Intersection of Stress and Addiction

Addiction is a mental illness that knows no socio-economic, geographic, cultural, gender, or age boundaries. Morbidity and mortality associated with addiction have emerged as a public health crisis in Canada.

Individuals who are subjected to stressors such as pain and/or inflammation, trauma, poverty, homelessness, adverse childhood experiences, mental illness, and loneliness are more likely to develop addiction.

Additionally, the changes in brain circuits or behavior that occur following stress may favour compulsive substance use. Stress also plays a key role during drug withdrawal and life stressors are a key driver for resumption of drug use (relapse). Although there has been widespread interest in understanding how stress increases the likelihood of addiction and contributes to relapse, the underlying neurobiology remains unknown.

Reducing the adverse impact of addiction must consider how environmental stressors and other socioeconomic determinants of health affect drug and alcohol consumption, and devise strategies to reduce the impact of these risk factors. The University of Calgary has developed a strong base in stress research and supports a rapidly growing addiction research group.

Research Highlights