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The Link Between Grief and Substance Abuse

The loss of a loved one can be a very traumatic experience depending on how they died. Even if we knew they were going to die from an illness, cancer, or because they were elderly, it can still be heartbreaking and sad. Unfortunately, grief and substance abuse problems arise when a person cannot address their grief and take steps to move forward.

What is Grief?

Grief is a very powerful and strong emotional response when we experience loss. It could be the loss of a beloved family pet, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or a grandparent. Grief can also occur when we receive bad news, such as being diagnosed with cancer at a later stage that is terminal. 

Everyone addresses grief in their own way, as grief can be very personal. Some people may shut down as they try to determine what they need to do next. Other people might decide to move away or change jobs. People can also experience frequent mood swings ranging from sadness to anger and even joy and laughter.

The Link Between Grief and Substance Abuse

Research has down there is a link between grief and substance abuse among certain people. For example, people with a substance use disorder (SUD), who experience grief, are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their grief. 

However, other people can also develop SUD as a result of their grief. For instance, if someone witnesses a horrific death, like seeing their spouse die in a severe car accident, the trauma and pain can be very overwhelming and cause them to seek substances to numb their pain and suffering.

Ways Grief Can Lead to Substance Abuse

The thing to remember is there is no set timeline for someone to grieve. Some people may grieve for a few months, while others could continue to grieve for several years. 

However, as they do, they will move through different stages of grief until they can eventually accept their loss. Unfortunately, some people are not able to move through the stages of grief and turn to substances for various reasons. 

Hiding From Grief

Due to the intensity of grief, some people find the emotion so painful they just cannot face it. Their denial of pain can be quite strong as they attempt to hide their grief. 

Yet, the grief is still there, and they still know it. Unresolved grief can cause them to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to forget about their grief, which can lead to dependence and addiction

Using Drugs and Alcohol to Cope

Some people automatically turn to drugs and alcohol to cope when dealing with grief. For example, they might ask their doctor to prescribe a sedative to help them sleep. Or they may drink more than usual to help numb their feelings and make them feel good. Unfortunately, continued use of drugs and alcohol can result in the person believing they need the substance just to function. 

Replacing a Lost Loved One with a Substances

Losing a loved one can leave a sense of emptiness that simply cannot be replaced. The pain of learning to live your life without them can be very overwhelming. Rather than take steps forward to allow yourself to grieve and heal, it is easy to fill this emptiness with drugs and alcohol. The temporary relief you feel can cause you to want to escape from your reality again and again.

Lacking Proper Coping Skills 

Some people lack the proper coping skills needed to deal with grief. For example, we may have grown up in a home where everyone drank heavily after losing a loved one. Or we might think we are prepared because we feel like we are well-rounded and can handle any situation. Yet, when we experience a loss, we simply cannot cope. 

Since alcohol is a top choice for dealing with stress and anxiety, it is easy to see why people drink when they have a bad day or want to relax after a stressful day at work. As most of us are aware of these views on alcohol, it is not too surprising that we would start drinking to cope with the loss of a loved one when we lack the proper coping skills.

Grief and Substance Abuse Treatment in Nashville, TN

Dealing with grief and substance abuse can be challenging because it requires treating the addiction while also addressing the grief. When you or a loved one is struggling with addiction as a result of attempting to cope with grief, Detox Nashville is here to help you take the first steps to recovery at our luxury treatment facility.

We offer personalized, medically supervised detox and addiction treatment programs tailored to your specific needs. In addition, we can help you learn healthy coping skills to overcome your grief while providing you with the tools to achieve long-term sobriety. 
Please feel free to contact us to speak with an addiction treatment specialist today to start the intake process or to request further information about our grief and substance abuse treatment programs.

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