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Article Summary

Why You Should Not Use Mind Altering Drugs To Escape Reality

What are some of the reasons why you should not use mind altering drugs to escape reality? As a human being, one of your most primal instincts for survival is the fight or flight response to stimuli in the external environment. To this end, your brain is hardwired to perceive any danger, overcome or dealing with an approaching threat, and eventually flee to safety is the threat is too big for you.

Although early humans were able to develop this natural instinct to protect themselves from approaching peril, it is highly unlikely that you might have to face similar life or death predicaments in the modern world. These are situations that were common during pre-historic history but have since then dissipated - to a large extent.

However, this instinct is so ingrained in us that it can cause you to overact and experience destructive situations rife with irrational behavior, panic attacks, and the need to use mind-altering and intoxicating substances to escape reality. In the long run, however, they can also fuel your addiction.

Addiction And Escaping Reality

The unfortunate thing about our over-responsive nature often causes some people to start abusing alcohol and drugs as a mechanism that can allow them to avoid or flee negative situations, feelings, and issues. These adverse situations might be as a result of mental illness, traumatic experiences, abuse, and stress.

For many addicts, the innate inability to deal with this natural instinct leads them to start abusing drugs and alcohol. However, as their addiction starts taking hold, they will experience a self-perpetuating and repetitive cycle.

Although you might be tempted to use mind-altering drugs to escape reality, however, you can be sure that these substances will only end up creating additional problems in every sphere of your life. As your problems start piling up, this desire to escape reality will continue increasing - and your addiction will feed your ongoing desire to flee from these negative effects even more.

Even so, everyone has a different threshold for dealing with any stressful situation. For instance, if you have social anxiety, you might feel a need to escape what others would consider to be an ordinary social situation.

On the other hand, you might experience a desire to escape from daily challenges that most people go through - such as overwhelming family obligations and stress at school or life.

Others might be battling severe mental health problems like clinical depression and PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder) - conditions that could increase their risk of wanting to run away or break free of the symptoms.

While thinking about substance abuse as an escape mechanism, it is important that you explore whether you are using drugs to enhance your life or escape from its reality. In many cases, however, it might be difficult for you to tell the difference between the various reasons why you feel a compulsion to use drugs.

This is because the attitude is usually more crucial that the actual activity. Understanding the attitude, therefore, could give you some insight into your risk for substance use and addiction.

While treating addiction, therefore, experts have noted that many patients have a compulsion to go back to abusing mind altering and addictive drugs. As a direct result, they will focus the treatment on this aspect - while also trying to reduce or eliminate the problem.

Even so, you can rest assured that the difference between escaping and embracing life by using drugs is a central aspect of addiction treatment. It can, for instance, provide clues to the most effective treatment method - between complete abstinence and harm reduction.

Drugs As An Escape Mechanism

When you go for addiction treatment - particularly if you are young - you might want to overcome your dependence on harder drugs but still be able to continue taking soft drugs like cigarettes and alcohol. In some cases, this might prove successful although it will do nothing to treat your chronic condition.

In fact, studies show that those who develop an addiction to one substance might have a higher risk of becoming dependent on a similar drug - however soft it might be. This is why you should focus on your motivation as well as on your behavior while using these intoxicating substances.

This is because there are often attitude differences with regards to abusing drugs. Therefore, if you are trying to embrace life, you might use drugs minimally to supplement a life that you consider to be already enjoyable.

On the other hand, if you use drugs to escape reality, it is highly likely that you may abuse them more profoundly and more regularly. This is because your need to escape will be pegged on what you consider to be a painful and mundane existence. Eventually, you will be diagnosed with overindulgence - something that comes with the risk of further escape and is viewed as a sign of the condition of escapism common with many substance abusers.

However, those who use drugs are not the only ones who might try to escape the conditions in their life. In fact, many people try to escape - albeit temporarily. In many cases, they do this by adopting compulsive behaviors, watching too much television, or spending too much time on their computer.

Another example is the typical behavior of weekend getaways. This is because of the need that so many people have to get away from the stresses that they have been experiencing during the week.

Reasons For Escapism In Drug Abuse

But why do people use drugs as a way to escape reality? There are many reasons why you might start abusing drugs to escape from your personal, professional, or scholastic problems. These reasons include:

1. Family Problems

If you have been through some stressful and upsetting situations with your family, you might find yourself increasingly using alcohol and drugs to escape. When this happens, you would typically be turning to these substances to help you forget the goings on in your life.

For instance, if you have an alcohol or drug-addicted parent, you might find it difficult to lead an ordinary lifestyle when you go out into the world. This is because you may feel that you are more mature than your peers - a feeling that could compel you to distance yourself.

Therefore, having more family problems might increase your risk of using drugs and alcohol to escape the reality of your life. Eventually, you might even copy the behaviors of your family members - those that you used to despise but which have become almost automatic due to your ongoing substance abuse.

2. Difficult Relationships

On the other hand, you might start using drugs because of the problematic relationship you are in. For instance, if you get bullied at school due to your sexual orientation or because you are overweight, your self-esteem may start plummeting. Eventually, these relationship problems could compel you to get into drug abuse as a way to escape the reality of your social and professional life.

Similarly, if your spouse or significant other is dealing with issues in their personal and professional lives, you might resort to drugs and alcohol - because you believe that they can help you cope with the strain you endure while supporting your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.

3. Emotional Problems

Some people also start taking drugs and drinking alcohol because of their low mood, anxiety, and depression - among other emotional problems. This is because using drugs could potentially help you feel more secure as well as help to build up your confidence.

When you feel down, you may also find yourself taking intoxicating and mind-altering substances. This could be an attempt at rebelling against the emotional problems that you are going through.

4. Future Uncertainty

In the same way, if you feel uncertain about what the future holds for you, it is highly likely that you might turn to alcohol and drugs as an escape mechanism. This is because you might not be sure about who you are as a person and what you can expect from coming days. You might lack ambition and feel that you need to have important plans for your life. Similarly, you may abuse these substances while trying to understand who you are.

5. Addictive Personality

According to recent research studies, some people are particularly prone to substance abuse because they could be considered to have an addictive personality. As such, if you try to take drugs, you might find that you are unable to control how much you use in comparison to others who take them in moderation.

The addictive personality is most common in people who have mental health issues running in their families - even if there is nothing in your background and upbringing that could adequately explain your compulsion to use addictive drugs.

But are alcohol and drugs useful in solving the problems that are your daily reality? New studies show that drug users often feel relaxed - which helps them to work through these problems and concentrate on solving them.

However, if you continue using drugs as a way to escape your reality or because you are not happy with your life, it will eventually become a serious problem that you also have to deal with.

This is why you need to be careful whenever you are feeling sad or in low moods and think that turning to drugs and alcohol is the solution. In fact, the best decision you can make is to ensure that you prevent yourself from using drugs or drinking alcohol.

Although drugs might be able to help you escape, ultimately you would be better off dealing with your emotions and trying to solve the actual problems instead of running away.

In the long run, you will discover that abusing intoxicating and mind-altering substances will never solve your emotional, relationship, and family problems. Instead, they will only start making things worse than you ever imagined they could get.

Long-Term Effects Of Substance Abuse

One of the reasons why you should not use mind altering drugs to escape reality is pegged on the adverse effects that you are highly likely to suffer as a direct result. In fact, the longer you continue taking these substances, the more significant the amount of strain and stress it will put you on.

In fact, there are many different emotional and physical effects that you are likely to suffer as a result of long-term substance abuse and addiction. In most cases, these drugs can turn you into a poor shadow of your former health and vibrant self.

In the following sections, you will find some information to help you understand the havoc that addiction can wreck on your mental and physical health. You will also learn that it is possible to reverse and completely undo this damage - the earlier, the better.

1. Psychological Effects

In many cases, using mind-altering drugs to escape reality can cause you to start suffering a variety of adverse mental health issues. Although addiction is usually intertwined with poor psychological health, this relationships is not always directional.

For instance, if you suffer from anxiety or mood disorders, you have twice as much risk to also suffer from substance abuse. In the same way, people suffering from a variety of substance use disorders might also run the risk of developing mental health problems. Although it might be directly evident which of these two issues is the primary causative factor, you can still rest assured that this is a strong relationship.

In many cases, the adverse psychological effects that are likely to arise when you decide to try and escape reality by resorting to substances will vary widely from the mild to the severe.

Irrespective of the level of severity, however, you can be sure that the psychological distress you will suffer might have profoundly negative impacts on your life. Consider the following long-term mental health problems linked with turning to drugs as an escapist mechanism:

a) Anxiety

Substance abuse is often linked with panic and anxiety disorders. As we mentioned earlier, the cause of these problems can be hard to discover, and it varies from one person to another.

Some, for instance, might resort to drugs while trying to cope with the symptoms of their anxiety/panic disorder. Others could have been abusing drugs for a long time - a factor that could cause them to develop problems with anxiety.

This is because many drugs - stimulants like cocaine, for instance - come with anxiety as one of the adverse side effects. Drugs like benzodiazepines, on the other hand, can increase your anxiety when you try to detox and go into withdrawal mode.

b) Depression

Substance abuse has also been strongly linked with depression and other mood disorders. In many cases, this relationship could arise because you were already depressed to begin with - a factor that might have compelled you to try drugs that could potentially help you escape the reality of this condition.

However, abusing intoxicating substances can also cause some changes in the chemistry and functioning of your brain - eventually leading to depressive symptoms for you.

If you try to self-medicate the symptoms of depression using these drugs and alcohol, you will only manage to alleviate these symptoms when you are intoxicated. However, when you start coming down from these effects, your depression might worsen. Additionally, stopping your substance abuse could come with withdrawal symptoms that include depression and further mood disturbance.

c) Paranoia

Drugs like marijuana and cocaine might cause you to feel paranoid - feelings that will only amplify when you continue taking these substances. In the same way, if you have been struggling with addiction, you might start feeling like you need to lie about or hide your ongoing substance abuse. This is an indication that you fear getting apprehended. The mere fact that most addictive and intoxicating substances are illegal could also contribute to your paranoia - especially if you are a long-term drug addict.

Irrespective of the additional psychological effects of long-term substance abuse - especially when such abuse is due to a need to escape reality - you can be sure that you risk developing a severe mental health disorder. For instance, statistics now show that people who smoke marijuana during their teens might have a higher risk of developing psychosis when they reach adulthood.

However, these associations are typically more pronounced in substance abusers who are already genetically predisposed to these psychological problems. That said, mental illness and drug addiction are disorders that can develop as a result of many factors - both environmental and genetic.

Therefore, if you have a genetic disposition to psychological disorders and you abuse intoxicating substances as a way to escape your reality, you might increase your risk of developing one or more of these disorders later in your life.

2. Physical Effects

Apart from the psychological problems that arise when you abuse drugs in the long term while trying to escape reality, you can be sure that there are also different issues that could affect your physical health. NIDA (or the National Institute on Drug Abuse) now reports that long-term substance use can affect your:

a) Heart

Many drugs of abuse come with a high potential of causing severe cardiovascular problems. These issues range from high blood pressure, increased heart rate, heart attack (or myocardial infarction), and aberrant cardiac rhythms.

Taking drugs intravenously, in particular, could also cause you to contract bacterial and viral infections in your heart and bloodstream as well as suffer critically collapsed veins.

b) Liver

Alcoholism has been severally linked to liver failure. However, such failure can also occur as a result of abusing drugs like DXM, inhalants, steroids, and opioids in the long term as a way to escape reality.

The liver works to clear toxins from your bloodstream. As such, if you abuse chronic substances in the long term, they might overwork the organ. This could lead to damage arising from cancer, tissue necrosis, scarring, and chronic inflammation of the liver. Your liver might also suffer doubly if you abuse multiple drugs or combine them with alcohol.

c) Lungs

Inhaling and smoking drugs like crack cocaine and marijuana can potentially cause your respiratory system to suffer systemic damage. However, over and above this type of direct damage, the drugs that serve to slow down your breathing rate - including prescription opioids and heroin - could cause severe breathing and lung complications for you.

d) Kidneys

Both indirect and direct habitual substance abuse as an escape mechanism can damage your kidney. In particular, abusing certain drugs could potentially cause increased body temperature, muscle breakdown, and dehydration. All of these adverse effects could contribute to the serious damage to your kidney over time. Additionally, kidney failure is a common occurrence among people who use dangerous drugs like ketamine, MDMA, and heroin in the long term.

Among the dangers that arise from abusing drugs for a long time is that you may develop a tolerance to these substances. Tolerance is particularly dangerous because it might cause you to use higher doses of your favorite drugs - or more frequently - to achieve the state of stimulation and feelings of pleasure and euphoria that you have become accustomed to. This could potentially increase your danger of overdosing on these drugs or even dying in the process.

3. Behavioral Effects

There is more to addiction than just escaping reality by abusing drugs. In fact, it is characterized by many different habits and behaviors relating to your ongoing substance abuse.

After addiction has taken over your life, therefore, you might find that you no longer use drugs to escape reality. Instead, you will be doing so because you need to - as well as to escape the potential withdrawal symptoms that you may suffer as a result of quitting suddenly.

Addiction could also see you doing things that you never thought you would do - such as trading sexual favors for drugs that you are unable to pay for in cash, stealing valuables from those who trust you and borrowing money with no intention of returning it. Further, you might start doctor shopping by going to more than one physician with the same explanation of symptoms so that they can give you a particular prescription drug that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get.

At this point, ongoing substance abuse will saddle you with challenges that may seem insurmountable. For instance, you will even start getting unnecessarily defensive about your drug use and lie about the fact. Similarly, the condition could cause you to neglect your responsibilities, family, and friends just so that you can continue using.

According to the DSM (or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it is easy to determine if you are struggling with a SUD (or a substance use disorder). In this manual are several criteria that clinicians can use to diagnose this disorder. These criteria include several behavioral and psychosocial changes that are typical of most addicts, such as:

  • Abusing drugs in recurrent patterns even when you are in situations that are physically dangerous to you and to others
  • Becoming more suspicious and secretive
  • Changing friend groups.
  • Continuing to abuse these drugs in spite of the persistent and recurring interpersonal and social problems that they cause
  • Craving drugs and feeling a strong desire to abuse them
  • Finding that you are unable to fulfil your obligations and responsibilities at work, school, and home as a result of your ongoing substance abuse
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Going into debt as a result of spending money on drugs
  • Lying to family members and friends
  • Spending a great deal of time, energy, money and other valuable resources trying to obtain, abuse, and recover from intoxicating drugs
  • Stopping or reducing important occupational, recreational, and social activities as a result of your addiction
  • Taking drugs for longer or in higher doses than you intended
  • Using drugs consistently even when you know that it has been worsening or causing physical and psychological problems in your life
  • Wanting to stop abusing drugs but finding that you are unable to

Irrespective of the severity of your addiction, however, you can be sure that there are many reasons why you should not use mind altering drugs to escape reality. Instead, you might want to seek help before it is too late to change your life for the better.

Help For Drug Users

While you might assume that using drugs is the best way to escape the reality of your life, the truth is that this is not the case. In fact, drugs can cause severe damage to your brain and body - as well as to your personal and professional relationships.

Ongoing substance abuse and addiction can also affect almost every aspect of your life. However, you might not even acknowledge that you have a problem or realize that it exists.

When this happens, it is the responsibility of friends and members of your family to organize an intervention to help you. On the other hand, if you have a loved one who has been going through problems and turning to drugs to escape them, you may want to get in touch with a professional interventionist. These experts can help you plan and execute a successful intervention so that you deal with the substance abuse problem before it continues getting out of hand.

During an intervention, the members present will share information to show the addict that they have changed and that this change has been impacting the relationship. At the same time, they will emphasize the reasons why the addict needs to get help before it is too late.

If you agree to treatment, there are many different rehabilitation options that you can turn to so that you get the help you need to overcome the substance abuse problems you have been struggling with on your own.

Inpatient drug addiction treatment, for instance, can allow you to find out the main reasons why you have been using drugs to escape reality, deal with these reasons, and start overcoming your ongoing addiction. During treatment, you will stay in a sober facility over the entire duration of the program.

If you have co-occurring mental health problems, for instance, that you were trying to escape by using drugs, these facilities will provide dual diagnosis addiction treatment. This means that they will provide care for your addiction recovery as well as deal with your psychological needs appropriately.

Inpatient treatment is often touted as one of the most effective forms of addiction rehabilitation. This is because it will allow you to physically and psychologically escape the reality that you were trying to run away from by abusing drugs. However, you will be running towards help and not to something that could make your reality much worse.

During this form of treatment, therefore, you will be separated from the triggers and stressors of your day to day life - a fact that could make it easier for you to focus on your ongoing recovery from substance abuse.

Apart from inpatient treatment, you can also opt for outpatient addiction rehabilitation. This form of treatment works better for people who have not been abusing drugs long enough to get to the level of severe addiction. It is also useful for patients who have strong support systems back at home and healthy and sober environments free of drugs that can cause them to relapse.

As the name suggests, outpatient treatment will be offered on an outpatient basis - so that you can return to your typical day to day life after you undergo rehabilitation and receive therapy at the facility.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why you should not use mind altering drugs to escape reality. The main reason, however, is that this escapism could lead you to even more problematic facts - including the adverse effects of ongoing substance abuse and addiction. Instead, seek help for these problems and get addiction treatment in case you have gone too far down the road of drug and alcohol abuse.

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