Mental Health and Substance Abuse Essay

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Many people know someone who abuses substances or someone who has gone through addiction recovery. Even though many people have had this connection with substance abuse, they don’t understand what people go through. It is important to what people who have abused substances or are abusing substances are going through. It is also important to understand what people experience when they go through addiction recovery.

Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery

In 2004 my dad decided it was time to get clean. He was arrested and had to go to drug court, that is when he knew he had to change. March 13, 2004, is the day my dad got sober from using all drugs and alcohol. To this day he will tell you that he is an addict, and it is something that he battles with every day. My mom is also sober from drugs and her sobriety date is April 22, 2015. Time and time again, I find myself asking why a person starts using drugs, what makes a person relapse, and what is the recovery process.

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Body of the Essay

What are some reasons why people abuse substances and fall into addiction? One reason is genetics. Genetics account for 40% to 60% of someone’s risk of addiction (Ackerman, 2021). If someone has parents who have addictive tendencies, they are more likely to become addicted to something like their parents. For example, if a parent who was an alcoholic has a child, later in life, that child will have 1.) A smaller amygdala is a part of the brain that contributes to cravings and emotions. 2.) A person who has a predisposition to alcohol use doesn’t experience the same warning signs other people do when they drink (Ackerman, 2021). Such as a signal for when they should stop drinking. Another leading circumstance for people abusing substances is teenagers with mental health disorders, but there are many other risk factors as well (Ackerman, 2021). Such as a stressful lifestyle, easy access to drugs, a family history of drugs, peer pressure, and exposure to drugs. Something very common among teenagers and young adults is peer pressure. In some circumstances, young adults will fall into peer pressure because of people around them and do something just because they don’t want to “break” the social norm. Although these are all relatively common risk factors, everyone is different. So not one person will have the same experience as another person (Arjan, 2018).

Have you ever known somebody who had gone through the recovery process and ultimately relapsed? The odds are high that you have. Many people will go through the addiction recovery process and either after they have finished the program or during the program, they will relapse. It is interesting to see some commonalities between the reason why people start using drugs, and why they relapse. Some common reasons people will relapse are withdrawal, mental health, people, pride, relationships, boredom, and uncomfortable emotions (Sternlicht, n.d.). For anyone who doesn’t know what withdrawal is, it is when the body is trying to adjust to the dependence the body has on a specific substance. Withdrawal symptoms can be worse for some people, the symptoms include hot and cold sweats, body aches, nausea, and shaking (there are many more, these are just some of the most common.). Many people who relapse will relapse during the withdrawal stage because they don’t want to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. Mental health is also a huge reason why people will relapse, they are dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and many other mental health issues that they might not know they have. When a person has these mental health issues and does not know any other way to cope, it makes for an easy way to relapse. Not finding new coping mechanisms poses a major problem because if they are dealing with mental health issues, or uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger, or tiredness, it makes it easier to relapse (Sternlicht, n.d.). After some people become clean, they tell themselves that they will never touch, use, or think about using drugs again. In recovering from drugs, it is good to be positive and have a positive mindset, but not so much that you become so cocky and think that you could never relapse (Sternlicht, n.d.). Because, in all reality the chances of relapsing are high, and the importance of being self-aware, and cautious are important.

What is the recovery process like? What are the most beneficial ways to stay sober short term and long term? To start, it is important to address triggers. Triggers can be anything from a smell, person, place, song, or anything else that reminds someone of when they were using drugs (Recovery From Drug Addiction, 2015). When a person experiences a trigger, they have a higher chance of relapse because the brain releases dopamine and causes an extreme craving. When a person goes through the recovery process, they learn how to learn to handle the triggers (Recovery From Drug Addiction, 2015). When a person is arrested for drug-related problems, they can receive treatment while incarcerated and upon release. When a person starts the recovery process, they will look at internal factors as to why they want to be sober or why they would want to start using drugs again. Internal factors are things such as “I want my kids back. I want to live a normal life.”, or “Not being able to handle being sick, or work, I’d be in pain from work.” (Foster, 2018). In some places, they have recovery schools that have been very beneficial to teenagers who are going through the addiction recovery process. They have been beneficial because they can become sober there, but they can also go to school like they would anywhere else but with a supportive network around them. Eventually, they will transition back to regular school but with skills and ways to prevent themselves from relapsing (Tulenko, 2017). Some ways people have maintained sobriety long term have been honest with themselves and others, joining support groups and going to NA meetings or AA meetings, and staying healthy and exercising (Fitzgerald, 2020). In general, people have found that the 12-step recovery process has also helped. The 12 steps are: 1.) Honesty 2.) Faith 3.) Surrender 4.) Soul Searching 5.) Integrity 6.) Acceptance 7.) Humility 8.) Willingness 9.) Forgiveness 10.) Maintenance 11.) Making contact 12.) Service. These are beneficial because they address every aspect of becoming clean and what needs to happen in order to do it. Some of these are more short-term steps to addiction recovery, but in a way, the short-term steps are some of the hardest. For example, willingness, this step is when you make a list of every person you hurt or harmed before you started the recovery process. This step is difficult for people because they have a hard time coming to terms with all the people they harmed (12 Step Recovery Programs Guide New, Addiction-Free Lives, 2021). In short, the recovery is not simple. There are many steps and processes to addiction recovery, and one process might work for one person but not another.


Substance abuse is common among many people. This means that you probably know someone who struggles with substance abuse and has gone through the recovery process. Everyone has their own reason for what they do, and they do something without thinking about the consequences. When someone abuses substances, they don’t go into it thinking, This is going to be something I am going to struggle with the rest of my life. Ultimately that is what most commonly happens. It doesn’t mean that the person is going to use drugs for the rest of their life, but the chances of them relapsing are great. This means that they must create ways and skills to cope in new ways if they face a trigger or craving. Many times, people will relapse because they can’t deal with a trigger, or they forget about the greater picture which is sobriety. When they forget about the bigger picture, they start doing things they wouldn’t normally have done when they first became sober. Or in the process of becoming sober, the withdrawal is too much for them to handle. When a person wants to become sober or is put under circumstances where they must become sober, they go through the addiction recovery process. The addiction recovery process is different for every single person even if they follow the same program. Substance abuse and addiction are so common around so many people, and I think it is important to try and understand why people do what they do and the steps people go through to become sober.


    1. 12-Step Recovery Programs Guide New, Addiction-Free Lives. (2021). Verywell Mind. https:www.verywellmind.comthe-twelve-steps-63284
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