It’s a day-to-day feeling which affects people differently. Stress can be a mild feeling, fully manageable once the stressor passes. It can however be an engulfing feeling, diagnosed as chronic stress.

For most, mild stress can be managed through positive coping strategies and management techniques. It can pass by without resulting in damages or further consequences. Yet for those with reoccurring, lasting or chronic stress, negative, unhealthy, or ineffective techniques are commonly relied upon.

Drugs and alcohol are one of the most utilised techniques, which offer short-term relief. Helping to suppress anxiety and stressful responses, exposure to drugs and alcohol is sought-after. Yet in the long-term, substance abuse is ineffective, found to rebound stress and increase the risks of addiction.

As stress can be managed differently by every person, some with higher tolerances than others, its relationship with addiction can fluctuate. Yet as a contributor towards toxic and unhealthy habits, a relationship is present between both conditions.

Here’s some insight into ‘can stress cause addiction?’, along with treatments and techniques to manage stress and substance abuse effectively and healthily. For further support with dual diagnosis, reach out here at Ocean Recovery.


What are the main causes of addiction?

There are various common causes of addiction. Some of the most common include:

  • Genetics and pre-existing risks of addictive behaviours and conditions
  • Influential environments, where addictive behaviours are accepted, motivated, or taught
  • Social pressures, from social norms, toxic relationships, and societal pressures
  • Pre-existing mental illness, such as depression, where drugs and alcohol are used as coping strategies/forms of self-medication
  • Trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or traumatic events
  • Stress, from everyday stresses to high-stress situations and memories
  • Short-term feelings of reward and pleasure through addictive behaviours

As there are such a range of triggers and causes, of addiction, from physical, psychological, behavioural, social, and environmental areas, it’s an unpredictable condition. Paired with a cause, addictive behaviours can trigger, and if unknowingly enabled, can develop into a clinical diagnosis.

Prevalent to this blog, here’s a closer look at one of the most common causes of addiction, recognised as stress, from the role it plays to the relationship it has, as we answer, ‘can stress cause addiction?’.


The relationship between stress and addiction

Stress can be a difficult feeling to process. It attacks both the body and mind by increasing adrenaline, alertness, and anxiety. If digested, symptoms of stress can be suppressed, returning both the body and mind into a state of rest. Yet if such symptoms cannot be digested, both will be in a constant state of alertness within the fight or flight response.

Reoccurring, long lasting and chronic stress can all be challenging to deal with and extremely exhausting. As anxious energy will be higher and consistent, stress can adapt outlooks, thought processes, responses, and emotional stability.

In the moment of uncontrollable stress, many people rely on drugs, alcohol, and their suppressing tendencies. Both are viewed as coping strategies, offering relief from common symptoms of stress. For example, depressant drugs, such as alcohol, are favoured when dealing with stress disorders, as they slow down the central nervous system (CNS). Slowing down the CNS will slow down responses and reactions, whilst reducing alertness. Symptoms of stress are known to reduce through consumption.

Through consumption, as drugs can be associated with stress relief and management, the cycle of consumption will continue. Yet unknowingly, the positive effects of drug and alcohol abuse will be for the short-term, diminishing as a tolerance develops. To curb stress disorders, consumption will be increased, which if enabled, can cause an addiction.

The relationship between stress and addiction are toxic, complicated, and influential. Recognised as a dual diagnosis, stress can cause the co-occurring disorder of addiction, and vice versa.

Unknowingly, addiction of drug and alcohol abuse can also intensify stress, known as the rebound effect. As a direct consequence of addiction, stress can continue to heighten and turn into further health worries.


Stress management in addiction recovery

As stress is a common cause of addiction, it’s vital to treat both through dual diagnosis treatment. For addiction itself, a range of detoxification and rehabilitation-based treatments and therapies will be recommended. Removing drugs and alcohol from the body and changing their role in the mind will be key.

To manage future triggers and to reduce relapse, stress management will also be encouraged, beneficial for both conditions. Stress management is a treatment which helps clients understand, process, and manage unpredictable or long bouts of stress. A range of techniques will be promoted, alongside educational sessions.

Stress management helps to spot the signs of stress, helps to prevent their strength, and helps to manage the consequences of stress disorders. If an addiction has also developed through stressors, relapse prevention planning will help to reduce the reoccurring relationship of stress and addiction.


Ways to de-stress and avoid stressful responses

Everyday levels of stress can be managed through self-help and stress management techniques. There are a range that you can implement into your lifestyle to de-stress and manage your symptoms. They include:

  • Physical activity, known to stabilise the mind, produce happy chemicals and balance emotions
  • Self-care, whether that’s a relaxing routine or a monthly visit to the spa. Whatever helps you relax, through healthy and harmless means will be recommended
  • Breathing exercises, known to promote mindfulness and awareness
  • Meditation, to clear out the mind and focus on the here and now
  • Healthy lifestyle choices, such as good nutrition, quality sleep and rest
  • Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine, and unhealthy substances
  • Connect with people who balance you out and offer positive energies
  • Partaking in positive hobbies and distractions
  • Developing healthy, effective coping strategies
  • Being aware of personal triggers and managing them


To answer, ‘can stress cause addiction?’, yes, it can trigger the development of drug and alcohol problems. It can also intensity problems towards an addiction diagnosis if uncontrolled.

There’s a clear, unhealthy relationship between stress and addiction, which can be treated and managed. Self-help will be enough for some. Yet if you’re struggling with ongoing symptoms and feel that stress is controlling your life, proven treatments and recovery plans are available here at Ocean Recovery.

Specialising in mental health, addiction, and behavioural issues, we can help you by de-stressing and managing your conditions moving forward. Reach out for more information on stress management and addiction treatment.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: January 13, 2022

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.