Low Self-Esteem and Drug Abuse: What’s the Connection?

Many people often want to better understand drug abuse causes. Outside of the physical realm, like the increased tolerance that leads to addiction – one may ask, what makes a person turn to drugs in the first place?

The answer to this question can vary from person to person. However, one answer that many researchers have agreed upon is low self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as a confidence in one’s own abilities. This type of self-respect plays a crucial role in the likelihood that a person will abuse drugs, which in turn means that a drug abuse treatment program works to combat and improve the factors that influence low self-esteem.

Effects of Low Self-Esteem

When a person has low self-esteem, they may be more influenced by the world around them and their resulting actions. For example, a person with low self-esteem may have trouble overcoming negative thoughts or feelings and therefore turn to outside experiences or activities to change those negative thoughts into positive ones. Drugs can be one of the outside activities they turn to in a negative situation or state of mind.

The Mental Health and Counseling Center of the University of Texas reported that low self-esteem can lead to lack of development and/or tendency toward drugs or alcohol consumption. This is just one example of the many studies that have discovered some type of connection between low self-esteem and drug abuse.

It’s important to understand, however, that in many cases, there is not necessarily a direct connection between low self-esteem and addiction. There can be many other factors that play a role in drug abuse causes, such as family history, other mental or behavioral disorders, and more.

“To understand the connection between low self-esteem and drug abuse, one needs to understand that low self-esteem is a symptom of any number of conditions,” said Navjyot Bedi, M.D., Medical Director at Talbott Recovery. “Low self-esteem often accompanies the ravages and consequences of addiction.”

It’s almost as if the connection between low self-esteem and addiction isn’t just a connection – it’s a cycle.
“The addiction itself affects self-esteem because a substance use disorder is a uniquely dehumanizing condition by itself,” Dr. Bedi said. “The addict ends up doing things they would have considered unimaginable and that are contrary to their core values.”

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Improving Self-Esteem Through Drug Abuse Treatment

It makes sense that improving self-esteem can have a positive impact on a person who is recovering from addiction. Since low self-esteem can be a contributing factor among drug abuse causes, resolving one of those causes can help. In fact, many drug abuse treatment programs are designed to address some of the conditions and disorders that affect self-esteem, such as depression, anxiety or other mood disorders.

“Improving self-esteem requires addressing all of the issues described above,” Dr. Bedi said. “Addiction recovery and the 12-step program invite personal reflection and growth, and demand changes in behavior. This directly results in improvement of self-esteem as one is validated and rewarded for the changes made in life and in dealing with others.”

Drug abuse and other addictions are caused by a variety of factors and circumstances – not just one. Improving low self-esteem can help combat many of the most common drug abuse causes, but it should be done as a part of a broader treatment program like those offered at Talbott Recovery. Learn more today.

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