How Bullying Leads to Drug Use

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People tend to use drugs as a way to mask their feelings. They want to appear tough and numb when they are bullied so they engage in drug use. By identifying the emotional tolls of bullying and speaking to a mental health specialist, you will discover that there are healthier ways of dealing with your pain than drug abuse.

Weight-Based Bullying Study 

It is said in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors that teens bullied about their weight will be more likely to use alcohol or marijuana compared to non-bullied peers. Being teased about their appearance and being sensitive about their body increases the risk of substance abuse. This study took place at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center that included 1,344 students from ages 11 – 14. The kids were asked if their siblings, parents, or peers teased them about their weight, body shape, or eating habits in the last six months. 

Weight-Based Bullying Study Results

The results showed that more than half of the overall participants reported weight-based teasing. They were strongest among overweight girls. This shows that society places too much emphasis on body image towards girls and women as well as the damaging effects from it. Bullying does not have to come just from schoolmates, but can occur in parents or siblings. Parents need to be conscious about how they talk to their children about their weight and not ignore it when their other children tease about their sibling’s weight. The students also reported alcohol and marijuana use and that weight-based teasing was still linked six months later to substance abuse. 

Race-Based Bullying Study 

In California, during the 2017-2018 school year, 14% of high school students experienced bullying or harassment because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin in the past 12 months. 40% of these bullied students gave into alcohol consumption and 29% reported marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and opioid usage. This bullying involved being shoved, hit, threatened, called mean names, teased, or unpleasant verbal or physical things repeatedly in a severe way. The study explains that the reasons teens turn to substance abuse when bullied is that the prefrontal cortex that is in charge of decision-making is still developing. The reward center is heightened which makes teens more likely to engage in risky activities. It also does not help that the stress of being discriminated against will make you want to mask those feelings. 

Bullying and Substance Abuse Risk Factors

People who are bullied tend to engage in drugs or alcohol based on their social or family life, personality traits, or environmental factors. One reason is because of peer pressure. If their friends are engaging in drugs, they want to fit in with them. They also may feel if they do drugs with their tormentors, they will no longer be bullied. Another factor is that without parental supervision, kids are at risk of substance abuse, being bullied, or being a bully themselves. If parents do not provide a good example to their kids by doing drugs in front of them or not attempting to get clean, their kids will follow the same unhealthy actions. 

A third factor is a kid’s personality traits. Kids who have angry personality traits can end up abusing drugs as well as harassing their classmates. The environment you live in also makes a difference in your interest in drugs in that young people who grow up in areas with high crime rates, are surrounded by substance abuse, or experience violence at home are more likely to use drugs as a coping mechanism.

Bullies and Substance Abuse

Bullies normally have a low self-esteem and bully others to gain a sense of control and power. Bullies are more likely to be aggressive and break the rules without any remorse. Bullies will also self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to mask their underlying mental health issues that are the cause of their aggressive behavior. They will also socialize with others who exhibit the same behaviors which will encourage those behaviors to continue.

Bullying Victims and Substance Abuse

Youth who have been bullied tend to be depressed which causes them to withdraw from their friends or make new ones. It is likely they have anxiety disorders, eating disorders, feelings of loneliness, or sleeping problems. They may feel like drugs are the only way to help feel better. The truth is that drugs and alcohol will not stop the bullying or your mental health issues. They will only make your mental health issues grow worse.

Preventing Bullying and Substance Abuse

If we are to stop the combination of bullying and substance abuse, teachers, students, school administrators, and parents need to be aware of how harmful bullying can be. Having students complete annual surveys about them being bullied can help adults understand the severity and how common it is. Letting a student’s parents know that a particular individual is being harmed by another can make a difference in that person’s mental health and their choice to abuse drugs. 

Students with poor self-esteem can try engaging in activities to improve their confidence like sports, theater, work projects, etc. They can also join a support group to tell their stories and feel less alone. Therapy can explore a child’s feelings and behaviors to either help them stop bullies or protect themselves from bullying. Students need to know that drugs and alcohol are not the tools for coping with negative emotions.

Located in Huntington Beach, California next to a beautiful pond, Silver Lining Recovery is a serene outpatient care center that believes in staying relaxed while receiving treatment. Silver Lining’s philosophy is the most effective way to treat addiction is to find the underlying cause of it and offer professional help. Their customized treatment program offers a number of different individualized therapies with knowledgeable and experienced counselors to be there for you and uncover unresolved issues like EMDR, CBT, DBT, meditation treatment, faith-based treatment, and academic and career counseling.  For more information, please call us at (833) 847-6984.