At Rehab 4 Alcoholism many of our younger patients attending a drug or alcohol detox programme claim to abuse their substance of choice in order to relieve a sense of overwhelming boredom. Boredom is often to blame for the initial habit formation, the continuation of addiction and finally for causing recovered addicts to relapse. Study after study reveals boredom to be the number-one trigger of substance misuse, even topping depression and anxiety. In this post we explore the link between bordom and addiction and offer some tips for beating your bordom.

Studies linking boredom to substance misuse

In the United Kingdom a Drinkaware survey conducted a few years ago revealed 8% of 16-21 year olds resort to alcohol consumption at least once-a-week in order to relieve their boredom. Boredom was particularly dangerous during the summer holidays when students ran out of activities to do!

A more recent US study conducted by the National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at New York’s Columbia University revealed student who frequently suffer from boredom are up to 50% more likely to abuse illicit drugs than their non-bored counterparts. Another US study reveals teens who smoke cannabis to relieve their boredom are far more likely to abuse heavier drugs such as cocaine and heroin than are teens who experimented with cannabis for reasons other to cure boredom.

Recognising boredom before it’s too late

Although ‘boredom’ is a highly subjective emotion, researchers claim there are broadly two categories of boredom.

These categories of boredom include:

  • Having excess time you do not know how to spend
  • Spending time on tasks you do not enjoy i.e. no interest in one’s immediate environment

In each of these two situations boredom may turn into restlessness. Restlessness may then turn into anxiety or irrationality. At this point some students are likely to turn to substance misuse in order to make them feel better.

The dangers of boredom

Although boredom is a normal part of human existence, it’s how we deal with boredom that matters. Some students are undoubtedly likelier to deal with boredom in harmful ways than are others. If a person views substance misuse as an acceptable avenue for dealing with his or her boredom, a number of dangers arise. This is particularly the case where boredom frequently leads to substance misuse. If boredom frequently leads to substance misuse, an addiction is likely to arise causing various health alignments and disruption to the student’s educational and social life. This risk of developing an addiction is particularly apparent when the student views substance misuse as a way of reducing physical or emotional pain. To make matters worst the student may not consciously realise this process is occuring until it is far too late.

The dangers of negative beliefs

Many active-addicts label recovery as ‘boring’. This belief often prevents addicts from seeking out treatment. And when treatment is sought this belief frequently prevents the success of the treatment.

The boredom danger for recovered addicts

Boredom remains a danger even when an addict reaches his or her recovery goals following addiction treatment. Those new to recovery gain an enormous amount of time, mainly because substance abuse eats many hours of the person’s time, often without them even realising. This new found time may result in boredom unless the recovered-addict structures his or her time wisely. This boredom could easily sabotage his or her recovery efforts.

Ways to defeat boredom

Students should know there are as many ways to defeat their boredom as there are hairs on their head. However we list common ways to beat boredom in a college or university setting:

  • Find new hobbies
  • Breath new life into old hobbies
  • Increase the amount of time spent on current hobbies – and above all do not give up on your current hobbies
  • Be able to identify tasks you do not enjoy and plan for frequent brakes
  • Be aware of your mental state. Know when you feel unhappy and do something about it before it is too late
  • Meet new people – and stay away from bad influences
  • Change your scenery by travelling to a new town or to the countryside/national park
  • Take part in activities known to reduce stress e.g. yoga or mindfulness meditation
  • Vary your daily routine
  • Get a job

Why defeating boredom requires some effort

The above list is not definitive. Try to find new ways to relieve your boredom in ways that suit your interests and tastes. Relieving your boredom in healthy ways does require more effort than you may have previously thought. One reason for choosing substance misuse as a means of relieving boredom is simply because it does not require much effort. Take the time to plan your boredom-defeating strategies by injecting in some creativity, motivation and good-old elbow grease!

John Eastwood, a clinical psychologist at York University in Toronto told Rehab 4 Addiction: “I think there is something about our modern experience of sensory overload where there is not the chance and ability to figure out what your interests and what your passions are.”

So take the required time to figure out what you enjoy and then go about doing it! The effort will be well worth it in the end. Being more active will also improve your overall level of mental and physical health.

About Rehab 4 Alcoholism

Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a British helpline aiding those affected by substance misuse, including family members of addicts. Oliver Clark is an admissions counsellor and recovered alcoholic with many years experience in the rehabilitation industry.


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Daniel & David


Link Between Boredom & Addiction for Students