In previous articles, we’ve examined the impacts that one’s genetic factors can play into addictive tendencies.
However, one’s social environment can present external factors that have been shown to potentially influence the development of addictive behavior.
Studies have shown how an individual’s social environment can have a major effect on one’s behavior.1 When it comes to addiction and substance use disorders, the same principle applies. A social life saturated with substance use, either from friends, colleagues, or family, could be a dangerous influence, especially for adolescents and younger adults.
This article examines the dynamics between one’s social environment and propensities toward illicit drug use and alcohol use disorders.
Family Dynamics’ Influence on Addiction
One of the strongest social bonds is found in the family structure. The family environment has a strong influence on our psychological development. The influence of family dynamics on behavior has been well documented. It often contributes to how we shape our personality traits, values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. In addition, family dynamics can also influence our relationships with others, including romantic partners, friends, colleagues, and parents.
Stressful home environments have a strong impact on psychological development, especially on children. Those raised in homes where traumatic experiences such as domestic violence, abuse, criminal behavior, neglect, divorce, substance use, or severe mental illness take place are at a higher risk for developing drug or alcohol use disorder later in life.
Effects of Peer Pressure on The Development of Addiction
Peer pressure is commonly characterized by a collective opinion of a group influencing the decision of an individual against their better judgment. In social groups that actively partake in illicit drug use or alcoholism, there is an added pressure to join in the substance use.
Most people carry an innate desire to belong to a community. If substance use is present in a group or environment (either as a requirement or shared social activity), many may initially partake as a means of being accepted or “one of them.”
Common Institutional Environments For Peer Pressure
Two common social environments that can facilitate addictive and risky behaviors often include educational institutions and the workplace.
Alcohol abuse among college students is becoming increasingly prevalent, especially during the first year of college for many young adults. Given that the first year of college may be the first time many young adults do not have direct supervision from their parents, they may be more likely to engage in riskier behaviors.
For adults, the workplace can bring a different motivation to use psychoactive substances. There are several demanding career paths that present individuals with higher levels of stress, especially when experiencing a toxic work environment with colleagues. Stressed individuals in the workplace may be more susceptible to becoming addicted to substances as a means of self-medicating.
Handling High-Risk Social Situations Sober
Even after graduating addiction treatment, there is still a threat of relapsing in situations that facilitate substance use (commonly referred to as high-risk situations). High-risk situations can be physical locations (such as bars and other social gatherings), emotional states (High stress or fatigue), or even people (especially those still in active addiction). The common factor in these situations is that it can trigger irrational thinking like “I’ll just have one beer” or “I won’t have that much.” This is a common predictor of a relapse.
If you can avoid these situations entirely, you can eliminate a huge part of your triggers.
Some tips to strengthen your recovery by changing the social environment include:
- Avoid places where you know there will likely be drugs or alcohol.
- Reduce time spent with friends who do drugs or drink.
- Be aware enough to recognize high-risk situations.
- Build strategies to address and navigate high-risk situations if you find yourself in one.
Can You Have a Positive Social Environment in Addiction Recovery?
Just as social pressure can be a contributing factor to addiction, healthy social environments can be a powerful tool for recovery.
For those looking to maintain their sobriety, they will want to make sure they surround themselves with positive, supportive individuals.It’s important to receive encouragement and help during times of difficulty to help reduce the chances of relapsing.
For those in social environments, it is vital to be educated on the dangers of substance use disorders and the negative social environments that can contribute to them. Students need to be aware of the risks involved in using drugs and alcohol. Colleges around the world are providing more and more information about safe drinking practices and how to avoid becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs. Campus wide initiatives are also needed to provide social support systems for students who want to abstain from alcohol.
In addition, parents should be informed about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use. Individuals in the workplace can also benefit from raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol use disorders and using illegal drugs; both at home and in the workplace.
Schick Shadel Hospital Can Help You Beat Addiction!
Social influences play a large role in the development of addictions. People who grow up in environments where substance abuse is common tend to develop addictive tendencies themselves. In addition, peer pressure can lead to increased consumption of substances. As a result, social factors must be considered when working with those struggling with addiction.
Schick Shadel Hospital is dedicated to providing the highest level of care possible for each individual. Our team of highly trained professionals understands the importance of addressing social factors in order to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients.
We have on-site counselors and offer a variety of programs designed to address social influences and work towards long term recovery. Call us today at 1(800) CRAVING to learn more or start your path to recovery!
- NIDA. 2020, May 25. What are risk factors and protective factors?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-use-among-children-adolescents/chapter-1-risk-factors-protective-factors/what-are-risk-factors