What Puts Expats at Higher Risk for Addiction?

Have you recently relocated to Singapore and notice you are giving into vices more than before? In fact, the very lifestyle puts expats at risk for addiction in many ways. Find out how, and what you can do to avoid falling into the trap.

expats and addiction

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  • Aspects of expat life can cause significant emotional distress, homesickness and feelings of isolation, causing many to seek reprieve in vices that can lead to addiction.
  • Expats face a unique set of stressors that can often lead to addiction.

The Lion City is no stranger to expats.  Singapore’s population is predicted to rise by 30% by 2030, with foreigners making up the bulk of the increase.

Expats face a unique set of stressors that, for some, can seem like too much to handle. These combined with pressures to drink as part of doing business, lead many expats down the dangerous path of substance abuse.

Here we discuss the factors involved, and the treatment available for Singapore expats struggling with addiction.

Culture Shock and Addiction in Expatriate Life

Moving internationally always comes with a degree of upheaval and culture shock. Adopting to a new way of life can be exciting but also challenging. Sure, friends and family are only a phone call or email away, but with time differences and competing schedules, it is not as easy as we would like it to be to stay in touch.

Everyone reacts differently to these changes, but whether feelings surface right away or take time, moving cities can cause significant emotional distress, homesickness and feelings of insecurity. This may cause people to turn to vices like alcohol, drugs or sex to subdue or distract from these negative feelings, but after their temporary effects have worn off, and they often lead to greater problems like depression and addiction.

Addiction Triggers for ‘Trailing Spouses’ of Expats

Expat professionals are not the only group experiencing relocation-related stressors – expat spouses who accompany their partners abroad often have an even more difficult time adjusting to their new lifestyle.  It can be difficult to deal with an international move, support your spouse and children and fill additional roles, all within a context of isolation and culture shock.

Key elements that determine our happiness, like immersion in our preferred environment, meaningful social interactions and purposeful work are suddenly ripped away as spouses leave their families and communities to accompany their partners to a new destination.  Feelings of social isolation, lack of meaning and financial dependence can quickly put pressure on a relationship and leave spouses in quite a frustrated position.  For many trailing spouses, substance abuse becomes an escape and coping mechanism when they feel they have few places to turn.

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Expats, Drinking and Addiction in Asian Business Culture

Let’s face it – alcohol is a deeply rooted part of Asia’s business culture.  Job competition and performance expectations are notoriously high in Singapore, and expat job assignments often involve intensive networking as part of maintaining their role.  This networking often involves social functions like dinners or cocktail hours – and alcohol is almost always involved.

Feeling pressured to drink as part of your job can be a recipe for disaster.  Alcoholism often begins with episodic binge drinking, and what seems like an occasional indulgence can quickly become a go-to activity.

These networking ‘obligations’ blur the line between business and pleasure. The stress of work and push to ‘loosen up’ in order to forge personal and professional connections can ultimately lead to long-term addictions that often go unrecognised due to their social acceptability.

Singaporean Drug Penalties and the Stigmatisation of Addiction

Singapore’s stringent laws may have largely contributed to subduing our drug problem in the past, but it also might be what has led many people in Singapore to develop addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs due to their legality and cultural acceptability.  Many people also hide their addictions for fear of harsh sentencing.

Culturally, the stigma attached to drug addiction in Singapore is quite severe. In the past, drug users were scorned, discriminated against and often punished for their illness. As more people are being affected by addiction, the problem is one that Singapore will be forced to confront more directly in the coming years.

The more people are able to see addiction as a disease, and stigma as a barrier to treatment, the more hope there will be for successful recovery from addiction.

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Effective, Confidential Addiction Treatment for Foreigners in Singapore

Expats often deal with a number of stressors that put them at risk of addiction. However, the increasing influence of international expats in Singapore could potentially have a positive impact on the nature of addiction treatment, as attitudes toward addiction shift and more people are able to properly identify and seek treatment.

The Cabin Singapore offers completely confidential addiction treatment in a conveniently located outpatient setting that accommodates our clients’ busy schedules.  Our own Recovery Zones method combines multiple therapeutic approaches into a modern, holistic and effective addiction treatment programme.  If you are struggling with addiction, contact us today to see how our expert counsellors can help get you back on track.

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