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2 years ago

Many of us are turning to drugs in these periods of great anxiety and depression to seek to improve the way we feel. To give your mood a boost or relieve boredom, you might use food. Before going out to calm your nerves and relieve some social anxiety, you could smoke a joint to help you relax, or have a drink or two. Or maybe you resort to Xanax or Valium to help you sleep, drugs for ADHD to keep you focused throughout the day, or prescription painkillers to numb the sadness and tension that you are currently experiencing?

It's known as "self-medicating" when you use alcohol or medications in this way to treat symptoms of a mental health condition. You may be aware that you have a problem with mental wellbeing, but do not know any healthier ways to deal with it. Or your illness may be undiagnosed, and to deal with a particular symptom or situation, you actually use alcohol or medications. For instance, many of us have been self-medicating tension, concern, and depression during the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and economic difficulties as our old lives have largely vanished and the future remains so uncertain.

While self-medicating in the short-term can give some relief, it only exacerbates your issues over time. Regular self-medication can lead to addiction, a worsening of mood disorders, and increased health concerns, whether you turn to alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications (or even food or cigarettes). Your relationships at home, work, and school can also be affected.

Yet you aren't powerless. You can discover healthier and more successful ways of dealing with your issues and improving your overall attitude and well-being by better knowing the reasons why and when you self-medicate.

Why people turn to self-medicating?

In response to life's challenges and setbacks, we all feel down, worried, and out of control from time to time. But it may be a sign that you need treatment for an underlying illness if feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, frustration, depression, or excessive stress begin to interfere with how you work in everyday life. However, instead of finding help, it can be tempting to try to cope in the easiest way possible on your own: by reaching for a drink or taking a pill.

Many of us have sought to self-medicate our fear in this era of coronavirus and widespread financial and social instability, when the planet seems to be lurching from one crisis to another. Many of us are trying to find healthy ways to deal with stressful feelings, tension, and confusion, with parts of our lives still not back to normal and the persistent danger that things will get worse again.

Some individuals resort to drugs, such as unresolved traumatic events, to deal with painful thoughts or emotions arising from the past. Others use alcohol or medications to face conditions that frighten them or to remain focused during the day on tasks.

Just as the reasons for finding comfort in drugs or alcohol differ depending on the person, so can the self-medicating techniques.

Signs that you might be self-medicating

When you're self-medicating, it's not always simple to identify. Drinking alcohol is, after all, a socially appropriate part in many cultures, prescription narcotics can be found in most bathroom cabinets, and in many countries even illegal drugs such as marijuana are now legal or easy to acquire.

It is important to analyze your reasons for drinking or substance use, as well as the effect it has on your life, to understand whether you're self-medicating. Are you popping a pain pill, for instance, because your back hurts or you have had a hard day at work and you want to change how you feel? Do you have a drink to be sociable or supplement a meal with friends, or are you trying to improve your mood or feel less anxious?

  • When you're feeling nervous, stressed, or depressed, you turn to alcohol or drugs. Many of us have used drugs, such as the loss of a job or the breakup of a relationship, to deal with occasional bad news. But if you drink or use medications frequently to deal with tension, alleviate boredom, boost how you feel, or, for example, brace yourself for social interaction, then there's a good chance that you're self-medicating.

  • Alcohol and medications make you feel much worse. Temporary fixes tend to be narcotics and alcohol. You would probably feel much worse after the numbing effects have worn off. Self-medicating can affect how well you sleep, reduce your energy levels, and reduce your immune system, making you more vulnerable to disease. When you get caught in a downward spiral of declining mood and increased drug use, your mood and mental well-being will also suffer.

  • To achieve relief, it needs more and more self-medicating. Where it once took only one or two drinks at the end of the day to relieve the tension or de-stress, it now takes three, four, or even more. Having an improved tolerance suggests that to feel the same results, you need more alcohol or drugs. Your tolerance will continue to grow if you continue to self-medicate, as will the issues caused by the the use of drugs. Only by finding healthier ways to deal with your issues can you break the loop.

  • Your issues are proliferating. For example, you began drinking to cope with stress, but now you also have health, relationship, and financial issues to cope with. And much worse is the stress. In your life, the more you self-medicate, the more difficulties it produces.

  • When you have no access to drugs or alcohol, you worry. Do you think about how you will cope with a social situation where there will be no alcohol available? When your prescription runs out, do you begin to feel anxious? Do you get nervous waiting for payday to restock the drinks cabinet or call your dealer so you can afford it? The more uncomfortable you are knowing that you are isolated from your choice of drug, the more likely it is that you are self-medicating.

  • Your family and friends are concerned about your use of drugs. Have people who care for you shared their concern that more than normal, you seem to be drinking? Or did they notice the changes in your attitude, actions, or social life, perhaps? Substance abuse will just as much affect those around you as it affects you. It's easy to ignore the worries of others or pretend everything's all right. Yet listening to the fears of your loved ones and knowing when your drug use has become an issue needs tremendous courage.

Dangers of self-medicating

Trying to self-medicate a problem of mental wellbeing will produce a multitude of issues beyond the possibility of being addicted to your choice of drug. Even, self-medicating can:

  • Worsen the symptoms. A mental health condition may intensify existing symptoms or even produce new symptoms by trying to self-medicate.

  • Interact with drugs on prescription. Alcohol or substance misuse can interfere with any other medications you take, either negating their efficacy or causing unpleasant side effects.

  • Creating new mental health challenges. If you are already at risk of a mental health condition, drinking excessively or taking medicine could lead to new issues, beyond those that initially triggered your self-medication. The use of antidepressants and alcohol, for example, was correlated with causing depression, and the use of marijuana and methamphetamine was associated with psychosis.

  • Delaying or stopping you from finding help. It can be difficult to shift direction when you are set on a path of self-medicating and to explore better, more productive ways to cope with your problems. However, once you understand how your drug use just contributes to the struggles rather than addressing them, you will move on to tackling the problems once and for all.

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2 years ago


Great article! It's important in these trying times for people to be aware of how easy it can be to fall into possibly dangerous habits. Sometimes you don't notice you are sliding down that slippery slope until things fall around you or the is a catalyst like you wrote about friends pointing it out or you realize you worry when you run out of "medication".

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Sad to see that you are tagged as a spam. But thanks a lot for your comment. Try to contact the developers why this happen to you so it can be solved.

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Thanks! the bot seems to dislike me so far (or maybe people do, my first article was downvoted but oh well, I had published it elsewhere so that might be why but it is relevant at the moment.) I'll comment when I think I can bring something to a conversation and post new articles soon that I am working on and see what happens and not worry much about upvotes/downvotes

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