The Dangers of Self-Medicating

Most people think of self-medicating as taking a Tylenol for a headache. While this is true, there are people who take a more extreme and more dangerous chance with self-medicating. Self-medicating is choosing and taking medicines oneself, rather than by prescription or on expert advice or taking addictive or habituating drugs to relieve stress or other conditions. Self-medicating with alcohol or other illicit drugs can be addicting and can even cost you your life. Many people try self-medicating because it is seen as more convenient, saves them from shame from a condition, or a short-term fix. Some people can even self-medicate by simply not following the directions on a prescription, which has helped lead to the opioid addiction epidemic the nation is facing. Others may turn to self-medicating for other reasons like someone with anxiety calming themselves with alcohol or someone with depression using amphetamines for their stimulating effects.

While taking that Tylenol can help get rid of your headache there are many consequences when using any kind of drug especially illicit ones. People can be masking a severe condition, the risk of addiction and abuse, overdosing, delaying needed medical help, and legal repercussions because of illicit drugs. The desire of self-medicating to avoid dealing with the problem, doctors, or medical payments can actually lead to a bigger problem, more doctors, and more medical bills or the unfortunate loss of life whether it be in prison or because of death.

Self-Medicating with Alcohol

A well-known substance used frequently for self-medicating is alcohol. While it may start off as a simple way to relax with friends in your early twenties or a way to unwind after work later on it can turn into something much more detrimental to the person and their family or even others if they decide to drive while drinking. Alcohol, while legal, still can be addicting. One beer after work can turn into five, which can turn into ten, and so on and so forth. Soon money being spent on alcohol is cutting into rent or paying for your child’s braces. As alcoholics begin to rely on it more their mood and behavior tend to change, not to mention all the bodily harm. The behavioral changes due to alcohol addiction tend to break up families or at least cause a strain on the relationships.

Self-Medicating: Opioids & Prescription Drugs

This can be the similar case for self-medicating with illicit drugs. You may try something at a party once and enjoy the high. Then in trying to recreate the same feeling you become addict. In the case of the opioid epidemic, many people start taking them for the right reasons and with a prescription from their doctor. However, long-term use can lead to a tolerance, meaning that they need more of the same prescription drug to feel the same effects. They soon become dependant on them but doctors will not prescribe more than a certain amount in a certain amount of time. Patients start doctor shopping to get more pills and when that doesn’t work they start buying them on the street illegally, but those are expensive. They soon turn to something cheaper but even riskier, heroin. All of these can make matters worse especially for those suffering from depression.

Mental Health & Self-Medicating

Many people who are addicted to drugs or self-medicate have co-occurring disorders. People who suffer with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health issues often try to fix their problems themselves which results in a drug addiction or someone with a co-occurring disorder. Individuals with ADHD tend to abuse cocaine with similar stimulant properties as ritalin and many with PTSD abuse alcohol to relax or relieve stress. However, abusing substances often makes the underlying mental health issue worse. Many people who even just cut back on the drug use feel like their symptoms are lessened. Substance abuse only masks the problem temporarily.

There are many different reasons that people may try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. They may want to escape pain, relieve stress, forget a trauma, ease emotional discomfort, reduce side effects of a mental illness, or manage symptoms from another drug. Self-medicating can interfere with other prescribed medications or treatments for other ailments. The side-effects from using substances alone can be bad but mixing them with mental illnesses will make things worse. Instead of dealing with one at a time, it is best to treat both the addiction and the mental illness at the same time. Doing it this way can improve both disorders immensely. The treatment can also save their life from the damage of the substance and from the crimes involved. If you or someone you know is self-medicating it is important to get help, the sooner the better.

Is your self-medicating becoming a problem?

If you or your loved one is self-medicating and it may be getting out of hand, we can help. The team at Recovery Ways, the premier drug rehab facility in Utah, can asses your specific situation and recommend the best approach for success and sobriety. If you’re ready to make the change and life a life free from addiction, please call 1–888–986–7848 or contact us here.

Originally published at on May 19, 2017.