The weather often affects us more than we realize. A gloomy day might make you feel tired and unmotivated while a bright sunny day can encourage you to get off the couch and do something active. If mood and emotional wellness are strongly tied to addictive behaviors, then is it possible that weather can affect addiction?
Weather is like everything else that factors into addiction; it may or may not influence negative behavior. Plenty of people live in cold states and have no problems with addiction and others enjoy warm temperatures and sunshine daily but struggle with addiction. And, if you compare numbers by the state, colder states do not see higher addiction rates. In fact, some of the warmer states have the biggest drug problems.
Yet just as each addict should not be looked at as a statistic, it’s important to consider all possible factors that contribute to addiction when thinking about yourself or loved one. Where you live could make it more difficult to remain sober and active, and it’s critical that you acknowledge this. Let’s dig deeper into how the weather can impact our moods and wellness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a condition where people experience episodes of depression in the late fall or winter. SAD may be related to changes in the level of neurotransmitters that are associated with light. As the days get longer and there is more sunlight, SAD sufferers see their symptoms decrease. For someone who struggles with depression and addiction, the late fall and winter can be a stressful time.
Unhappy moods are more likely to occur on cold, cloudy days. A study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that low barometric pressure is associated with increased impulsive behavior and an increase in emergency room visits and violent incidents.
Barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us, and it tends to drop before bad weather sets in. It has even been studied in conjunction with joint pain, as some chronic pain sufferers say they experience more pain, swelling and inflammation when the pressure drops. For a recovering addict that is dealing with pain and lives in an area where poor weather is frequent, barometric pressure is something to take seriously.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is the most common psychiatric disorder in children. While it persists across the country, there is something interesting to consider when looking at maps of ADHD rates. In states that have higher solar intensities, the rates of ADHD are less. This information has been looked at more closely, removing possible factors that could be responsible for the numbers. But even when these factors are removed, the results are still the same: states with more sunshine have lower rates of ADHD. This suggests that sunlight offers some type of protective effect.
ADHD and drug addiction are closely linked. People with ADHD tend to be more impulsive and more likely to have behavior problems, both of which can contribute to drug addiction. If you or a loved one has ADHD and addiction, consider the findings in this research and encourage more time outdoors in the sunlight.
Cold weather also affects physical health. Low barometric pressure can lead to headaches and joint pain. A cold front with low pressure can also cause blood to thicken, which affects people with diabetes. With more blood, diabetics have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Additionally, when the temperatures drop, the blood vessels narrow and blood pressure rises. This is one of the factors that can lead to higher blood pressure in the winter and lower blood pressure in the summer.
A final consideration is how weather impacts social health. Addicts tend to isolate themselves because they fall so deep into their addiction, no one else really matters. It’s important for recovering addicts to reconnect with others and enjoy social interaction as they return to work, school and everyday life. Too much alone time can lead to negative thinking and boredom, raising the risk of relapse. Unfortunately, we all have a habit of spending more time alone and indoors when the weather is cold and dreary. On these days, it takes extra effort to plan activities and get out of the home, but it’s necessary.
Although studies do not prove that people living in warm, sunny climates are happier than those living in cold, dreary climates, the weather is something that can affect our moods. It may not be significant enough to change our overall happiness and wellbeing, but it can and does impact our immediate emotional, physical and social state. It’s not to blame for addiction but should be considered a factor, especially for recovering addicts that require more care.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and you feel the cold, gray days are making the situation worse, contact The River Source. We are located in the warm, sunny state of Arizona, and we offer several locations that are surrounded by palm trees, mountain ranges and desert expanses. This is the perfect setting for reconnecting with your spiritual side and stepping away from the potentially dangerous environment you’re living in today.