Imagine A Situation Where Self-Medication Occurs
You’ve just gotten out of work for the day. It was a rough one. Your workload has been growing non-stop, and no one seems to give you any credit. Time for a drink to shake off the day.
Things haven’t been going well in your relationship. You just got into another fight with your spouse. You’re angry, you’re stressed, and you just need to relax. Time to light up a joint.
You wake up in a cold sweat. You had that awful dream again about past trauma. You feel as though you’ll never get those images out of your head. Time to pop a Xanax and try to go back to sleep.
You’ve had so many traumas, heartbreaks, and heartaches. Enough to last a lifetime. Sometimes it’s easier to just try not to feel anything, and numb out the pain. Time to take an Oxycontin.
Many of these reactions may seem normal to deal with stressful situations, emotional pain, or particularly trying situations. Some of these may seem like the natural thing to do. But as natural as it may seem to try to make yourself feel better – even just for a short time – it isn’t healthy. In fact, when these type of responses become normal, they may be indicative of an issue that goes beyond the stress or pain. These reactions are considered self-medicating reactions.
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What Is Self-Medication?
Self-medication is a response to tough issues. Self-medication happens when a person turns to prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol in order to deal with situations they find hurtful, stressful, or emotional.
How Does Self-Medication Relate to Addiction?
Turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult situations and feelings is often the first step towards substance abuse. With time, self-medication and substance abuse can lead to drug addiction or alcoholism. Unfortunately, this abuse of drugs and alcohol – and addiction – doesn’t actually help in solving the original issues. Instead, addiction leads to more pain, more problems, and more difficulties in handling the issues that may have initially lead a person to drink or get high. Addiction and self-medicating become a cycle – fueling guilt, shame, and further depression and anxieties.
Many times, addiction begins with self-medication. It’s important to understand what self-medicating means and treat underlying issues early on. Not only can doing so reduce the risks associated with addiction – it could save a life.
Do you or someone you know self-medicate? Below are five crucial signs that it’s time to address the rising issues:
When You Become Stressed, Depressed, Angry, Anxious or Uncomfortable, You Drink or Get High
We’ve all heard the expression, “drowning your troubles.” It usually refers to drinking a few beers, a bottle of wine, whiskey, or any type of alcohol after a hard day, a breakup, a job loss, etc. It’s safe to say that when something hurts us, we look for a solution to feel better. But when “drowning your troubles” becomes downing your daily stresses, anger and discomfort in alcohol or drugs, it’s a sign of self medication. Using substances every time you find yourself stressed about finances, sad about the loss of a loved one, angry with your boss, anxious about attending a social event, or even just bored – isn’t healthy.
Your Moods and Mental Well-being Worsen from Drinking or Getting High
Initially, people find that drinking, pill popping, shooting or snorting can bring some relief. The drugs numb the pain; they make you let go of your worries; forget about the traumas. However, these temporary, quick fixes don’t last long – and when they wear off, things tend to be even worse. Over the course of time, drug and alcohol use for self-medication will take a toll on your health, both physically and mentally. Using may mean you don’t sleep well, eat well, and catch more illnesses. Your mood and mental health deteriorate, too. You may find the things that angered or haunted you before using re-emerge after using – and those moods and emotions you were trying to numb, become stronger, longer and more frequent.
You Worry When You Can’t Drink or Get High
Drinking and using drugs can lead to worsening mental health issues and moods – but what about when you’re unable to drink or get high? Do you panic if you’re unable to ease your social anxiety, anger, or depression with substances? Are you irritable if you can’t drink? Fixated on the next time you can pop a pill? Restless getting through the day without smoking or shooting away difficult emotions? Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol leaves many people obsessed with the next time they are able to ease the uncomfortable feelings.
Your Problems Just Keep Growing
So you originally began drinking or using to get quell some of your problems, pain, or personal stressors. However, your list of issues keeps growing. Ongoing drug and alcohol abuse have been known to create a lengthy list of its own problems, including:
- Difficulties at work or school
- Financial struggles
- Relationship problems
- Anxiety, depression and other mental health symptoms
- Difficulty in finding joy
- Low self-esteem, confidence
- Physical health problems
Your Loved Ones, Family and Friends Are Concerned by Your Drinking or Using
So you haven’t quite experienced some of the problems listed above, but the people you care about are worried about you, and the amount of alcohol you’re consuming or the drugs you’re using. You may not be taking their concerns seriously – but it’s time that you hear them out. These people know you better than anyone, and if they’re worried – it’s worth considering.
What to Do If You Are Self-Medicating
Because self-medicating is a slippery slope that can lead to dependence of drugs or alcohol, and addiction – it’s important to take steps now to get treatment. Co-occurring disorder treatment addresses the underlying causes of self-medication, drug abuse and addiction – and can help treat the addiction, as well as manage the symptoms of the mental health issues. If you or someone you know is self-medicating, it’s worth a conversation with a specialist sooner, rather than later.