Did you know that smoking, drug abuse, and alcohol addiction are often linked to anxiety? If your teen is already drawn to substance abuse, you may or may not know why. Just as it’s important to trace emotions to their roots, it’s extremely important to trace behaviors to their causes. If we simply focus on the behavior, we run the risk that the same motivations or problematic thinking patterns will grow into the same (or different) problematic behaviors, once again.
If your teen has been using drugs to try to relieve anxiety, he or she needs to know that chemicals will not ultimately help the issue in his or her heart.
The Deception of Nicotine Addiction
Did you know that many smokers have turned to known carcinogens in order to deal with anxiety? While there is a possible physiological connection between nicotine and receptors in the brain, smoking is not the best way to deal with feelings of panic or stress.
If you’ve never struggled with an addiction to nicotine or any other drug, you may not realize that the physical craving of a “fix” can mirror the feelings of anxiety in the face of life’s pressures. Because giving into the craving does temporarily relieve the physical symptoms, it can lead people to see it as an antidote to their anxiety; however, recent research has “convincingly refuted the mythology of smoking being ‘relaxing.’” In fact, quitting smoking can actually improve mental health.
The Deception of Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Like smoking, many young people are lured into drug and alcohol use and abuse, because of its promises to relieve their anxiety. The relationship between the two can cause a downward spiral, easily. “Research shows that people with anxiety disorders, particularly social anxiety disorder, are up to three times more likely also to have problems with drugs and alcohol.
But that’s not at all: Abuse of alcohol or drugs can also lead to an anxiety disorder or an anxiety attack.” These findings provide ample practical reasons for avoiding such toxic answers to difficult emotions, but the difficult task of breaking the cycle of addiction will not be simple. Counseling and possibly medical intervention may be needed.
Once your teen has at least realized the need to “put off” these destructive behaviors and begun the path toward eliminating those problematic habits, it’s extremely important to help them “put on” positive behaviors that can help them cope with life’s struggles in a healthy, God-honoring way (Romans 12:2). We fail our kids when we fall short of providing the answers God’s Word gives, instead asking them to pretend their hurts aren’t real or simply telling them to “buck up” and deal with it. We need to teach them how. In Part 2, we’ll discuss some key components in doing that.