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Self-medicating is a term that can be used to describe an individual who has been self-treating their mental, emotional, or physical pain with drugs or alcohol. Alcohol and drugs are some of the most commonly used self-medicating substances. 

These substances can be a way to numb emotions, feel less anxious or more confident, but there is always a negative side effect that comes with these feelings. It’s not uncommon for people to self-medicate, and it may seem like a harmless enough behavior. But, the truth is that self-medicating can lead to many serious negative consequences in your life if you don’t get help for the underlying issue.

This blog will discuss why people choose self-medication as a coping mechanism, the dangers of self-medicating, and how addiction treatment can help.

How Do You Know if You Are Using Alcohol and Drugs for Self-Medicating?

How do you deal with a nagging boss? How about financial constraints and unending domestic fights and quarrels? You probably link up with your buddies at a local joint to down “one for the road” as you talk about politics and football. From one bottle to two to a couple, and before realizing it, you are already becoming an addict, using alcohol to relieve your stresses. Here are ways you can tell if you are self-medicating using alcohol and drugs:

  • You start drifting away from friends and family, avoiding family gatherings and social occasions.
  • Neglecting physical grooming like showering and changing clothes
  • Sudden change in your hobbies and the people you hang out with
  • Low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression
  • Quick temper and gets angered easily
  • Poor performance at work and poor grades at school

Why Do People Choose Self-Medication as a Coping Mechanism?

A person may self-medicate when they have an underlying issue such as anxiety or depression. They do so because it is a way to suppress emotions, numb feelings, and feel less anxious.

You can use drugs and alcohol instead of dealing with the problem head-on, which will lead to more serious consequences later on down the line. Self-medicating is a behavior that affects addicts and people who feel pain from various parts of their life like relationships, work stressors, and family problems.

Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are a driving force behind a person’s misuse of alcohol or drugs. If early intervention and care are not taken, a person can quickly move from self-medication to full-blown substance abuse.

Self-medication can often go hand in hand with other negative behaviors such as excessive drinking or drug use for those struggling with addiction issues. Drugs and alcohol start being abused out of necessity rather than choice.

The Dangers of Self-Medicating

At first, self-medicating will seem harmless because it brings some instant feeling of calmness, helping you cope with the pains and stresses. However, the calm feeling is short-lived, making someone get used to using the drug whenever they want to relieve their pains. The trouble with self-medicating is that it’s not a permanent solution.

When someone is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, their mental health condition symptoms may worsen over time. As a result, they might not be able to manage everyday life. As a result, they begin neglecting important relationships and life responsibilities such as work because of addiction.

Mental illness can also make it more difficult to quit using substances because individuals may feel that their drug use relieves them from withdrawal effects caused by the illness, which could lead to relapse in substance abuse. In addition, individuals who are addicted have higher mood disorders such as depression and anxiety than those who do not suffer from addictions. This increases one’s risk for developing suicidal thoughts, which puts individuals at greater danger when withdrawing from illicit substances without help from competent and well-trained professionals.

Self-Medication and Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals who self-medicate with drugs or alcohol often have a co-occurring disorder. People may use substances to help them cope with the symptoms of mental health problems and as a result develop a substance abuse problem.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that nearly half of all people in treatment for drug addiction also suffer from major depression, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorders, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or anxiety. In addition, even if they are not clinically diagnosed with these conditions individually, SAMHSA estimates that 50% of those addicted to drugs might be experiencing some degree of untreated psychosis associated with their particular addiction.

Different substances have different effects on your mental wellbeing. For example, cocaine abuse has worsened bipolar disorder, while cannabis poses a greater risk of developing psychosis.

How Addiction Treatment Can Help

Continued drug usage through self-medication leads to the development of an addiction that will require professional help. In addition, when drugs are abused for long, they alter and affect the brain’s functioning making it dependent on a substance to perform.

As a drug addict, it might be hard to accept at first that you are struggling with drugs and need help. But, acceptance is the first step to healing. Luckily, rehabilitation and addiction treatment centers with trained medical professionals break you from this vicious cycle of drug and substance abuse.

The trained medical professionals diagnose any existing mental health conditions like ADHD and recommend ways to help manage the effects of self-medication using alcohol and drugs. At the rehabilitation centers, you meet other people, share about your struggles and encourage each other in coping with the addiction problem.

In Summary

Many people self-medicate to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. And while they may provide temporary relief from these feelings of discomfort, this habit will only worsen them in the long run. Addiction treatment can help you find lasting peace by addressing the root cause of your addiction without drugs or alcohol as a crutch. If you are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse (or know someone who is), contact Covenant Hills Treatment today for free information on our Christian and non-religious addiction and treatment programs that offer hope for sobriety and life change.