Addiction, Cold Weather, and Our Mental Health

We all know the old adage that tells us that you can’t do anything about the weather. While we may not be able to change the weather, the weather can certainly change your mood and overall sense of well-being, which can be a problem for those dealing with addiction.

A woman wearing a down coat walks her dog on a snow-packed road as the sun shines in front of them

Cold Weather and Mental Health

It may seem like something of an oversimplification, but for most of us sunlight can have a stimulating, mood-brightening effect. Conversely, cold dark winter weather can have just the opposite effect on your mood and mental health and bring on things like:

  • Anxiety
  • Negative thoughts
  • Depression
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings

The unfortunate thing in all this is that these conditions can act as triggers for former addicts, causing their cravings to reemerge, and those cravings can easily lead to a relapse.  

Cold Winter Weather and Addiction Issues

Here are a few of the mental, physical, and social conditions affected by cold weather that may make it difficult for addicts to remain sober.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This is a brain disorder causing patients to have difficulty focusing, to lack persistence, experience extreme restlessness, and often take hasty, impulsive actions that can harm them. 

ADHD is the most common psychiatric disorder among children and young people, and it is estimated that 6.4 million youngsters between the ages 4 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD. And there seems to be a definite correlation between sunshine and ADHD. The more sunshine an area receives, the lower the rate of ADHD. 

Unfortunately, there is a close link between addiction and ADHD. Those suffering from ADHD tend to be impulsive and often have behavior problems, both of which can lead to addiction issues. 


Depression is the leading cause of addiction, and during fall and winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be a serious problem. Stated simply, SAD is a form of depression caused by a lack of sunlight, and its most common symptoms include:

  • Low energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleep issues
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thoughts

The symptoms associated with SAD are certainly not good for recovering addicts, and if you’re one with addiction problems you should try to engage in healthy activities, especially during the darker, colder months to keep temptation at bay.

Physical Health

Cold weather can affect your physical health, as the accompanying drop in barometric pressure can lead to various aches and pains. These, in turn, can lead to the use of painkillers, and if you’re dealing with addiction, the painkillers could possibly lead to more serious drug use.

Social Isolation

During this time of year Minnesota weather can be fearsome, and we’re tempted to spend much of our time indoors. That is not necessarily good for individuals dealing with addiction. 

Addiction has often been called a disease of isolation because addicts tend to isolate themselves and stay alone, a tendency reinforced by bad weather that often keeps us cooped up for prolonged periods. And the more you’re indoors and alone, doing nothing in particular, the more likely it is that the old cravings will return. 

One of the most effective winter mental health tips we can recommend is maintaining close contact with family and friends and getting out of the house to engage in healthy activities. Just a few ideas can include something as simple as:

  • Bundling up to take a walk outside or in a museum
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Considering light therapy to combat the lack of sunlight
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Calling friends and family members

These things may be difficult to do, especially when the weather’s working against you, but they can significantly affect your mental health. It’s important to establish a routine that makes you feel good without falling back into unhealthy habits as colder weather moves in. Taking care of your physical and mental health during the winter months can help you significantly during the recovery process.

A Few Words From Our Consultants In St. Paul, MN

While it would be a gross oversimplification to say that people living in sunnier areas of the country are happier and less prone to addiction, there can be no doubt that the cold and gloom of winter can be difficult for those struggling to recover from addiction and remain sober.

Fortunately, help is readily available at Drew Horowitz & Associates. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction issues aggravated by our long, cold Minnesota winters, we can provide help through our Sober Coaching Program.

Through this program we can provide assistance and support  to those struggling with alcohol or drug addiction that the recovery community, families, and private practice therapists cannot provide. 

This unique and highly successful program confronts the barriers – emotional, medical, motivational, mental, and spiritual – working against making healthy choices and living in healthy environments.To learn more about our Sober Coaching program, drug intervention counselors or one of our other treatment programs, as well as how it can help you or a loved one, we urge you to contact us at Drew Horowitz & Associates to speak with one of our counselors. Let us help you establish a treatment plan.

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