Call us now: 800-655-0817
Is Bullying Connected to Substance Abuse?

Is Bullying Connected to Substance Abuse?

Written by: stodzy | Date: November 30, 2017

We all know someone who we could label a bully, or maybe we’ve been one ourselves at some point. Teasing, mocking, intentionally hurting another person either physically or mentally-these are all behaviors associated with bullying. Bullying is more often than not, unwarranted and undeserved. Studies have shown again and again that bullies are formed out of insecurity, in an attempt to climb to the “top” or beat someone else down if they can’t make it themselves. Jealousy, anger, bad temper, and depression are commonly associated emotions with bullies.

It’s no surprise that bullying has pretty damaging effects like insecurity, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and phobias, but could substance abuse be a direct effect of bullying? Studies are now showing the connection is there and not just for the person being bullied, but for the bully themselves. In the modern world of rising technology and endless forms of communication-it seems bullying has ample opportunities to strike. Especially for younger generations, now more than ever it’s important to be aware of the effects bullying can have to prevent long-lasting damage.

Recognizing Bullying

When we think of bullying, we picture a grumpy kid at recess pushing and shoving smaller kids, or stealing lunches at recess. While these occurrences still do happen and are more than just a stereotype, bullying has become much more complicated and psychologically rooted. The three main aspects of bullying, according to researchers, are: Intentional Aggression, Power Imbalance, and Repetition. These three combined form the structure of a bully. It should be noted that this is a general description, and bullies can sometimes be overlooked, or even mistaken for a friend. With advances in technology, communication, and less parental supervision-bullying is everywhere.

Some of the most common forms of bullying to look out for include:

Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property. Physical bullying causes both short-term and long-term damage.

Verbal bullying:  includes name calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse. While verbal bullying can start off harmless, it can escalate to levels which start affecting the individual target.

Social bullying: sometimes referred to as covert bullying, is often harder to recognize and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/or cause humiliation. Social bullying includes:

  • lying and spreading rumors
  • negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks
  • playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate
  • mimicking unkindly
  • encouraging others to socially exclude someone
  • damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance.

depressed woman with drugs

Cyberbullying can be overt or covert bullying behaviors using digital technologies, including hardware such as computers and smartphones, and software such as social media, instant messaging, texts, websites and other online platforms.

Cyberbullying can happen at any time. It can be in public or in private and sometimes only known to the target and the person bullying. Cyberbullying can include:

  • Abusive or hurtful texts emails or posts, images or videos
  • Deliberately excluding others online
  • Nasty gossip or rumors
  • Imitating others online or using their log-in

How Bullying Influences Substance Abuse

Almost 20 percent of kids have tried an illicit drug by 8th grade, and by the end of high school- that number jumps to over 50%. Bullying is most common during these ages, although occurs in adulthood regularly, and it can be difficult for a young person to deal with bullying on their own.

When over 20% of kids report being bullied, and statistically there is a good chance they have tried an illicit drug, they often abuse the substance to cope with their mental difficulties. Substance abuse and bullying also share a lot the same features and can feed off one another. Mental health issues, physical violence, and depression.

When someone is bullied, they may turn to the drug to numb the pain and feel the relief of getting high. On the other hand, bullies may abuse substances to cope with their deeper rooted issues, insecurities, and guilt for harming others. Individuals with aggression seek out peers who exhibit the same behavior, and in joining forces kids will start abusing drugs for the sake of conformity. No matter the reason, once they get involved in substance use and addiction sets in-it can feel impossible to stop. The snow pile effect simultaneously worsens both the substance abuse and the bullying.

A review of literature published in 2010 in School Psychology Quarterly supported the notion that risk factors for bullying and substance abuse overlap. Risk factors for bullying and bully victimization, such as social difficulties, negative community influences, and academic struggles, are also risk factors for substance abuse.

Kids too often try to deal with bullying themselves. Sometimes it out of fear that things will only get worse if they tell an adult, sometimes they don’t recognize that they are being bullied but simply feel the negative effects. The same goes for adults, we don’t associate bullying with adulthood. However, reports and testimonies show again and again that there is a high volume of bullying in the workplace, between spouses, and even between adult friends/families. Adults don’t want to verbally discuss it because they feel they will look childish.

Both the situations of adult and child bullying have reasons that the victims (and the bullies) don’t want to confront it, or just refuse to. Such as in many other situations of life, people search for coping mechanisms. In children, their age is highly susceptible to drug influence-and if they get involved to feel better, it can turn into a serious issue. Adults may go out for drinks or just try illicit drugs-see that they feel better, and ultimately get hooked.

There is no scientific proof that if you are a bully, or get bullied, you will abuse substances. However, the link is there, and it’s a dangerous one.

Facing the Truth

It might feel easier to let substances control how you feel and manage the pain and stress of bullying-but there is another way-a better way-Sobriety.

Wayside’s Way

If you or a loved one is tired of trying to control everything and constantly getting nowhere, let our professionals at Wayside help you break free and get your life back in the right direction. You don’t have to go through the process alone, call us today to learn how our drug and alcohol treatment center can help you. Our staff is compassionate and experiences, and we have what it takes to give you back the life you deserve.