The Link Between Social Isolation and Addiction

Loneliness, social isolation, mental illness, and addiction often go hand-in-hand. Alcoholism is a known risk factor of loneliness. Studies show that social isolation is as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

The link between social isolation and addiction comes when people substitute chemicals for healthy relationships. It’s one of the reasons addicts need a healthy support system to recover from active addiction. 

Let’s go over some information about the link between social isolation and addiction. 

Social by Nature

Humans are social creatures. Even introverts need relationships and interpersonal communication.

Loneliness doesn’t discriminate. It hits all classes, ages, races, and other demographics. 

Healthy social interactions trigger dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a natural “feel-good” chemical. When social interactions are lacking, loneliness and depression can result due to the lack of dopamine. 

The brain needs a certain amount of socializing, and social support is crucial for our mental and physical health. Why?

Developing a Sense of Purpose

Having friends gives us a sense of purpose. Knowing someone relies on you for friendship also gives you value. You are valuable as your own person, but a social network gives you a bigger purpose within the social structure. 

The Dopamine Hit

Being around friends and family ensures your body gets enough dopamine. You know that wonderful feeling you get from a long hug with a loved one? That’s oxytocin and dopamine. These chemicals calm fear and anxiety in your brain and body. Social connections are so important that without them, your chance of death increases by 91%.


Alcohol or substance abuse is often an attempt at recreating the dopamine hit of social connection. Alcohol and other drugs create feelings of euphoria and pleasure, much like social connections. 

In the absence of healthy social connections, a person may slip farther into alcohol or drug abuse. Social isolation makes it difficult, if not impossible, to recover from addiction. 

Those with addiction problems do best when supported by family and friends. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous are so successful because they bring people together. 

One of the best-known ways of coping with alcohol cravings is through a strong support system. This sometimes means staying away from certain friends and family members. Building strong ties to your community is a good way of staying connected. 

Volunteering and Making Friends

Loneliness leaves us open to drug abuse, addiction, and other health problems. Combat loneliness by volunteering and making friends. 

Do you have a hard time socializing? Volunteer to help others. It’s a great way to step outside yourself and your own problems. 

Volunteering helps you meet new people and puts your life and problems into perspective.

The Connection Between Isolation and Addiction

There’s a strong connection between social isolation and addiction. People who suffer from loneliness are more likely to substitute drugs for relationships. This often leads to addiction. 

Don’t fall victim to addiction or other health problems because of loneliness. Make an extra effort to find a group of supportive friends. Keep in touch with your family. 

Volunteer in your local community and reach out to others. Before you know it, you’ll have strong ties and you’ll no longer feel isolated. 

Do you need help with loneliness, isolation, or addiction? Please contact us for help!