over the day’s stressful moments.

Trying to Keep Up

Many professionals feel overloaded on the job. Your schedule as a physician, lawyer, or pilot is anything but the typical 9 to 5. You have deadlines to meet and, often, people’s lives are at stake because of your work. How do you keep up? Do you use stimulants to remain alert or to stay on top of your heavy workload?

Taking prescription stimulants, such as dextroamphetamines, amphetamines, or methylphenidates, more commonly known as Ritalin, Adderall, or Concerta, increase the activity of chemicals in the brain known as dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine reinforces rewarding behaviors and norepinephrine affects blood pressure and heart rate.

When you take these medications without a prescription or take too many of the stimulants in an effort to remain awake or to continue working, you could suffer some serious consequences. Your increased use could also lead to an addiction. Your misuse of these stimulants can cause you to develop a tolerance, so you need more to get the desired effects each time. An addiction is evident when continued use of these drugs causes issues at work and at home. The addiction can also lead to more serious consequences, including an overdose.

Ongoing Stress and Increased Addiction

A recent survey of 14,895 individuals in the legal profession demonstrates the connection between chronic stress and addiction. Lessons learned from the results can apply to all professionals, including those in healthcare and in aviation.

The study found substantial rates of behavioral health problems, with 20.6% of the participants screening positive for harmful, hazardous, and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking. 22.6% of the participants reported that they felt their alcohol use or use of other substances was problematic for them at some point in their lives.

In addition, the levels of stress, depression, and anxiety among attorneys was 23%, 28%, and 19% experiencing these symptoms, respectively. Of the participants who responded that they used substances to cope with these symptoms, those using stimulants had the highest rate of weekly usage, with 74.1%. Sedatives were the second most used with 51.3%, followed by tobacco with 46.8%, marijuana with 31%, and opioids with 21.6% reporting using these substances.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment for Professionals in Philadelphia

At Providence Treatment, we understand that, as a professional, you experience chronic stress. When your drug and alcohol use have become excessive, it is time to get help for your mental and physical health. When you are ready to get outpatient addiction treatment in Philadelphia, we are ready to help you. Our expertise is in serving high-profile clients and licensed professionals like you.

Don’t let addiction to drugs or alcohol take over your life. You can overcome addiction with outpatient treatments at Providence Treatment. If you need help getting clean, then contact us at 484.469.9592, and you can begin your recovery as soon as possible.

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