Anger and Substance Abuse

by Michael Hurst

Substance abuse and anger can be a dangerous combination. Alcohol and other drugs such as heroin or cocaine can exacerbate a person’s anger, and unresolved anger often leads to further use of drugs or alcohol as a way to cope, which can leave an addicted man or women feeling stuck in a whipsaw between anger and more substance abuse. Treatment for substance abuse and anger is often the only way to break free of this destructive cycle of anger and substance abuse.

“Addicted Individuals cannot do anger management treatment and continue to use, and they can’t think clearly about their anger without being clean,” said Bayside Marin’s Clinical Director Pamela Alba, MA.

How Substance Addictions Impact Anger

People who are addicted to substance abuse, symptoms of substance abuse, typically demonstrate their anger in one of the following ways:

  • They are overly aggressive, and use physical methods such as hitting, punching or kicking to get out their anger.
  • They vent or express dislike.
  • They avoid the source of their anger.
  • They seek revenge.
  • They become so cut off from their anger that it renders them unable to cope or to release their anger. This is often because people are taught that it’s unacceptable to express anger, so they may never learn how to handle it.

5 Tips for Managing Anger During Addiction Recovery

To help better manage anger during addiction recovery and lessen the chances of substance abuse relapse, Alba offers these tips:

  • Take time to calm down and assess the situation.
  • Learn relaxation techniques through such activities as yoga and meditation.
  • Find a way to communicate anger in a productive way.
  • Refrain from thinking in black and white terms and learn to realize when anger is irrational.
  • Make good life choices and get away from toxic environments (at home or at work) that create feelings of anger.

“The cost of unresolved anger is quite high, and that’s a real relapse trigger,” Alba said. “In addition to its many consequences, anger makes a person’s internal state intolerable and it feels horrible.”

Treating Drug Addiction and Anger

Because of the close link between addiction to substance abuse and anger, Bayside Marin treats both issues at once to provide a more comprehensive and complete addiction recovery program. Anger during addiction recovery is treated as well as the addiction and this provides the best possible chance for success and life long recovery.

Treatment of substance abuse, addiction and anger at Bayside Marin includes several elements:

  • Individual therapy, to help patients understand and process their anger.
  • Therapies that emphasize relaxation, such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation and Qigong, to help patients feel calm and more in control of their anger.
  • Psychiatric medication, if necessary to treat conditions such as depression or bipolar disorder, which can make a person rationalize their behaviors.
  • Anger management groups, to allow patients to discuss their issues with others facing similar struggles. There is no permanent anger management group at Bayside Marin, but one will be assembled if needed. “We are able to tailor our groups to our population because we are so small,” Alba said.

“Overall, people are receptive to anger management,” Alba continued. “It’s a good idea to wait to be clean from substances to determine what behavior is from substance abuse versus an underlying chemical imbalance or perhaps simply a lack of learned coping skills.”

Keeping an Eye Out for Anger During Recovery

The treatment professionals at Bayside Marin keep any eye out for anger issues in all patients as a component of Bayside’s cutting-edge comprehensive substance abuse recovery and anger management rehabilitation. They look at the patient’s history, perform assessments and watch behaviors for any signs of anger that need to be addressed.

Controlling Anger after Substance Abuse Recovery

Once a person has stopped using substances, it can become easier for them to control their anger — something they may have had a difficult time doing when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other times, they may be able to get more in touch with anger they didn’t previously feel.

One thing they become more in tune with is the physiological changes that anger creates. Anger fuels a chemical release in the body that drugs and alcohol can mask. When people are able to recognize this, they can wait until they feel calmer to think more clearly and make good decisions instead of responding immediately with anger.

“Anger is a very primal emotion, and it has a lot to do with survival and protecting oneself,” Alba said. “People need to be responsible for their behavior, even if they are using.”

Anger can have a number of negative effects. It can result in headaches, hypertension, high blood pressure, depression, gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory disorders. Anger can also get people into challenging situations, such as getting fired, being arrested or causing problems in relationships.

Because anger is such a relapse trigger, it is addressed in recovery and in the 12 Steps, which encourages people to let go of resentment.

“Addicts don’t have the luxury of holding onto resentment,” Alba said.

Tackling anger during addiction recovery can be challenging, but the treatment team at Bayside Marin can effectively address both to increase your chances of a long-term recovery from addiction.

Next Steps:

  • Speak to an Intake Advisor – call toll-free (888) 484-1042
  • Fill out the Contact Us form above to receive a call from one of our Addiction Specialist