5 Signs You May Be Self-Medicating

Self-medication is the process of using drugs and alcohol to manage physical and mental health symptoms.

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Self-medication is a term that refers to the misuse of drugs or alcohol to manage the symptoms of a mental health issue or other health condition.

People commonly self-medicate to cope with mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health conditions, including unresolved traumatic experiences.

In each case, these forms of self-medication can actually make the pre-existing disorder worse by contributing to dependence and further altering the person’s brain chemistry.

If you or a loved one are demonstrating signs of self-medication, then it is important to get professional mental health treatment.

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1. You Use Drugs Or Alcohol To Avoid Negative Feelings

You may be self-medicating if you are using substances to avoid negative feelings.

For example, for those who experience anxiety, alcohol or drugs can promote artificial relaxation and calm primary anxiety symptoms, both physical and psychological.

Conversely, alcohol or marijuana can be used to cheer someone up and avoid negative feelings associated with depression.

Over time, using drugs or alcohol to avoid negative feelings can lead to drug or alcohol dependence while worsening the chemical imbalances that contribute to depression and anxiety.

2. You Feel Tense When You Don’t Have Access To Drugs Or Alcohol

If you feel tense when you don’t have access to a certain drug or alcohol, you may be self-medicating.

You may not have access to a drug or alcohol because you have to wait until payday or are running out of prescription medication and don’t know how you will get more.

The feeling of panic when you can’t access the substance to combat negative feelings or feel a certain effect is indicative of dependence related to self-medication.

3. You Consume Larger Amounts Of Drugs Or Alcohol When Stressed

There is a strong association between stress and drug and alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and drugs are often used to self-medicate for those with high levels of social phobia or anxiety in situations of stress, such as a crowded event or other anxiety-inducing situations.

If you often use drugs or alcohol to cope with daily stress, life changes, or relationship problems, you are also likely self-medicating.

4. Using Drugs Or Alcohol Exacerbates Existing Issues

Regularly using drugs or alcohol can make the symptoms of a mental illness worse. Some drugs also make an existing mental illness harder to treat.

If using drugs or alcohol makes your mental health symptoms or health conditions worse but you continue to use these substances, you may have developed dependence as a result of self-medication.

You may also be self-medicating if you feel worse mentally or physically after the initial desired effect of the drug or prescription medication wears off.

5. Friends And Family Members Are Concerned About Your Substance Use

If your friends and family members have approached you to let you know that they are worried about you, there may be a valid reason.

It is often difficult to realize when we are self-medicating because physical and psychological dependence can happen quickly.

If someone you love and trust tells you that you need to get help for your substance use, this may be a good sign that you are self-medicating and need to seek help.

Find Help For A Substance Abuse Disorder In Massachusetts

If you believe you or a loved one may be self-medicating and are searching for treatment in Massachusetts, we can help.

Contact our team at Bedrock Recovery Center to learn how we can help you stop self-medicating.

  1. Child Mind Institute https://childmind.org/article/mental-health-disorders-and-substance-use/
  2. Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/alcohol-and-mental-health/
  3. National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/alcohol/
  4. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6101235/
  5. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175215/
  6. National Library Of Medicine: PubMed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6308142/
  7. Rethink Mental Illness https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/about-mental-illness/learn-more-about-conditions/drugs-alcohol-and-mental-health/#:~:text=Drugs%20and%20alcohol%20can%20make,you%20the%20support%20you%20need./

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: December 6, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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