Trying to medicate for a mental health issue can cause many problems besides the potential for addiction. It doesn’t matter what substance you turn to, self-medication can lead to:
- Dependency, addiction, or both
- Making the symptoms of the mood disorders worse, or creating new ones
- Negative interaction with any prescription medications you may be taking
- Increased problems with your health
- Damaged relationships
- Problems at work or school
- Prevent or delay you from getting help
Although self-medicating can offer some relief in the short term, it only makes problems worse in the long run.
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What is Self-Medication?
In times of stress and anxiety, many people turn to substances to try to change the way they feel. They may use food, smoke a joint, or have a drink or two to settle their nerves. Some will turn to Xanax or Valium to help them sleep. And some will use ADHD medications to help keep them focused during the day. Still, others will use prescription painkillers to numb grief or stress.
When a person uses drugs or drinks alcohol to manage symptoms of a mental health issue, it’s called “self-medicating.” They may know that they have a mental health issue but don’t know any better ways to cope with it. Many times, their condition is undiagnosed and the drugs or alcohol is used to deal with a specific symptom or situation.
What is Medication Misuse?
There are more than 4 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. each year. It’s easy to understand that some of these medications wind up being misused or in the wrong hands. When medication isn’t used as prescribed or “saved for an emergency,” it creates opportunities for misuse.
Misuse of both over-the-counter and prescription medicine happens when:
- It’s used in ways that weren’t prescribed or directed.
- You use a prescription that isn’t yours.
- It was used only to get high.
- You take an incorrect dose.
- You skip a dose.
- You take the drug at the wrong time.
- You stop taking the drug too soon.
What are the Causes of Medication Misuse?
People abuse medications for many reasons such as:
- To get high or just feel good
- To relieve tension and relax
- To relieve pain
- To reduce appetite
- To improve academic or athletic performance
- To explore the mental effects
- To prevent withdrawal and maintain addiction
- To be social or accepted by peers.
Recognizing Substance Abuse
It’s easy to go from self-medicating a mental health or emotional issue to abusing alcohol or drugs. A substance abuse problem isn’t defined by what you drink or which drug you use. Likewise, it’s not defined by when you use it or how much you use it. The effects of use are what define the problem. If your self-medicating is causing problems in your life or relationships, you have a problem with substance abuse.
What is Drug Abuse?
Drug abuse happens when any drugs, including alcohol, illegal drugs, or any psychoactive substances are misused to inflict self-harm or just to get high. This is also called substance use disorder (SUD) because people who abuse drugs have significantly changed their behavior, thinking, and body functions.
What is Drug Addiction?
Drug addiction is also called severe SUD and is a brain disorder that appears as the uncontrollable use of a substance even though it is causing harm to the person’s life. People suffering from addiction have a physical and psychological need to use the substance. If they don’t use it, they experience intense withdrawal symptoms.
Common Substances Used for Self-Medication
Continued use of these drugs can lead to abuse and drug addiction.
The most common method of self-medication, and also the most commonly abused substance, is alcohol. Even though beer, wine, and liquor are all depressants, alcohol is commonly used to self-medicate:
- depression, and
Also widely available are:
- Opioid and prescription drugs
- ADHD medication (stimulants)
- Anti-anxiety medications
The use of these drugs includes:
- Relieving pain
- Improving concentration\
- Increasing energy.
Drugs such as marijuana, cannabis, or stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine are frequently used to manage uncomfortable:
The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products helps some people focus, but in the long run, it tends to make ADHD symptoms worse and harder to quit.
6 Signs that You’re Self-Medicating
It’s not always easy to recognize when you’re self-medicating, or the dangers of self-medication. Drinking alcohol is generally socially acceptable and prescription medications are found in most bathroom medicine cabinets. Even the recreational drug marijuana is now legal in many states and easy to obtain.
It’s important to examine your reasons for drinking or taking drugs, as well as their impact on your life, to understand whether you’re self-medicating or not. Are you taking a pain pill because you hurt your back or because you had a bad day at work? Are you drinking to be sociable with friends or trying to feel less anxious? Six signs that you’re self-medicating are:
- When you feel anxious, depressed, or stressed, you turn to alcohol or drugs for relief. Many people use substances to cope with bad news. But if you use drugs or alcohol regularly to deal with stress, improve how you feel, relieve boredom, or prepare for a social function, you may be self-medicating.
- Alcohol and drugs make you feel worse.
Using a substance tends to be only a temporary solution. After the effects wear off, you’re likely to feel worse. Self-medicating can:
- Affect how well you sleep
- Reduce your energy
- Diminish your immune system,
- Making you more inclined to become ill
In addition, your mood and emotional well-being will be affected, This can trap you in a downward spiral of worse moods and increased use of substances.
- You need increasingly more amounts of the substance to feel relief.
It used to take one or two drinks to relieve your anxiety, now it takes more to experience the same effects. As you continue self-medicating, your tolerance will keep increasing.
- Your problems are increasing.
You may have started drinking or using drugs to deal with stress, but now that has led to a relationship, health, and financial problems to deal with as well.
- You worry when you don’t have access to alcohol or drugs.
- Do you worry when you’re in a situation where your substance won’t be available?
- Do you get anxious when your prescription starts to run out?
- Do you get agitated waiting for payday so you can restock your supply?
If you become restless and uncomfortable about being separated from your substance, the more likely it is that you are self-medicating.
- Friends or family have expressed concern about your substance use.
Are they worried you’re drinking more than usual or noticed the changes in your personality or social life? The dangers of self-medication also affect those around you.
4 Self-Help Tips
- Identify your patterns–recognize how and when you’re self-medicating and be honest.
- Change your beliefs–if you’re medicating your moods and emotions, you may believe it is more effective than it is. Even when you realize that it’s only a temporary fix, it can be hard to shake off the false beliefs you’ve built up in your mind.
- Find healthier ways to cope–reach out for social support, exercise, practice relaxation techniques, improve sleep, and eat a healthy diet.
- Combine your treatments–if self-medicating a mental health issue has triggered a substance abuse issue or addiction, it’s called a dual diagnosis. To get help for a dual diagnosis, both problems need to be treated at the same time.
How to Help Someone Who’s Self-Medicating
Helping someone who’s self-medicating can be a struggle. You need to:
- Overcome their denial
- Help them recognize why they’re self-medicating
- Deal with the underlying condition and the problems caused by substance abuse.
You can’t force them to deal with their conditions, but you can offer love and support and encourage them to seek help. Here are some ways you can help:
- Talk to them–talk about the damage being caused when you’re both calm and sober.
- Learn what you can about their underlying mental health issue–the more you learn, the more you can help.
- Encourage them to seek professional help–even a general check-up with a doctor.
- Don’t use drugs or drink with your loved one or argue about their substance abuse when they’re impaired.
- Encourage social activities–support from friends and family is necessary for recovery.
- Set boundaries–be realistic about the amount of time you can offer them and place limits on disruptive behaviors.
- Be patient–recovery is an ongoing process and it’s common to relapse.
- Get support for yourself–Don’t let your loved one’s problems wear you down. You may need a support group or a therapist for yourself.
How Discovery Institute Can Help
Discovery Institute is a detox and rehab center in New Jersey, with the help you need for yourself or someone you care about. Because we have many programs and a comprehensive continuum of care, you can have a program created specifically for you. This is what we have to offer you:
The medical detox process ensures that you have the best opportunity to go through withdrawal safely, comfortably, and successfully with 24-hour medical supervision and any medications necessary.
After detoxing, you are ready for treatment. It may be necessary for a residential rehab program where you will live at our facility and receive round-the-clock care in a structured, safe facility.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
We also have an intensive outpatient program if your problem is not severe and doesn’t require 24-hour care, or if residential is not an option for you. In an IOP, you spend several days at the treatment center and go home at the end of each day. This type of program is also used as a step-down from the residential program.
Relapse Prevention Plan
The early days of your recovery are when you are most likely to relapse. Discovery Institute provides relapse prevention therapy to help you avoid the pitfalls that are bound to happen in early recovery
Dual Diagnosis Program
Because mental health and substance use disorders need to be treated simultaneously to be effective, we have a dual diagnosis program for people who may have these co-occurring disorders. This is a common occurrence for people who have been self-medicating.
In addition to these programs, we can offer holistic treatment, telehealth, and vocational services. Our counselors and addiction specialists are experienced in specialized treatment including:
- Treatment for young adults
- Treatment for adults
- Treatment for Seniors
Discovery Institute can provide you with a custom-made program to suit your particular needs and the needs of your family. You don’t have to suffer. Contact us today.
Dr. Joseph N. Ranieris D.O.
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.
The self-medication hypothesis or model means that there's an underlying cause that leads someone to use drugs. In this context, substances are a way to cope with emotions, stressors, and mental health disorders. Importantly, individuals with mental health disorders are not the only people who self-medicate.What are the 3 P's of recovery? ›
3 “P's” for Recovery: Passion, Power and Purpose.What are the problems with self medicating? ›
Self-medicating can impact how well you sleep, deplete your energy levels, and lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses. Your mood and emotional well-being will also suffer as you get trapped in a downward spiral of worsening mood and increased substance use.What are the 3 types of relapse? ›
Relapse is a gradual process that begins weeks and sometimes months before an individual picks up a drink or drug. There are three stages to relapse: emotional, mental, and physical. The common denominator of emotional relapse is poor self-care.What are 4 consequences of self-medication? ›
Self-medication can lead to drug addiction, allergy, habituation, worsening of ailment, incorrect diagnosis and dosage, or even disability and pre-mature death. This is the reason why people must avoid self-medication at all cost.What are four causes of self-medication? ›
- Attempting to deal with past trauma.
- Address social anxiety.
- Change certain habits or deliberately influence moods.
- Coping mechanism for mental health conditions.
- Cost of healthcare or substance abuse treatment.
Who, what, where, when, why- there are questions to ask after a relapse. If you or a loved one have recently relapsed, investigating the 5 W's isn't an inquisition, but a search for knowledge to prevent relapse in the future.What are the 4 A's in recovery? ›
Try using one of the four A's: avoid, alter, accept or adapt.What are the 5 levels of recovery? ›
What Are the Five Stages of Change? The five stages of addiction recovery are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.What are six dangers associated with self-medication? ›
- Incorrect self-diagnosis.
- Delays in seeking appropriate medical advice and proper treatment.
- Potential adverse reactions.
- Worsening of the condition the individual is trying to self-treat.
- Dangerous drug interaction.
- Masking of severe diseases.
- Risk of dependence and abuse.
Risks of Self-Medication
Self-medicating can be dangerous and lead to several complications and poor health. Potential risks of self-medication include incorrectly self-diagnosing and taking the wrong medication. In some instances, dangerous drug interactions may occur due to incorrect dosage or medication misuse.
When individuals self-diagnosis psychological syndromes, they can miss a medical disease that contributes to their symptoms. With self diagnosis you also run the risk of being completely wrong about an illness you have, especially if the symptoms you are experiencing are common.What is the most common site of relapse in ALL? ›
Relapses most often occur in the bone marrow. Less commonly, ALL will relapse in the central nervous system (CNS; the brain and spinal fluid) or, in boys, in the testicles, without any bone marrow involvement.What are 3 mistaken beliefs about relapse? ›
Mistaken Belief #1: If you stop addictive use for a while and then begin using again, you have relapsed. Mistaken Belief # 2: Relapse comes on suddenly and without warning. Mistaken Belief #3: As long as you do not use alcohol or drugs you are recovering.What are five behaviors that can lead to relapse? ›
- Social pressure. Hanging around with your old party buddies or drinking crew makes it easy for you to fall back into those destructive habits. ...
- Isolation. ...
- Being around addictive substances. ...
- Untreated mental illness. ...
- Giving up on treatment. ...
- Sleep deprivation. ...
- Nostalgia. ...
Inadequacies in the healthcare delivery systems especially in low income countries such as inaccessibility, unregulated distribution of medicines, inequitable distribution, lack of healthcare professionals, high costs, and patients' attitudes toward healthcare providers are some of the key drivers of self-medication ( ...What are the disadvantages of self administration medication? ›
Disadvantages may be overdose, underdose, and non-adherence [12,13,14]. Previous studies have investigated safety as adherence or medication errors caused by patients.What are five mistakes people make when taking medicines? ›
- Mistake #1: Taking meds at the wrong time of day.
- Mistake #2: Ignoring instructions to take drugs with or without food.
- Mistake #4: Mixing prescription meds with certain OTC drugs or vitamins.
- Mistake #5: Skipping doses or not taking meds as instructed.
The term self-medicating refers to attempts to deal with depression, pain (physical or emotional), or intense emotions with the help of drugs (prescription or otherwise), alcohol, and other substances, and without the guidance of a doctor. You don't have to be diagnosed with a medical condition to self-medicate.How do I overcome self-medication? ›
- Realizing their own self-medicating habits.
- Changing their beliefs and thoughts about substances and self-medication.
- Finding healthier ways to cope such as therapy, meditation, exercise, or journaling.
- Enrolling in a professional addiction and mental health treatment program.
The self-medication theory of addiction is based on the idea that people use substances, such as alcohol and drugs, or the effects of other addictive behaviors, such as eating or gambling, not to seek euphoria, but to relieve dysphoria or change an uncomfortable emotional state.What are the 4 pillars of recovery? ›
The framework that recovery is based on includes four pillars: health, home, purpose, and community. It's important to consider these pillars and what they mean to you and your life before you leave your treatment facility.What are the 12 principles of recovery? ›
The 12 spiritual principles of recovery are as follows: acceptance, hope, faith, courage, honesty, patience, humility, willingness, brotherly-love, integrity, self-discipline, and service.What are the 3 rules of addiction? ›
Black addresses three major rules that exist within families when someone has a chemical dependency; don't talk, don't trust, and don't feel.What are the 7 R's of recovery? ›
To that end, they will often use one or more tactics from what I call the 7 Rs For Recovering From A Crisis: Renounce, Reinvent, Restructure, Rebuild, Rename, Rebrand and Reset.What are the 6 six principles of recovery? ›
maximising choice • supporting positive risk-taking • the dignity of risk • medico-legal requirements • duty of care • promoting safety.What are the 7 steps to recovery? ›
The 7 steps are: 1) awareness, 2) surrender, 3) readiness, 4) receptivity, 5) acceptance, 6) perspective, and 7) action.What are the 10 guiding principles of recovery? ›
- Self-Direction. ...
- Individualized and Person-Centered. ...
- Empowerment. ...
- Holistic. ...
- Non-Linear. ...
- Strengths-Based. ...
- Peer Support. ...
1) Physical and mental health; 2) Family, social supports, and leisure activities; 3) Safe housing and healthy environments; 4) Peer-based support; 5) Employment and resolution of legal issues; 6) Vocational skills and educational development; 7) Community integration and cultural support; and 8) (Re)discovering ...What 3 things should be considered in a risk assessment for self administration in medication? ›
- the person's choice.
- if self administration will be a risk to the themselves or other people.
- if they can take the correct dose of their own medicines at the right time and in the right way. ...
- how often you will need to repeat or review the assessment. ...
- how the medicines will be stored.
- Wrong time.
- Unauthorized drug.
- Improper dose.
- Wrong dose prescription/wrong dose preparation.
- Administration errors include the incorrect route of administration, giving the drug to the wrong patient, extra dose, or wrong rate.
- Drug-seeking behaviors.
- Taking higher doses than prescribed.
- Appearing to be intoxicated, overly energetic, or lethargic.
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
- Increased usage of alcohol.
- Mood swings relating to availability of prescription medications.
According to the multivariate logistic regression analysis, unmarried status, previous experience of self-medication, accessibility of pharmacy, peer/family pressure, and the presence of medication at home were factors associated with self-medication practice.What is the dangers of online self-diagnosis? ›
Unnecessary tests: You may get overly worried about a particular diagnosis and insist on tests your provider knows you don't need, leading to wasted time and money. Unreliable sources: Anyone can post online. Information may be inaccurate, misleading, or even intentionally manipulative.What is the difference between self care and self-medication? ›
Self-care is becoming more popular due to its perceived convenience and the potential to save both time and money. Self-medication is the safe and responsible selection and use of medicines by individuals to treat self-recognized illnesses or symptoms.What are three high risk factors for relapse? ›
Poor sleep, tension (stress), and negative emotional states increase the risk of relapse; adequate sleep, rest, and relaxation are essential components of self-care, optimal functioning, healing, and recommitting to a healthy lifestyle in recovery.What are the 3 stages of relapse in order? ›
- Emotional relapse.
- Mental relapse.
- Physical relapse.
- HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. ...
- Challenging Emotions. ...
- Stress. ...
- Over-Confidence in Recovery. ...
- Physical or Mental Illness. ...
- Social Isolation. ...
- Romantic Relationships. ...
- New Jobs and Promotions.
The root of the word relapse is Latin relab?, meaning “to slip back.”What are the stages of change relapse? ›
The Relapse Stage is the sixth stage of change in the Transtheoretical Model and represents the time in a person's treatment where they have slipped back into old habits and returned to use. Relapse is said to happen when people lose sight of their recovery.
Immediate determinants - such as high-risk situations, or an individual's coping skills, and. Covert antecedents - such as an imbalanced lifestyle which leads to urges and cravings.What are the most common relapse risk factors? ›
Negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and boredom, sometimes increase your risk for relapse. Work and marital stress, in particular, have been known to contribute to relapse.How do you get out of a mental relapse? ›
- Call someone. This can be a friend, your therapist, your sponsor, a family member – reach out to someone you trust. ...
- Think about the true consequences of addiction relapse. ...
- Take a 30-minute break. ...
- Focus on getting through today.
Stopping medication or not taking medication as prescribed. Using drugs and/or alcohol. Being under stress or overwhelmed. Conflict in relationships.
The Self-Medication Hypothesis
The theory goes that, for some conditions, such as chronic pain, prescribed medications may be insufficient or problematic. As a result, people who use marijuana and who suffer from chronic pain are simply self-medicating.
An example of a hypothesis is below. Research Hypothesis: Drug 23 will significantly reduce symptoms associated with Disease A compared to Drug 22. The null hypothesis states that there is no statistical difference between groups based on the stated research hypothesis.What is the self-medication hypothesis and attachment theory? ›
Based on attachment theory, substance abuse can be understood as “self-medication,” as an attempt to compensate for lacking attachment strategies. Attachment theory suggests a developmental pathway from insecure attachment to SUD and, on the other hand, a negative impact of substance abuse on attachment security.What is an example of a medical hypothesis? ›
An example of a specific hypothesis would be, “Adults who consume more than 20 grams of milk chocolate per day, as measured by a questionnaire over the course of 12 months, are more likely to develop type II diabetes than adults who consume less than 10 grams of milk chocolate per day.”Is self-medication a psychological influence? ›
Self-medication is a human behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological conditions: for example headaches or fatigue.What are 3 examples of a hypothesis? ›
- If garlic repels fleas, then a dog that is given garlic every day will not get fleas.
- If sugar causes cavities, then people who eat a lot of candy may be more prone to cavities.
- If ultraviolet light can damage the eyes, then maybe this light can cause blindness.
- Null Hypothesis. The null hypothesis states that there is no relationship between the two variables being studied (one variable does not affect the other). ...
- Nondirectional Hypothesis. ...
- Directional Hypothesis.
A few examples of simple hypotheses:
"Students who eat breakfast will perform better on a math exam than students who do not eat breakfast." Complex hypothesis: "Students who experience test anxiety before an English exam will get lower scores than students who do not experience test anxiety."
One major theory about the relationship between PTSD and substance use is that a person's drugs or alcohol use is motivated by their desire to escape or numb the distressing symptoms of PTSD. This is known as self-medicating.What is the self-medication hypothesis anxiety? ›
The self-medication hypothesis
The hypothesis claims that people use substances as a response to mental illness. It states that alcohol and drug use is often a coping mechanism for people with a variety of mental health conditions, including depression.
Edward Khantzian was a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Beginning in the 1970s, he developed a progressively more coherent and empirically-grounded self-medication hypothesis of drug abuse, which states that individuals use drugs in an attempt to self-medicate states of distress and suffering.What is a real life example of hypothesis testing? ›
One common real-life example of hypothesis testing is election polling. In order to predict the outcome of an election, pollsters take a sample of the population and ask them who they plan to vote for. They then use hypothesis testing to assess whether their sample is representative of the population as a whole.What is an example of a simple hypothesis? ›
A simple hypothesis suggests only the relationship between two variables: one independent and one dependent. Examples: If you stay up late, then you feel tired the next day. Turning off your phone makes it charge faster.Which is the best example of a hypothesis? ›
The best example of a hypothesis is If a plant receives water, then it will grow faster. Explanation: In the scientific method of research, a hypothesis can be described as a tentative statement that can be proved right or wrong. A hypothesis can be tested through experiments and the results can be deduced from it.