Recognizing and Addressing Self-Medicating Behaviors in Addiction Recovery

Self-medication refers to using alcohol, drugs, or other substances as a means of coping with pain, depression, or intense emotions. People who self-medicate often do so without the guidance of a doctor exposing themselves to physical and mental health problems.

While some people turn to self-medication to get relief from the symptoms of mental health disorders or chronic pain, you don’t have to be diagnosed with a medical issue to self-medicate. You may be trying to cope with past trauma or abuse, grief, or any distressing emotions brought about by the pressures of daily life.

Signs of Self-Medicating

To understand whether you’re self-medicating or not, you need to examine why you reach for drugs or alcohol and also realize the impact that this has on your life.

Some of the signs of self-medicating include:

    • Isolating from your friends, family, and activities you previously enjoyed

    • Reaching for alcohol or substances when you feel anxious, stressed or sad

    • Being secretive about how you spend your time

    • Neglecting personal hygiene

    • Undergoing financial issues because of buying drugs or alcohol

    • Irritability, anger, and sudden mood changes

Dangers of Self-Medicating

Self-medication is dangerous to your physical, mental and emotional health. Although substance use may provide relief from uncomfortable or intense feelings, this is often short-lived and may exacerbate mental health disorders and symptoms in the long term. Self-medication may result in:

    • An increased risk of dependency and substance addiction

    • Worsening mental health problems

    • An increased risk of harm from drug interactions e.g. taking alcohol along with opioids increases the risk of overdose

    • A delay in seeking out medical advice and professional treatment

Seeking Help for Self-Medication

To recover from self-medication, you must first get to the root cause. This is best done at dual-diagnosis treatment programs since they offer integrated treatment to simultaneously treat both substance abuse and mental health disorders. If only one of these is treated, there’s a risk of relapse or worsening symptoms so both have to be dealt with at the same time.

Once you’ve been assessed, you’ll likely be admitted to an inpatient or residential treatment program. This means you’ll have to live at the rehab facility for the duration of treatment. Your treatment will include sessions with a psychiatrist to work on the underlying cause of self-medication as well as individual, group or family therapy with a counselor.

Behavioral therapies e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be useful in helping you identify what triggers the emotional distress that leads to self-medication and then developing healthy coping skills to deal with them.

Prioritize Your Health and Recovery

While self-medicating can provide relief, it eventually leads to more problems down the road. Choose to break free of the vicious cycle caused by mental health issues and substance abuse by reaching out to the Findlay Recovery Center. Located in Ohio, we provide affordable and tailor-made addiction treatment programs for substance abuse. Get in touch with us today to get started on your recovery.


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