When someone self-diagnoses an issue and implements a solution of drug or alcohol use, that’s a form of self-medication. In the case of a minor illness or injury, medical treatment from a healthcare provider isn’t necessary. However, if the condition is severe or chronic, individuals run the risk of experiencing self-medication and addiction.
What is Self-Medicating and Addiction?
Self-medication means individuals are using home remedies, over-the-counter or prescription drugs, or herbs without consulting a physician. They’re taking this initiative without receiving any professional advice first. In some cases, they may be using illegal substances. Some practice self-medication routinely as a means of maintaining their physical and mental health. For example, if you experience a minor injury, you can self medicate instead of seeing a doctor. However, that blurs the line between self-medication and addiction. The main reason is that, if you’re using medications improperly or too much, that could cause dependence and a spiral into addiction.
The Dangers of Self-Medicating
Even though it’s common to use self-medicating means to treat minor illnesses and injuries, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without dangers. If you’re self-medicating to treat mental health issues, for example, that has many risks. Those include:
- Adverse reactions could occur
- Delays in seeking proper treatment or appropriate advice
- Diagnosing yourself incorrectly
- The condition might worsen
- The potential for drug interactions
- The risk of self-medication and addiction
It is fairly common to see someone self-medicating a mental health disorder with drugs or alcohol. Alcohol commonly misunderstood to help depression when, in fact, it compounds the issue. Proper intensive outpatient mental health treatment is needed for disorders like depression and anxiety.
Self-Medication and Addiction
You’ll find many types of self-medications, including using food or other substances. Individuals turn to these things as a way of self-soothing when feelings of anxiousness or stress present themselves. Here are examples of the types of self-medication you might see:
- Alcohol: Using drugs and alcohol is a common type of self-medication, as well as the most dangerous.
- Caffeine and cigarettes: People often use caffeine and cigarettes together to achieve the soothing effect they’re seeking. If they feel non-functional without these things, it’s time to examine intake.
- Central nervous system depressants: Individuals who are self-medicating for ADHD turn to central nervous system depressants to help induce relaxation and drowsiness.
- Food: It’s challenging to determine if a person is self-medicating with food because we have to eat daily. However, if someone puts on a significant amount of weight in a short period, they’re likely experiencing self-medication and addiction.
- Marijuana: Using marijuana is a common substance for those suffering from depression or other mental health issues.
- Stimulant drugs: Those who are self-medicating for anxiety or other mental health issues turn to amphetamines or cocaine for relief.
- Video games: When individuals play video games so excessively that they neglect everything else in their life, that could be a form of self-medication.
How Does Self-Medicating Contribute to Addiction?
According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), nearly twenty percent of Americans suffering from anxiety or mood disorders also suffer from alcoholism or drug abuse. Turning to alcohol, drugs, or other substances might be a beacon when individuals are experiencing stress or other forms of pain. Turning to these substances causes long-term issues in addition to the reason for self-medicating. These issues could include health problems, the loss of relationships, and experiencing poor coping skills. That’s where self-medication and addiction might present itself.
While not all forms of self-medication are dangerous, there are some precautions you must take. For example, if you’re treating a serious ailment or injury, you run the risk of self-medication and addiction if you misuse a substance or use it for too long. If you or someone you know is self-medicating and you have concerns, contact Renaissance Recovery by calling 866.330.9449 for help.