Volunteering & Substance Abuse Disorders and Aid in Recovery

Addicts face several barriers on the road to recovery. Some of these barriers cause addicts to stumble and relapse. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that there is hope. They show that there is a tool helps make the barriers easier to clear: volunteer work. Moreover, studies suggest that volunteer work helps prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place. Scientists offer many different reasons for this. The reasons can all be true at the same time. These reasons range from brain chemistry to psychology to social behavior. However, they all suggest that addicts are more likely to stay sober when they help. Additionally, studies suggest addicts have an easier time in recovery when they volunteer. Furthermore, People that volunteer are less likely start using substances. This means service can help stop addiction before it starts. This post will look at some of the most recent findings. It will shed some light on how volunteering can impact substance abuse.

How Does Volunteering Reduce the Risk of Addiction?

The best way to fight addiction is to prevent it from happening in the first place. People facing more demands are at a higher risk of addiction. One recent study looked at the rate of substance use for female college softball players. The study compared substance use by those who volunteer to those that didn’t. It found that student-athletes who volunteered were less likely to use substances. The scientists behind the study suggest that pro-social behavior reduces the temptation to use drugs or alcohol. There are several theories why volunteering lowers the risk of substance abuse. Some argue that helping replaces the need for drugs. These people claim that the “helper’s high” means people don’t need to look to drugs for relief. Others claim that more social connections help people find sober peer groups. This reduces someone’s exposure to drugs. It also reduces the pressure to take drugs to fit in. People who feel connected to others deal with stress better. Volunteering helps establish those connections. Addicts also benefit from these kinds of connections. They help addicts find jobs. Social connections also help lower stress. As a result, addicts improve their results. This makes sense if you consider what makes addiction recovery successful.

What Makes Addiction Recovery Successful?

It is important to understand broader elements of what makes addiction recovery successful before we specifically look at why volunteering helps with recovery. This will give context for why volunteering contributes to a successful recovery. It will also provide some insight to the ways America has approached addiction in the past.

Approaches to Addiction Recovery that Don’t Work

Punishment was the most common approach to addiction in the past. The War on Drugs started more than 50 years ago. Since then, drug penalties have gotten harsher. However, drug addiction rates continue to increase. This approach treats addiction as a moral failing. However, addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. The failure of the War on Drugs to lower addiction rates shows that punishment-based models fail.  This approach isolates addicts. As a result, triggers for drug use aren’t dealt with properly. Moreover, addicts have a hard time forming a sober support network in prison. Evidence shows that approaches which favor compassion get better results.

Successful Addiction Recovery Approaches

Recovery approaches based on care and compassion have a much better track record. Programs that offer rewards to addicts decrease the rate of relapse. Many addicts fear the stigma they face for their drug abuse. Compassion helps users overcome those fears. This is an essential component for recovery. Humans are naturally social creatures. Therefore, addicts need a social support structure. Friends from their past are enabling influences for many addicts. A support structure that doesn’t create temptations or pressures to use again dramatically increase the chance for a successful recovery. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that addicts do better when they have a way to create a new social network. One of the best options to create this structure is volunteering. Addicts volunteer for many different roles. These roles help them connect to a sober support structure. In turn, this support structure helps the addict stay clean while they’re recovering. There are two main ways addicts volunteer: helping other addicts and helping their community.

Recovery Success When Addicts Volunteer to Help Other Addicts

It makes sense that recovering addicts want to help others like themselves. However, studies show that this approach also contributes to a successful recovery. The study found that taking part in service cut the risk of relapse in half. Moreover, the same study found that service also cuts the risk of post-treatment jail in half. One of the biggest reasons this approach helps addicts is that it lowers social anxiety.  The study goes a step further. It found that addicts who feel socially isolated are at a greater risk of relapse and jail. Social anxiety prevents people from forming bonds with others. This makes recovery harder. People are more likely to use drugs when they feel alone. Another study looked at teens with substance dependency disorder. It found that helping, service, and similar behaviors reduced self-centered behavior. The study suggests that narcissistic behavior increases the risk of substance abuse. This behavior isolates someone. It makes them feel like no one is connected to them. This makes drug use more likely. There are several ways addicts volunteer to help other addicts. Some do chores and clean up meeting areas. Others act as mentors and sponsors. These roles help establish social connections. Moreover, they offer a sense of accomplishment. Finally, these actions produce tangible rewards. The volunteer sees the positive impact their actions make. As a result, volunteer actions help to create the type of compassionate environment that’s best for recovery. They also prevent social isolation, which increases the risk of relapse and jail. One of the most common ways recovering addicts help other is by participating in sober living houses. These homes require that residents help out. As a result, recovering addicts get to feel a sense of community. They contribute to the household chores. Moreover, they get to assist others. This helps increase the chance of a successful recovery. 

Recovery Success When Addicts Volunteer to Help their Community

The benefits of volunteer work aren’t limited to helping other addicts. People helping in their community also gain benefits. There was a survey in 2010. It looked into the general health effects of service. The study asked all types of adults about their service. It asked how their service made them feel. 73% of people said it lowered their stress. 77% said it improved their emotional health. Almost everyone said service made them happier. These are the type of feelings that help people say no to drugs and alcohol. They are also the type of feelings that help addicts get clean. Additionally, helping the people around you creates other benefits. One surprising benefit is that service helps people with depression. This is an important fact. Many addicts suffer from other issues. These issues contribute to their desire to use. Therefore, volunteer service helps addicts in many ways. It gives an incentive to stay clean. Moreover, service lowers the effect of other causes of substance abuse. Service created benefits regardless of other factors in these studies. Therefore, service can be an effective part of recovery for everyone. Another study found that service can be more effective that medical approaches. It showed that almost 80% of people in long-term recovery volunteer. Additionally, volunteering helped addicts by giving them more opportunities. This helped them get a sense of purpose. These opportunities include jobs and peer groups. Recovery is more successful when addicts have something good to focus on. 

Volunteer Work Helps Prevent Substance Abuse and Aids in Recovery

It is hard to avoid drugs and alcohol. There are many forces that push people to use substances. These include pressure and stress. People are also more likely to use when they feel like they’re alone. However, strong social bonds lower the urge to use drugs. Therefore, it makes sense that something that increases bonds and lowers stress would help people avoid drugs. Service does both of those things. It feels good to help others. Studies show that helping others also helps you. Service creates new chances. Volunteers get better access to jobs. They also have more social connections. These connections help people fight the temptation to use drugs. This is true for addicts as well as those who are clean. Recovery is a difficult process. Service helps make it a bit easier. Addicts get sober friend groups. They also get a sense of purpose. This is true for those that work with other addicts as well as those who serve in the larger community. Treatment programs see this. That’s why the best programs work to help people make these important bonds. Everyone benefits from service. Individuals that help are less likely to use drugs. Addicts that help are more likely to get clean. The community benefits from the service itself. The social connections can be the basis for lifelong friendships. They can create stability and lead to jobs. There is only one question. How would you like to help?

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