Self-medicating is a behavior in which someone uses drugs, herbs, or other home remedies to self-administer treatment. They do so to reduce physical or psychological ailments without consulting a doctor first.
Edward Khantzian developed the self-medication hypothesis. This theory suggests that people self-medicate to relieve the symptoms/emotions they are experiencing.
According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, some people use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to suppress overactive brain stress systems that produce negative emotions or feelings. This theory explains why someone living with social anxiety may choose to use alcohol for its calming and sedating effects.
Self-medication is a practice used around the world, especially in low-income communities. In some areas where adequate healthcare is neither affordable nor available, people rely on self-medicating to treat their ailments.
In one study of 360 participants, over 76% had a history of self-medication and 98.9% stored drugs at home. The most frequent diseases for self-medication were fatigue, weakness, anxiety disorders, and fever.
Although the exact reasons are particular to an individual’s situation, the common reasons for self-medicating include:
Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to use substances to self-medicate. Approximately 20% of individuals with PTSD used substances to relieve their symptoms, including depression and anxiety.
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The most used self-medicating substances are over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. They do not require a doctor’s prescription to obtain and can be found in supermarkets and convenience stores.
Other harmful options or indulgences used to self-medicate include:
Self-medicating is when someone uses alcohol or drugs to manage symptoms of a mental health condition or a physical health issue. Substance abuse is when someone uses alcohol or drugs out of a compulsive physiological need, characterized by tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
Frequent self-medicating can lead to substance abuse. Many people with substance use disorders developed the disorder by self-medicating for a health issue. In a study of 25,000 patients who were misusing drugs, over 87% suffered from chronic pain, and more than half used drugs specifically to self-medicate their pain.
Identifying signs of self-medicating can help a person decide to undergo alcohol addiction treatment. It can also put a stop to a habit that has the potential to destroy his or her life.
Individuals with mental health issues often use alcohol to cope with everyday stress and pressures. Considering how the brain develops an increasing tolerance to alcohol, addiction can quickly set in.
Signs of self-medication typically include:
Self-medicating comes with many inherent risks as individuals who self-medicate are only treating the symptoms rather than the source of their problem. Many people don’t accurately diagnose their medical issues. And even when the issue is correctly diagnosed, they don’t know the right therapy or medication to use and the right amount. Because of this, self-medicating can lead to many serious health consequences.
The potential risks of self-medicating include:
Self-medicating increases the risk of addiction and worsens the user’s psychological state, which may cause them to take more of the drug and develop a dependence. Self-medication with drugs amongst individuals with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, is more likely to lead to addiction. Over 25% of individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) developed the disease through self-medication.
Addiction is a complex disease that drives a person to keep using drugs or alcohol despite the negative consequences.
Many options have successfully treated drug addiction, including behavioral counseling, medication, and long-term follow up to prevent relapse.
Individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) should also receive treatment for co-occurring disorders because they negatively impact substance use issues.
No single treatment is right for everyone. Treatment plans should be reviewed often and customized to fit each patient’s changing needs.
To find the best treatment for you or your loved one’s substance use disorder, speak with an addiction specialist today.
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
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