There are many reasons that lead to someone becoming addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Like the development of any mental illness or substance use disorder, one important element to consider is the role that a person’s environment plays in their life.
Many understand addiction to be a genetic disease, but that is just one factor that can contribute to the development of addiction. It is essential to understand that all factors overlap and how understanding environmental factors can pave the path to how addictive behaviors are identified, addressed, and treated.
How Environment Can Contribute to the Development of Addiction
Environment involves any elements in the external world that interact with a given individual. The term environment does not solely define the physical environment of a person but also involves social and familial dynamics and interactions, intake of media and societal standards, culture, religion, and other learned behaviors.
There are many reasons that lead to initial substance use. The most common reasons that a person may begin using substances, or continue to use substances, include:
- Peer pressure from peer or social groups
- For means of achieving instant gratification
- To relax or relieve stress
- To avoid physical or psychological pain
- To self-medicate
- To rebel or to be in control
- To cope with life demands, pressures, or lack of self-worth
- To experiment or from having general curiosity
While many people start using drugs because they need assistance dealing with mental or physical pain, others use them to numb their psychological distress. There are endless pressures and demands that each of us experience throughout our lifetimes. If we are not equipped with the proper tools and resources to know how to deal with them, we are essentially set up for failure.
Understanding Oppression and Discrimination
Discrimination is the unjust treatment of others because of differences in identity. Oppression is when a person, or group of people, use their power to treat others in a way that is cruel. Oppression is also understood to be prolonged discrimination, as oppression typically follows discrimination.
Society has come a long way in addressing the history of unjust treatment of others, although there is still critical work to be done. Discrimination and oppression are ongoing and evident in our nation. Some common examples of discrimination that you may have experienced before include:
- Being made fun of for the way you look, dress, behave, feel, or identify
- Being excluded or left out
- Being threatened
To fully understand the different mechanisms of discrimination and oppression, it may help to understand the different forms of discrimination that typically occur. Discrimination is unjust treatment due to any of the following:
- Religious or spiritual beliefs
- Parental status
- National Origin or other cultural elements
The Effects of Oppression on Mental Health
Repeated instances of discrimination and oppression inevitably produce negative effects on one’s overall well-being, especially in regard to their mental health. Regardless of the type of offense or reason for discrimination, oppression causes deep suffering. The effects of oppression include:
- Lowering self-esteem
- Reducing life opportunities
- Experiencing effects of PTSD
- Increasing stress and anxiety
- Increasing feelings of isolation and hopelessness
- Increasing risk of other mental disorders
When oppression begins at a young age, a person may grow up needing excessive validation and reassurance in everything that they do. They inarguably lack self-worth, because their levels of self-esteem have been dictated by others throughout their lives. The feelings of worthlessness and isolation that occur from experiences of oppression are crippling and can cause people to lose their sense of self.
What We Can Do About Oppression and Addiction
There are many considerations that must be made when it comes to addressing the link between oppression and addiction. Minority populations should be given greater resources of outreach and support so that they are able to work through their experiences of discrimination and oppression.
Luckily, many career organizations and job opportunities pride themselves in not discriminating against anyone for any reason. Outside of these career opportunities, however, there are still intense oppression and discrimination that must be fought against.
Stand up and speak out for those that need a voice. The stronger you are able to hold yourself and the more confident you are in your own identity, the easier it will be to disregard or challenge any unjust treatment made towards you. If you find that others are unable to work through their experiences of discrimination, try to act as a system of support and guidance for them.
Discrimination and oppression are still problems today. Both continue to produce intense, harmful effects on their victims. Acts of discrimination and oppression lead to a reduced sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and lack of identity. Prolonged, chronic feelings of isolation and mental distress are leading factors for those that experience substance use and addiction. By being a reliable outlet for others to engage in discussion, and by acknowledging the risk factors of addiction, you can help to fight the link between oppression and addiction. SoCal Mental Health is a short-term stabilization and transitional mental health treatment program that works to provide a safe and secure environment for clients. We offer numerous different treatment services to individualize your care and help you learn valuable tools to achieve long-term recovery from mental distress. If you or your loved one is struggling, give us a call today at (714) 328-4760. We are looking forward to assisting you!