The Most Commonly Used Substances During the Stages of Grief

Published On: September 14, 20223.7 min read743 wordsCategories: Addiction Treatment And Rehab

Grief can make life feel unbearable.

Experiencing the death of a loved one can take a massive toll on our entire well-being, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. When we try to avoid or numb our grief, though, it doesn’t go away, it simply becomes suppressed and, often, grows stronger.

It’s not uncommon for people to turn to substance abuse (or escalate an already existing substance use disorder) to help them simply face and survive each day.

While drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief, though, using substances in such a fragile emotional and mental state can quickly lead to addiction, and sometimes, worse.

Today we are going to take a closer look at the most commonly used substances by those who are both suffering from grief and a substance use disorder.

Grief’s effect on substance use

Whether someone is on the cusp of developing a substance use disorder, is actively struggling with a disorder, or perhaps is in recovery from one, they might experience a spike in temptation in the face of grieving.

Just as grief can make life feel unbearable, substances can be an effective (though harmful) distraction from the mental and emotional pain that awaits us in a sober reality.

Emotional numbing and artificial highs can be a band-aid on the open wound of grief, often causing individuals to get “stuck” in certain stages of grief, most notably, denial and depression.

Grief and addiction have long shared a powerful bond, and this is a dangerous (sometimes even fatal) problem that continues to rise in popularity with each new year, making it all the more important to further educate and implement preventative measures.

Most common substances used

While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to substance use disorders and people of all ages can choose from a long list of substances, there are specific ones that have been recognized to commonly pair with grief and addiction.

The most common substance abused in grief is alcohol. This isn’t surprising to many people, as the majority of us have spent our lives immersed in a culture that perpetuates drinking to numb pain; it’s in our movies, music, books, and television shows. 

Alcohol can have the ability to simultaneously lift up or numb someone depending on a variety of factors, and being fully legal, it’s easily accessible, making it the top substance of choice.

The next most common substance used to dull grief is heroin. Multiple studies have found that after alcohol, heroin is the most used substance, regardless of the age of the individual.

Cocaine and opioids are the third highest group of substances used to combat mourning. Often ingested or mixed together, these drugs can quickly lead to the development of a substance use disorder or addiction. It’s tragically very common for these drugs to lead to overdose, whether done intentionally or accidentally.

Substance use disorder dangers

Regardless of whether a substance is used recreationally or for a legitimate medical need, the risk of developing a substance use disorder is always present, and the dangers are extensive.

Not only does a substance use disorder take a toll on our physical health, but it deeply impacts our mental health as well as the lives of the people around us. 

Some of the most common dangers associated with substance use disorders include:

  • Severely compromised immune system
  • Heart complications or failure
  • Seizures, stroke, and brain damage
  • Liver disease or failure
  • Lung disease or collapse
  • Death

We know how overwhelming it can be to address a substance use disorder amidst grieving the death of a loved one, and we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Contact us for professional help

If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, send us a message.

Perhaps a substance use disorder has not fully developed, but is on the rise amidst their grief — we encourage you to still send us a message.

At Freedom Detox, we specialize in more than just helping you recover from substance abuse and addiction. We take into account your full-spectrum healing, and as a result, center each of our programs around rebalancing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. 

We recognize that every person is unique and so are their circumstances, which is why each of our treatment plans are fully customizable to your individual needs. 

To speak with a qualified staff member, call us today at 800-475-2312.

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