Whilst the root causes of addiction cannot be clearly defined, with everything from genetics to mental illness or a history of trauma listed as possible triggers, recent research has also found a link with popularity at a young age.
The study, conducted by Joseph P. Allen – a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia – spanned a 10-year period and was published in 2015. In it, 184 young people were interviewed from the age of 13 up to 23, and Professor Allen found a surprising correlation between those children seen as ‘cool’ in their younger years, and those who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in their 20s.
Children and young teenagers who are perceived as cool and popular tend to display what Allen terms ‘pseudomature’ behaviours, which feel adult and dangerous to those displaying them, as well as their peers. Pseudomature behaviours might include things like stealing, smoking, engaging in romantic relationships and damaging property. These teens enjoy a higher social status than their friends and classmates, a psychological return that can be addictive.
However, as the years go by, these behaviours have less impact on their social group, as they become more acceptable as a whole, meaning that the teenager feels compelled to exacerbate their behaviour in order to maintain their status
In reality, the study concluded, the perceived ‘coolness’ of these behaviours actually peaks at 13 and diminishes from there. By 23 these formerly ‘cool kids’ are usually viewed as somewhat socially incompetent. Having relied on superficial behaviours in order to maintain their social status in the past, the teenagers struggle to form deeper connections and long-term meaningful relationships in adulthood.
This can lead to drug and alcohol addiction as a form of self-medication, as well as because the sufferer is already comfortable and familiar with these substances.
Why do young people think drugs and alcohol are cool?
There are lots of reasons that children tend to view drugs and alcohol as something cool to do. One explanation may be that they are a taboo amongst younger people, and doing adult things, without fear of the repercussions, makes those willing to take the risk seem more adult.
The entertainment industry is also full of apparently positive examples of celebrities drinking and doing drugs. Rock stars and famous actors are pictured drinking and known to take drugs and this makes them seem more dangerous and exciting. This can be a strong lure for children who aren’t able to understand the consequences. Many children also come from homes where their parents drink and take drugs, which normalises these substances for them, and makes them easier to obtain.
Being popular can make it hard to quit addictions
From a person’s mid-teens, many social activities will revolve around drinking, and this only escalates into early adulthood. Whilst the view of alcohol and drugs as cool may wane, it is still very hard to avoid them, with people who are sober or ‘straight edge’ seen as boring. Also, many of these social events are anxiety-inducing for young people, and alcohol or drugs can temporarily help them to deal with these feelings of anxiety.
For a young person, trying to stop drinking or taking drugs when their entire social life revolves around it can seem completely impossible.
How to quit without losing your social life
If you feel like you have an addiction and need to stop drinking or taking drugs, the only real answer is to stop altogether. Many people feel that it might be easier for them to simply cut down, or taper off, their drinking or drug-taking. However, the way that these substances affect the brain means that once an addiction has set in, there is really no way to return to using these substances responsibly.
The first thing that any addict needs to do is detox and get a recovery plan put in place. Cassiobury Court is a residential rehabilitation centre where you can go to safely detox from alcohol or drugs, and then work with trained therapists and counsellors to work on the root causes of your addiction and any triggers that might cause you to fall back into it.
After you have left rehab, Cassiobury Court provides you with up to 12 months aftercare, alongside a dedicated recovery plan and the ability to get in touch with a trained member of staff at any time.
But there are things that you can do for yourself as well. To get your social life back but remain on the wagon, you need to:
Avoid any social gathering where alcohol might be involved (at first)
Whilst you are getting used to life outside of rehab and without your addiction, it is critical that you avoid any situation that would revolve around drinking or taking drugs. Whilst you will have coping mechanisms learned from your time in rehab, it is simply asking too much of yourself to be surrounded by other people drinking, and the opportunity for you to drink.
Find new interests
This is the perfect time for you to try out new hobbies and explore new interests. Exercise is wonderful for your body and mind, and a regular exercise class can fill time where you would normally meet with drinking buddies. Learning a new skill is also a great way to focus your mind in a positive way, although you should be wary of overloading yourself when you are still in a vulnerable place, and try to focus on one new thing at a time.
Plan ahead for social events
Be aware that eventually you will probably be in a situation where people are going to be drinking and plan ahead for this. Come up with a plan which will keep you occupied and engaged so that the temptation to drink won’t be too strong. You might think about showing up to parties and work events early and leaving early, so that you don’t need to be around when people start to get drunk. Or you could find a non-alcoholic beverage that you really enjoy, and feels more special than soda or water, that you only drink at social events.
Make new friends
It will probably be necessary for you to cut some friends out of your life. You are likely to have had drinking buddies and enablers in your life with whom all you did was drink, and these friendships must be the first to go. Make new friends when you are trying new hobbies, or look online for other sober people you can do activities with.
If you are ready to detox, you can call Cassiobury Court on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222 to get started.