Learn the Effects of Bullying That Lead to Substance Abuse

20 percent of students have reported bullying at one point or another. Out of the student population, 22.8 percent of girls get bullied compared to 18.8 percent of boys.

Bullying can have deeper damage on children and teens than we know. Not only will these children suffer from depression and anger, but bullying can also lead to substance abuse.

Read on to learn more about the effects of bullying.

How Each Role is Connected to Substance Abuse

Although bullies and victims both play different roles, they’re both vulnerable to substance abuse.

Substance Abuse and Bullies

Although bullies might appear strong, they can have many issues beneath the surface. Bullies tend to suffer from low self-esteem and they resort to bullying to give themselves more confidence. They constantly have to put others down to elevate their confidence.

When these efforts fail, bullies turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with any other mental health problems they deal with.

Victims and Substance Abuse

Although it might not always be the case, victims of bullying sometimes have pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Bullying can exacerbate these conditions.

As a result of bullying, children tend to remove themselves from social situations, friends, and even family members.

Due to the feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety, victims will turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to numb all of the negative feelings.

What Are the Risk Factors of Bullying and Substance Abuse?

If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to predict the extent of the risk that bullying can lead to substance abuse, the answer is yes. Bullying and substance abuse have more in common than you think.

The roots can trace back to social life, personality, family life, environmental factors, and aggression.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is the number one risk factor that bullied children and teenagers face.  A young person will be more likely to get involved with substance abuse if those around them do.

This is true for teens who have a hard time socializing and connecting with their peers. In an effort to gain acceptance from their peers and stop the bullying they might fall into the cycle of substance abuse.

Lack of Parental Support

Not having proper parental support is a huge substance abuse risk factor. Children who don’t connect with their parents or lack supervision are more likely to become bullies, get bullied, or turn to substances for support.

Children who don’t feel like they can talk to their parents about bullying often resort to substance abuse as a way to seek comfort.

The same is true for teens and children whose parents are inconsistent with their discipline. They might feel like they can get away with everything.

Personal Traits

It’s important to also pay attention to the behavior that leads to bullying. Aggression is a personal trait that most parents can recognize in their children early on in their development.

If this behavior is not addressed from an early age, it can have consequences in the future. Children who show signs of aggression are more likely to harass and bully their classmates or start abusing drugs and alcohol.

Lack of School Enthusiasm

Children who lack the enthusiasm for school and learning are also at risk of bullying and substance abuse.

When a child does well in school, it brings many types of recognition from parents, teachers, and peers. It sets them apart and gives them something positive to focus on such as working on a project, preparing for a competition or making future plans.

Lack of school enthusiasm has the opposite effect. Students with poor academic performance tend to engage in more destructive behavior such as bullying and substance abuse.


The environment is a crucial risk factor for a young person. Young people who grow up in environments ridden with violence, crime rates, and substance abuse are more likely to follow down the same path.

Children developing in a toxic environment are more likely to suffer from bullying, bully, or go down the substance abuse path.

Traits of Bullying Victims

Across the boards, the traits of bullying victims are quite similar. Victims often display signs of social awkwardness, severe emotional stress, inability to cope with emotions, and lack of trust.

Social Awkwardness

Young people who identify themselves as socially awkward and cannot fit in, are often more vulnerable to bullying.

Since they have a few or no friends, it makes them a bigger target for bullies. Their isolation can increase the frequency of their victimization.

Emotional Stress

Children and teens who are bully-victims tend to suffer more emotional stress than non-victims. The stress as a result of bullying leads to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and suicide.

Lack of Trust

Since they’re in a constant state of awareness, children who get bullied are more likely to bring a gun to school.

Due to their constant bullying, victims might feel like they can’t trust anyone.

Inability to Cope with Emotions

As a way to cope with bullying, victims might not always have control of their emotions. Often, these children behave in a way that causes others to keep bullying them.

Victims might take their anger out on those who don’t bully them, which hurts their inability to make friends.

The Connection Between the Two

The damage of bullying can have irreparable emotional damage to their victims. Victims of bullying turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with suffering. In fact, those students who experienced verbal bullying in middle school are three times more likely to turn to alcohol than non-victims.

Let’s not also forget that bullies are emotionally damaged individuals. Bullies are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than their non-bully classmates.

In a study conducted by Ohio State University, 11.4 percent of middle school bullies used marijuana. In contrast, only 1.6 percent of non-bullies used marijuana.

Effects of Bullying and Substance Abuse: The Bottom Line

The effects of bullying can have an irreparable negative impact in the life of a person. It can lead to depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Are you or a loved one dealing with substance abuse and are ready to get help? You don’t have to do this alone.

Contact us to talk to a counselor.


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