top of page
Post: Blog2_Post

How Loneliness makes people vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

Loneliness is a complex and unpleasant emotional response to isolation and lack of companionship. It usually includes anxious feelings about lack of connection or communication with other beings. Loneliness can also be described as the social pain; as psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate them to seek social connections. According to a global survey, about 33% of adults experience feelings of loneliness worldwide. Loneliness fuels feelings of anxiety, restlessness and distrust, Studies have shown that loneliness causes our immune system to function less effectively, by increasing the chances of having cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, arthurites and dementia risks. Moreover, loneliness activates our stress responses and activates fight vs flight response and this response is elicited due to the increased neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The inflammation actually occurs due to increased expression of the gene CTRA. Most studies on loneliness resulted in a significant relationship between depression and increased alcoholism. People who experience feelings of loneliness deal with more substance abuse problems, like alcoholism, and deal with increased mental health problems. Moreover, a study found out that alcohol consumption was more common in younger and older adults and a reported 65 % of adults aged between 24-45 years who have been diagnosed with alcohol abuse reported being lonely in life. However, it is also well known that alcoholism will only contribute to more feelings of loneliness and isolation which makes it a vicious and continuous cycle of pain.

People use substances to cope with loneliness, depression, stress, and anxiety avoid dealing with the reality of their situation and their feelings; they often live-in denial, guilt, and fear. They may feel trapped and unable to escape the situation and they often hurt those around them because they, in turn, are hurting and angry. loneliness also disrupts sleep, increases anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and risk of self-harm. As loneliness fuels addiction, addiction, in turn, causes loneliness. As the addiction worsens, many people damage relationships and lose friends, creating even stronger feelings of loneliness and isolation. Without support, it is incredibly difficult to cope with those feelings without drugs or alcohol, Therefore, loneliness can be both an effect and a cause of addiction.


Loneliness and substance abuse have the potential to work together in a vicious cycle. When people are feeling lonely, misunderstood, or unloved, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. This is their means to distract themselves or become numb to the burden of loneliness. Drugs and alcohol change brain chemistry, typically adjusting how much dopamine and serotonin are available in the brain. These two neurotransmitters are involved in mood regulation. Without enough serotonin or dopamine, the person may feel depressed or anxious, but with more serotonin or dopamine, the individual will feel euphoric, energized, relaxed, and satiated. Personal interactions help us manage these neurotransmitters, but drugs can provide a quick, dangerous, addictive high when human relationships are not as easy to access.

Many studies report that people who experience social isolation struggle with worse mental health, including higher rates of depression and anxiety and loneliness. They also report higher rates of substance abuse, which is closely tied with mental illness struggles. People who report feeling lonely are twice as likely to have a substance abuse disorder than those who are not lonely. This may be associated with higher rates of psychological struggles, which lead to self-destructive behaviour to cope with extreme emotions. Recovering from addiction, while experiencing loneliness can also be very challenging. Unfortunately, this can contribute to relapse risks and heighten mental health issues. In order to overcome the already difficult challenges of addiction recovery, overcoming loneliness will be encouraged. Loneliness is prevalent and experienced as problematic among people with substance use problems. Future research should focus on employing longitudinal designs, using validated, multidimensional measures of loneliness and on developing and trialling loneliness interventions that meet the specific needs of people with substance use problems. Such a study is highly relevant in today’s scenario Teenagers and young adults use drugs and alcohol at social gatherings in order to relax and lower inhibition. They often experiment with party drugs initially due to peer pressure but later, it is to chase a feeling of euphoria or relief from their problems. While many teens try drugs, some develop a chemical dependency that lasts through adulthood.


If you or someone you know is experiencing the feelings of loneliness, do not suffer in silence, here are some of the strategies which can be used to deal with loneliness.

  • The most important thing to do while experiencing loneliness is to talk to a licensed therapist. A therapist or a psychologist is an experienced individual with a degree in psychology to help you give psychotherapy or other forms of therapy like Cognitive behaviour therapy.

  • Strength your existing relationship with friends and family who provide you with unconditional love, care and support. Rekindle your bond with them which will further strengthen your social support system thereby improving your mental health and increasing your motivation.

  • Maintain a thought journal: Writing is a great way to battle loneliness as it helps you to process your emotions and get a clearer idea of where your head is at. It can also provide solace to your mind and be a leisure activity.

  • Enroll yourself into a hobby class or do some Volunteering charity work as it would help you to connect with the community around you moreover working with those who are less fortunate can provide a sense of gratitude for what you have in your own life.

  • Adopt a pet! Studies have proved that adopting pets like dogs and cats offer many benefits which reduces stress, anxiety and helps improving the mental health and preventing any feelings of depression and loneliness.

  • Get active and hit the gym- distract yourself from any negative feelings of loneliness and engage in a healthy diet plan along with regular exercise to keep your mind and body both fit, healthy and active.

  • Mostly importantly practice the art of self-care. When you are feeling lonely self-care is always a good idea to make yourself feel loved and pampered. Eat or cook something you love, watch a movie, paint, do gardening anything which makes you feel great!

Written by our member - Anusha Mangalvedhe




Get membership to get you article featured

Publish your post, become member today

bottom of page