When we think of an addiction or substance use disorder, we often imagine other issues that come along with addiction, such as legal problems, job loss, relationship breakdown, and perhaps mental illness. Another factor that can be linked to addiction is the experience of loneliness. Here, learn about the addiction-loneliness connection, as well as what you can do to get treatment.
Loneliness in People with Addictions
There is a pretty large body of evidence suggesting that loneliness and addiction can go hand-in-hand. A 2020 study in Drug and Alcohol Review found that loneliness was linked to drug use, as well as other problems, including worsened mental and physical health.
Individuals who experience loneliness while in addiction treatment may also be more likely to relapse. In a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, people who scored higher on a loneliness scale while in opiate addiction treatment were more likely to abuse non-prescribed opiates.
Mounting evidence suggests that for some people, drug use can be a way to cope with feelings of loneliness.
Reasons for Loneliness
So, why do people with addictions become lonely?
There seem to be several reasons for the link between substance use disorders and loneliness.
Stigma toward those with addictions
One explanation is the high degree of stigma toward individuals with addictions. When people with addictions feel stigmatized, they may fear negative judgment and isolate themselves from other people.
Once they enter treatment, the risk of loneliness continues. One of the necessary steps for recovery is to remove oneself from the people, places, and things associated with drug use. This means that once a person seeks treatment to stop using drugs and/or alcohol, they often have to cut themselves off from old friends they associated with while abusing substances. If a person’s entire friendship circle was built upon the shared experience of abusing drugs, they will find that they have to develop new friendships.
Addiction can stress relationships
Finally, addiction can take a toll on relationships. People who realize it’s time to seek help for addiction may have damaged relationships with friends and loved ones, including their children and spouses, because of the behaviors that come along with substance abuse.
For example, while in active addiction, people may neglect their families in favor of drug use or steal from loved ones to support their addiction. This can lead to strained relationships and further feelings of loneliness.
Developing strong social connections is needed to help people with addictions to overcome feelings of loneliness and obtain the support they need to sustain their recovery. Group therapy interventions, which give people a sense of belonging and allow them to develop a sense of social connection, have been proposed as a solution for loneliness among those in addiction treatment.
Groups and the sense of belonging
Fortunately, many addiction treatment programs at both the inpatient and outpatient level offer group interventions. In addiction treatment groups, people can connect with others who are in addiction treatment and establish relationships with those who are also committed to recovery. Groups also provide a safe space for discussing relationship problems and developing social skills, which can play a role in reducing loneliness.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness became problematic for many in addiction treatment. As society adjusted to social distancing orders, some people found themselves unable to attend their usual group treatment sessions. One solution that arose in response to the pandemic but has continued in the aftermath is the use of teletherapy for addiction. With teletherapy services, individuals in recovery can participate in both one-on-one and group therapy from the comfort of home using technology like webcams and videoconferencing platforms.
At irecoveryusa.com, we offer comprehensive addiction treatment services in a 100% online format using our telehealth platform. Participate in both individual and group therapy for addiction from the comfort and privacy of home.