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Bullying and Addiction

    Bullying and Addiction

    Bullying and substance abuse are very closely linked, with drug and alcohol abuse often the result of being victimised.

    Bullying is a common factor in life that happens anywhere from insults in the corridors of schools, to threats by text message or on social media (Cyberbullying). Bullying in younger people can cause victims to experience social, phycological, physical and emotional distress, with sufferers 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues in adulthood.

    Victims of bullying often go on to develop progressive behavioural disorders such as anxiety and depression as a direct result of their harassment. When combining these illnesses with the low self-esteem of sufferers, it can often lead to experimenting with alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with being bullied.

    However, those who bully others are also likely, if not more so, to turn to substance abuse.

    Younger people who are victims or perpetrators of bullying quite often abuse alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Using these substances could be seen as experimental, but they can lead to the abuse of more serious drugs such as cocaine and other opioids.

    The pressure of bullying could cause harder drugs to be abused more frequently, which would also make any potential mental health issues seem a lot worse. Having a mental health disorder and using drugs could become a harmful vicious cycle of self-medication.

    Signs and Symptoms

    In many cases, the signs of someone abusing alcohol and drugs and someone who is a victim of bullying are very similar. Some of these signs are;

    Signs a person is being bullied include:

    • Showing signs of anxiety of depression
    • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
    • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
    • Anorexia or bulimia
    • Negative effect on work or school
    • Alcohol and drug use

    Signs of substance abuse include:

    • Anxiety or depression
    • Becoming socially withdrawn
    • Erratic behaviour or mood swings
    • Issues with sleeping
    • Lying and secretive behaviour
    • Poor performance in work or school

    Coping Strategies

    Victims of bullying who do not find help may assume there is no support available to them. When this is the case, substance abuse could seem like an attractive way to cope with their situation.

    Those who start off abusing substances at a young age are highly likely to continue this into adulthood and live a life of addiction. By stepping in early and stopping bullying, it can help to prevent alcohol and drug addiction in adolescence.

    • Learn more – Learning about young people and teenage substance abuse can help to understand the situation more, and how to help
    • Being aware in schools and colleges – Increasing and improving communication between schools and parents. Implementing a whole school an anti-bullying policy
    • Options and assistance – Being aware of resources and solutions available to deal with bullying and crisis and emergency situations
    • Counselling and rehab – Outside help such as talk therapy or counselling may be needed for those struggling having been bullied. Rehabilitation centres could help with the more damaging effects of bullying that have caused a substance abuse disorder.

    Identifying a family member, friend or pupil struggling with alcohol, substance abuse and addiction helps plays a key part in early intervention and finding early treatments.

    Being Aware of the Facts

    Almost 20 % of children and teens have tried illicit drugs by year 9 in high school.

    Over 20 % of bullying happens on school property.

    Just over 50 % of children have experienced cyberbullying.

    Those in schools involved in bullying are much more likely to abuse substances and alcohol.

    Alcohol and substance abuse is very common in high school students, while bullying is more prominent in junior schools.

    Types of Bullying

    Bullying comes in several forms, and the bully will often try to find the most effective way to pick on a person. Methods are chosen by those who bully others vary from victim to victim. Bullying comes in four main types.

    • Verbal Bullying – Bullies use words, name-calling, verbal threats, racist comments, sexual comments, taunting, and the spreading of false rumours about a person, to harm and upset them
    • Physical Bullying – Victims of this form of bullying usually experience being pushed, slapped, kicked and in some cases, spat at. Victims also have their belongings stolen
    • Social Bullying – This type of bullying is where people are excluded from friendship groups and left out. Again, rumours, as well as verbal threats, are also used amongst peers
    • Cyberbullying – The number of students and pupils who are bullied online has doubled in recent years with social media usage at an all-time high. Trolling has also become a concerning trend amongst schoolgoers

    Those Most Likely to be Bullied

    Bullying victims come from many different backgrounds, and often it is others’ perception of them ‘being different’ that they are targeted.

    Gender, race, religion, and those with disabilities are unsurprising, common victims of bullying. However, in recent years there has been a sharp rise in those who identify with the LGBT community. Sexual orientation has one of the highest rates of bullying amongst young people and teens.

    Victims with physical impairments, as well as those with learning difficulties often report being victims of bullying, which continues throughout their entire education. This is the same as those of different faiths and races.

    Those of different sexual orientations have reported being subjected to ridicule, cyberbullying, and frequently felt unsafe in their school environment.

    Common Risk Factors

    There are common risk factors linked to those children who are more likely to become victims of bullying and substance abuse. These include things like family life, social life, and aspects of personality such as aggression and environmental surroundings. These risks include things like;

    • Peer Pressure – Peer pressure is a common factor in both substance abuse and bullying. Young people and teenagers are more likely to carry out these activities if they have friends doing it. Those who are trying to fit in to peer groups may feel pressured to try substances or be encouraged to be cruel to someone.
    • Break-in Parental Support – Without proper parental support, supervision, and clear boundaries, it is easy for young people to be at risk of bullying and drug and alcohol abuse. Young people who witness parents abusing drugs and alcohol are also highly at risk.
    • Traits in Personality – Young people with personality traits like aggressive behaviour, can often develop into bullying other classmates, and be an early indicator they may end up abusing substances and drinking alcohol. By reinforcing positive behaviour and achievements, it may help dissuade negative behaviour.
    • Challenging Environment – Those growing up in a negative environment have a higher chance of developing an addiction to illegal substances, and alcohol abuse, especially those in poor areas and those witnessing crimes in such places.

    The Link Between Bullying and Substance Abuse

    In order to feel better about themselves, bullies often put those around them down. It is this appeal of social power that those who bully others hang on to. Although those who are bullied can often turn to alcohol and drug abuse, those who bully others heavily indulge in this behaviour also.

    Victims that suffer anxiety and depression following bullying often develop alcohol and drug addictions after using them as a coping mechanism. Early intervention can prevent this from happening, with better communication between schools and parents, and offering education programmes in education settings to help young people understand the risks.

    By taking a firmer stance on bullying, it is potentially saving millions of young people from a lifetime of addiction and suffering.


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