Are you concerned that you or someone you love is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol? Keep reading to learn more about what self-medicating is, how the different types can affect us, and how to get help.
What is self-medicating?
How to tell if you’re self-medicating
If you suspect that you might be self-medicating to avoid dealing with difficult emotions, or that a friend or family member of yours is self-medicating, ask yourself the following questions:
- What motivates me to drink or take prescription or recreational drugs?
- Is my use of alcohol or prescription or recreational drugs negatively affecting my life?
- Do I turn to drugs or alcohol when I’m feeling stressed, depressed or anxious?
- Do I feel worse after the initial effects of the drugs or alcohol wear off?
- Am I finding that it takes more self-medicating to find the same relief?
If you answered ‘yes’ or ‘I’m not sure’ to any of these questions, it might be time to talk with a licensed therapist who can help determine if you are suffering from addiction and if any mental health issues are contributing to your addiction that they can help you cope with.
Self-medicating with Marijuana
One thing is certain, if you’re taking prescription medications, self-medicating with CBD or marijuana can have dangerous side effects.
Self-medicating with Prescription and Recreational Drugs
Whether you’re using prescription drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin, or Percocet or recreational drugs like heroin, it can have serious consequences when combined with prescription medications and mental health conditions.
Opiates, the top addictive prescription drug class, and heroin, are often used to self-medicate for depression. In 2013, more than 40 million people worldwide were estimated to be using opiates and opioids. Self-medicating with opioids for depression can lead to overdose as the body requires more and more medication to achieve the same high. When mixed with prescription drugs, people with addictions risk extremely slowed breathing, decreased heart rate, and even death.
Self-medicating with Alcohol
Studies have shown several factors are prevalent in higher alcohol consumption. The first is that persons who have PTSD or past trauma are likely to abuse alcohol. Another study reported heavy alcohol use was higher among those who do not use mental health care resources. While there is often a cultural stigma placed on seeking help for mental health concerns and coping with difficult emotions, breaking that stigma to seek treatment is important for both your physical and mental health.
Whether you use alcohol sparingly or are suffering from an alcohol addiction, it is important to be mindful of the effects alcohol can have on other drugs and your body.
Maybe you started self-medicating with alcohol or drugs unconsciously, or you were aware that’s what you were doing. Either way, seeking treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and underlying mental health concerns can help increase your likelihood of success in recovery.