Will Your Little Bully Grow Up to Become an Addicted Adult?

Why are childhood bullies at a higher risk for becoming addicted adults?

These days, you can find them in every classroom and on every playground. They seek out other children to torment with threats, intimidation, and physical abuse. They're childhood bullies.

But what happens when these little bullies grow up?

The Snowball Effect

Unfortunately, for a large portion of childhood bullies, things don’t get much better. Why? Because these kids are at risk of becoming addicts once they get older.

An Ohio State University study found that “Youth involved in bullying were more likely than students not involved in bullying to use substances, with bully-victims reporting the greatest levels of substance use, bullies themselves reporting the next greatest, and individuals not involved in bullying at all coming in last.”

Other research discovered that 31.7 percent of high school bullies used marijuana, compared to 13.3 percent of students who were not involved in bullying. Among middle schoolers, 11.4 percent of bullies used marijuana, while only 1.6 percent of non-bullying students reported marijuana use. The anti-bullying organization, Utterly Global, reports that children who were bullies in grades six to nine are 60 percent more likely to have a criminal conviction by the age of 24.

What's the Connection?

Why are these kids turning to drugs and alcohol? What makes bullying a risk-factor for your child? Each situation is unique, but several factors often contribute to a child’s bullying nature and their risk for addiction.

Let's dig a little deeper...

  • They hurt, so they hurt others.
    We’ve all heard the saying ‘hurt people hurt people.’ It’s true for kids, too. Children often turn to bullying because they are dealing with personal pain and desperate to hide those emotions. As a result, they get a reputation as a bully and continue this pattern of hurt. They never deal with the issues causing their pain. Bullies then turn to substance abuse in an attempt to numb the pain, appear “cool,” or achieve the feelings of power they belive bullying provides.
  • They learned it at home.
    If parents demonstrate addictive and/or bullying behavior at home, kids are likely to copy this behavior. The negative patterns are passed on to the next generation. Children and teens may also learn unhealthy activities from other kids. If their friends act like bullies or begin using substances, they may join in due to peer pressure.
  • They are already addicted.
    Some people get a rush from mistreating others. They enjoy this feeling, and the “reward” they feel encourages them to continue doing it. This works the same way as addiction to substances. This type of child tends toward addictive behaviors, and drugs that offer a similar rush can be appealing.



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