The cliché image of life as an expat might sound appealing to a lot of people, but there is a less positive reality behind it. Although some expats do indeed enjoy an exciting life in a new part of the world with lots of social activities, dinners and parties, there are also expats who can’t control their alcohol or drug intake and, after some time, become dependent on them.

What are possible high-risk situations and circumstances that increase the use of alcohol and drugs?


1. Being an expat itself forms a risk
Although living abroad can be an exciting and fun time, it is often also a period of stress. Leaving your old life, friends and family behind can be a great source of tension. Moving abroad can also lead to changes in your relationship and family dynamics. Alcohol then seems to be a means that gives (temporary) relief to this stress, but in the long term it causes more misery.

2. Work pressure
If you have moved abroad for work, the first period will probably be characterized by a high workload: a new job, new colleagues and high expectations. This work pressure, possibly accompanied by the pressure to build a new social network, can lead to more frequent drinking and the use of alcohol and drugs to release some tension.

3. Law and availability
The Netherlands – and Amsterdam in particular- is known for its liberal drug policy (“gedoogbeleid”). This means that the use of soft drugs is socially acceptable and there is a widespread availability. This lowers the threshold to start and continue the use of soft drugs. In addition, Amsterdam has a blossoming nightlife and festival scene where drugs might be illegal, but definitely present and accessible. 

4. An expat partner’s risk
If you have moved abroad because of your partner's work, you may have had to give up your own job. This loss of work, and with it a part of your identity, can cause feelings of sadness, anger and fear. At the same time, a lack of structure in your days may lead to frustration and boredom. To channel these feelings, some people use alcohol to relieve tension and temporarily feel better.

Are you dissatisfied with your alcohol or drug use or do you want to know more about what you can do about addiction? Contact your General Practitioner if you think professional help is needed.