Loneliness and Sadness – How Hard Times can Lead to Addiction

Loneliness and Sadness

Some people get addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s not the majority. But addiction is prevalent enough and causes enough turmoil for the addict and others to beg the question - Why? Is addiction in the genes? Is it the result of a bad upbringing?

There is no one simple answer to these questions, but there is enough information available to answer the most critical question: Can addiction be prevented? By reviewing some probable causes of addiction (based on studies), preventive measures come to view. Let’s take a look.

Drug and alcohol addiction is not a life crisis that just “happens” to someone. Though no two addicts’ life experiences are identical, many people start using drugs and alcohol because of a significant struggle in their life that they cannot seem to overcome. The emotional and psychological difficulty looms large, and the person uses drugs or alcohol to escape the pain of the immediate crisis.

The pursuit of happiness, success, and goodness in life is more likely to lead to a drug-free lifestyle. Ideally, an individual should view just about every aspect of life through a lens of creating pleasant, meaningful, and happy experiences. Conversely, a negative view of life, fostered by experiences of hardship and crisis, is more likely to lead one down a path toward substance abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Closely Linked to Addiction

Two studies from unrelated sources demonstrate how positive experiences among youths tend to link to sober, substance-free lifestyles. In contrast, adverse childhood experiences tend to be related to substance abuse.

“Behavioral engagement in schools is an important contributor to academic outcomes for adolescents, but may also protect them from substance abuse...”
Sad girl at school

In one study, authors Froiland, Worrell, Olenchak, and Kowalski suggest that: “Behavioral engagement in schools is an important contributor to academic outcomes for adolescents but may also protect them from substance abuse. Positive and negative attitudes to the past, present, and future have been linked to adaptive and maladaptive behaviors in adolescence, respectively. Interventions that teach students to overcome negative thinking about the past, present, and future could promote behavioral engagement and reduce the risk of adolescent substance abuse.” The authors back up their claim by their analysis of two groups of young adults. One group had childhoods full of good experiences, and another group had more harmful experiences.

From a common-sense angle, the findings are logical. Understandably, positive life experiences would more likely lead to positive, healthy, and rewarding lifestyles. The opposite, then, would also be true. The authors concluded with, “The current findings suggest the importance of positive time attitudes as promotive of behavioral engagement and protective against substance use.” Parents should take extra steps to ensure their children have positive life experiences with this information in mind. Parents can learn to promote positive behavioral engagements and healthy, responsible, rewarding, and pleasant lifestyle choices and patterns.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration put forth a great deal of information similar to the above. In SAMHSA documents, hardship experienced in youth has a definition: “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” or “ACEs,” for short.

The SAMHSA researchers put forth the idea that there is a correlation between the number of ACEs a child experiences and that child’s risk for substance abuse later in life. According to the data, “Research has demonstrated a strong, graded relationship between ACEs and a variety of substance-related behaviors. ACEs can predict earlier age of drinking onset. Therefore, underage drinking prevention programs may not work as intended, unless they help youth recognize and cope with stressors of abuse, household dysfunction, and other adverse experiences. ACEs, such as childhood abuse (physical, sexual, psychological) and parental substance abuse, are associated with a higher risk of developing a mental and/or substance use disorder later in life.” This information suggests that experiences in one’s past do much to mold their present.

One of the problematic aspects of ACEs, mainly as they occur in one’s youth, is that the young individual does not always possess the tools for coping. And while they might not turn to substances as a coping mechanism at that moment, if a young person experiences a severe hardship in their youth and is not helped, counseled or cared for through that experience, the experience may plant a seed for future difficulty. That seed matures as the individual grows up. By the time adulthood is reached, just one unaddressed ACE in youth could be the source point for addiction.

For this reason, in addition to attempting to raise children with little to no adverse experiences, parents should do their best to address difficult life moments when they occur and help their kids work through them.

Father mentoring and giving advice to a younger man.

Why Educating Young People About Drugs is Important

As it turns out, doing one’s best as a parent to ensure that a son or daughter grows up to live a sober, productive, and fulfilled life is not just dependent on making sure that kids have a “good upbringing.” The harsh reality is that young people are often peer pressured into using drugs, no matter their background, socioeconomic status, home life or quality of living.

Therefore,’ it is vital to educate young people about drug and alcohol addiction. Parents have the primary responsibility for doing this, but they should insist that schools help too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, schools are the perfect setting for educating young people on drugs and alcohol for a few reasons:

  • Drug prevention and education are best implemented before someone starts forming erroneous beliefs about drugs. Those false beliefs tend to come from peer pressure in one’s teen years, so implementing drug education programs in elementary and middle school is wise.
  • Schools offer a systematic way of reaching many young people quickly and effectively.
  • As safe havens of learning, schools can utilize a wide range of resources, educational materials, and program steps to deliver a comprehensive education about the dangers of drugs to students.

In addition to doing their part to talk to kids about the harms of substance abuse, parents should also be proactive in their insistence that the local school system offers true information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Addiction Treatment – How to Overcome Drug Abuse

Harmful life experiences take their toll. And when loneliness, sadness and other adverse life events lead to drug or alcohol addiction, the best way to overcome such a crisis is with the help of a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.

We should all do our best to ensure that the people we love have good experiences in life, not bad ones. If we see loneliness and sadness impinging on someone we care about, we can do something about it. Now we know that such life experiences are not just harmful in a temporary sense. They have long-term repercussions. Therefore, let’s take it upon ourselves to ensure that our loved ones have positive experiences, not bad ones.

But if you know someone who has fallen prey to a drinking problem or a drug problem, please help them get to a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center. Doing so will be lifesaving for them. Don’t let a series of bad life experiences lead to a potentially fatal drug problem for your loved one. Please make sure they get help today.


Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.