Triggers: How Substance-Related Ads Affect Those in Recovery

Triggers: How Substance-Related Ads Affect Those in Recovery

There’s no doubt that media and advertisements are everywhere. Marketing experts suggest that we see around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements every single day. America prides itself on its drinking culture, and there’s no doubt that many of these marketing ploys are for various drinks, not to mention cigarettes, e-cigarettes and more. Those in addiction recovery are prone to come across these types of ads just by scrolling through Facebook – and in an otherwise prominent path of recovery, one may find themselves feeling triggered by the many messages these advertisements send.

In 2016, researchers published a study in the journal Addiction Biology to assess neural pathways in the brain when those recovering from alcoholism and cannabis use disorder (CUD) were exposed to suggestive advertising. Twenty individuals with heavy alcohol use and 21 cannabis-users were involved in the study and compared to 20 non-drug users total. Researchers found that while sober, marketing had a significant effect on individuals’ brain activity; the cues sent from these advertisements had a direct pathway to the participants’ brain reward circuitry – which means that advertisements can trigger those in recovery.

We’re likely to see advertisements on alcohol in places where we’d least expect it, not just through television, radio and social media platforms. A contributor of The Business Journals stated in 2017 that our commute to and from work exposes us to countless billboards, and grocery shopping is sure to add even more to the list. With all of these advertisements that could possibly trigger someone who is pursuing a sober lifestyle, how can a person cope?

It truly depends on where the individual is at in their recovery. For someone who is just beginning their journey, avoidance may be the best option. If a person has been living a sober lifestyle for several years, they may not be able to avoid all of these instances – but they can change the way they think about them. American novelist Tom Robbins once expressed this very act of mindfulness by stating, “One has not only an ability to perceive the world but an ability to alter one’s perception of it; more simply, one can change things by the manner in which one looks at them.”

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-924-0780.

Saving Lives; Healing Families.


Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.