Drugs & Alcohol Are No Way to Cope - Try These Tips Instead

Man dealing with anxiety

April 08, 2020

The completely normal feeling of heightened anxiety brought about by the constant doom and gloom from the news can manifest itself in a variety of harmful behaviors, not least among them the increased use of drugs and alcohol.

Addiction experts from Hackensack Meridian Health offer the following guidance for anyone to better manage everyday pressure and stress that might lead to the abuse of drugs or alcohol.

1. Be involved in your support groups

Continue to attend 12-step programs, considered to be an effective way of maintaining sobriety. If you can’t attend in person, seek to join virtually. Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous offer online meetings.

If you have a sponsor, make it a point to check in regularly in person or by phone. These connections serve as a reminder that people are not alone, others are still there to help, and we can take care of each other.

Remember: If you are in recovery from a substance use disorder, you need to talk about it and be listened to by others.

2. Ease the mind with relaxation techniques

In stressful times we turn to old ways of coping. For those in recovery, that means a potential relapse. Those with an addictive history need to come up with alternative ways to deal with stress. Some tactics – and good ways to relax – might include:

  • A walk in nature
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Listening to music
  • Slow, mindful breathing
  • Sufficient sleep
  • Eating foods rich in anxiety-reducing nutrients. Choose leafy greens or whole grains for magnesium, cashews or egg yolks for zinc, salmon for omega-3 fatty acids and avocados for B vitamins.

3. Urges don’t last long – distract yourself until they pass

Cravings pass in a short amount of time – usually minutes to a half-hour at most – so distract yourself.
Take a walk. Read a book. Play a game. Call a friend or family. Do something to erase the thought. It will pass.

4. It often helps to keep the faith

There is a spiritual side to remaining sober for many individuals who struggle with substance abuse. It often helps to reach out to local religious institutions for counseling and comfort in stressful times.

5. If you do relapse, seek immediate help

For emergency situations, like overdose, call 911. Time is precious and every second counts; do not hesitate to get emergency medical help, it can save a life.
For more information on inpatient and outpatient treatment options across the state of NJ, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/HealthyMind.

Next Steps & Resources:


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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