Third Eye

Bullies engage in drug abuse to perpetuate behaviour

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022 06:00 | By
Breaking the silence on workplace bullying.

Bullying among teenagers is often looked at from the victims’ angle whilst forgetting that it also has a profound impact on the aggressor. So much is the effect that sometimes they have to resort to drug abuse to mask the feelings of guilt associated with their actions.

Majorly, bullies exhibit antagonistic behaviour which they grow with through to their adulthood. As they age, they may engage in drug use and abuse as a way of trying to disguise the effects of their behaviour.

Research published in JAMA Psychiatry sheds light on the longer-term effects of bullying on bullies, targets, and bully-targets (children who are both bullies and targets).

Whatever the role played, bullying puts the victims at risk for abundant psychiatric issues including panic disorders, depression, suicidal thinking or behaviour, anxiety and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces, crowds, or situations that may be difficult to escape from).

Various scholars have also proven that those who have been bullied are more than six times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop mental health issues.

Most times, victims of bullying develop progressive behavioural disorders as a result of being harassed. When combined with a victim’s low self-esteem, these conditions may trigger experimentation with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with how helpless being bullied makes them feel.

Most times bullies are children born and surrounded by environments that reinforce aggressive behaviour such as violent neighbourhoods. The environment they live in also makes a difference in their interest in drugs such that young people who grow up in areas with high crime rates, are surrounded by substance abuse, or experience violence at home is more likely to use drugs as a coping mechanism.

In the long run, they express themselves through aggression towards their peers as a means of relieving the pressure associated with their upbringing. In the process, drug abuse acts as a convenient escape route from the pressure as well.

Bullies normally have low self-esteem and bully others to gain a sense of control and power. They are more likely to be hostile and break the rules without any remorse. Bullies will also self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to mask their underlying mental health issues that are the cause of their antagonistic behaviour.

They will also socialise with others who exhibit the same behaviours which will encourage those behaviours to continue.

Bullying manifests in many forms specifically among different genders. While adolescent boys are typically bullied through physical violence, teenage girls are more likely to be harassed indirectly through gossip, being excluded from social circles or cyberbullied through social media or the internet. The increased access to social media, forums, online chats, cellphones and tablets is enabling teens to make fun of one another.

In the long run, bullied victims become bullies, who then create more victims, who then create more bullies. Bullying causes teen drug use, which causes more bullying, which then causes more substance abuse as the vicious cycle continues.

— Mwangi is Manager, Corporate Communications while Twala is Manager, Counselling and Rehabilitation at Nacada

More on Opinion & Columnists