People are social creatures. The things they do and don’t do affect more than themselves. They affect others. This is especially true in cases of substance abuse.

Our social natures lead to a number of fascinating discussions. One is whether the bystander effect contributes to drug and alcohol abuse.

Psychologists define the bystander effect as the tendency of people to help others based on the presence of others. Scholars and commentators often discuss this phenomenon when it relates to people helping others (or not helping others) in times of violence and distress.

According to a theory known as the bystander effect, people are more likely to help others if they’re alone or in small groups. Conversely, people are less likely to help others when there are larger numbers of bystanders present. Scholars believe that this is because people may feel that if other people aren’t taking action, they don’t have to take action as well. They may feel that other people will lend their assistance.

Some people believe that the bystander effect may prevent people from helping people who are struggling with substance abuse. They assume that other people are helping people who are addicted to drugs or misusing alcohol.

Could the bystander effect also reflect how people still sometimes view drugs, alcohol, addiction, and treatment? Perhaps we might be willing to help people, but we’re afraid to do so.

We might suspect that a person is addicted to drugs, but we’re not really sure. Therefore, we don’t mention it in front of others because those other people aren’t mentioning it. If the other people aren’t discussing it, we might rationalize that the drug problem isn’t as bad as we imagined it was. We might convince ourselves that the problem is more in our heads.

Perhaps we don’t take speak or take action about this addiction because we’re afraid of what the person will say about our words or deeds. We could be afraid what others will say about our accusations or actions. There are still stigmas surrounding drugs, alcohol, substance abuse, so we might be afraid to make serious allegations about stigmatized things. We might worry how others will view us or the suspected drug abuse.

But, we owe it to ourselves to discuss and treat substance abuse. Discussing substance abuse is difficult, but staying silent about this subject can be deadly.