The Dangers of Self-Medicating

Self-medicating is a common practice; if you have a headache, you take aspirin, if you have a cold, you take cough medicine. Many people self-medicate because it saves time money and energy going to a doctor—especially when the problem is self-treatable. However, with the abundance of information provided via the internet, more people are self-diagnosing and self-treating their symptoms. When not properly diagnosed, the problem with this is that you run the risk of using drugs that do not adequately treat your problem. These kinds of practices could prolong the process for finding the correct treatment and make your condition worse.

The condition is not always obvious and you might not make the connection that your drinking or using is brought on by stress and anxiety. For example, you attend a party and need a drink to relax and loosen up. While this is a common notion for many people, it can also create an onset of bad habits that can begin to spread situations outside of a social setting. These include stress from work, children, school, etc. Once you start to self-medicate, before you know it, you rely on the substance to help you through your day.

Self-Medicating With Alcohol

Given the ubiquity of alcohol in society, you might have turned to alcohol to combat physical pain or mental fears. Since the beginning of the pandemic, you might find yourself relying on alcohol to fight boredom, anxiety, and loneliness. Alcohol is a depressant and after you drink for long periods, you will begin to notice changes in your mood and behavior. Extended use or daily use will put you at risk of developing a reliance and, eventually, an addiction. If you are using alcohol to self-medicate, seeking help from a doctor, friend, or therapist can help you stop using before it develops into an addiction.

Self-Medicating With Opioids

If prescribed certain drugs or given them at a party or social setting, you risk continued use to help you cope with the pain and stress in your day. When you self-medicate with illicit drugs such as codeine and methadone, you risk attempting to recreate the same high. Eventually, you might find yourself doctor-hopping to attain drugs or seeking out friends (or strangers) to help you get the drugs you have come to crave. Many even turn to cheaper drugs such as heroin.

The risks of buying drugs on the street perhaps pose the highest threat because they are not regulated and are either purer amounts or laced with other toxic substances. Much like with alcohol, if you are beginning to form a dependence, talk to your doctor, friends, or therapist. They might be able to help you curb your budding addiction before it takes over.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Research shows a connection between the effects of substance abuse and mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other health ailments. When you self-medicate, you are choosing to deal with one problem at a time; however, treating one problem with substance use, in turn, hurts both disorders. Understand that any relief from using drugs and other substances is temporary–it only prolongs and masks the underlying problem. Think about the impact after you use and how much more difficult it is to get your mind and body back in order.


Denial is a defense mechanism used by an individual to refuse to acknowledge the painful reality of the facts. Concerning addiction, denial can quickly begin to become the common thread throughout your budding or existing habit. Self-medicating fosters feelings of depression, anxiety, and guilt; because of this you might start to ignore or deny that you have a problem. However, this denial further escalates your issues and creates a cycle of shame and guilt that will drive you to conceal your problems and continue to drink or take drugs.

If you wonder if you have reached a state of denial, look at your addiction and behaviors realistically: Are you still using drugs and alcohol to cope? Have you lost control, e.g. overindulge daily? Do you avoid talking about the issue or become defensive when someone brings it up? These are telltale signs that you are in denial and at the point of needing help. You can begin to overcome your denial by being honest with yourself. Start by keeping a journal to track your impulses and behaviors–this will help you see your behavioral patterns. Once you understand the pattern, you can begin to decide whether professional help or alternative home care can be used to combat your addiction.

When you can understand the risks of self-medication at the onset, you can then approach the root of your problems with alternative treatment methods, such as: therapy, recovery meetings, meditation, and activities that promote health and growth of the mind or all of the above. Today more people are opening up about their addictions and mental disorders; because of this, there is more information and understanding that both addiction and mental disorders are a disease of the brain. While there is still much work to do in reaching everybody around the globe with this message, you can better serve yourself by being open and honest about your mental disorders and addictions.

If you are self-medicating and it is getting out of control, it is time to seek help. True Recovery provides 24/7 care that is understanding and sensitive to the needs and concerns of those suffering from addiction. True Recovery offers alternative care and will dedicate the time needed to find the right care for you. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.