Self-medicating is a dangerous practice where a person uses drugs or alcohol to escape emotional problems. The Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacy, recently published information claiming many doctors define self-medication as “the taking of drugs of one’s own initiative, or on the advice of another person, without consulting a doctor”.
The term “self-medication” was brought to light in 1985 when it was used to describe coping with mental health conditions. Some of these include;
- PTSD, or post-traumatic stress
This is a slippery slope as individuals fool themselves while escaping. What they are doing is creating difficult issues with drugs and alcohol that only make things worse.
What is Self-Medicating?
There is a theory referred to as SMH or the self-medication hypothesis. This states that individuals use drug and alcohol due to suffering. They are not using them to seek pleasure. Much research has been done exposing that individuals self-medicating tend to experiment with many drugs and prescription medications. They have also found that using a certain medication helps to reduce their symptoms, even for a short time.
In 1997, the Harvard Review of Psychiatry added some critical data to their study. This interesting article explains how come some people get addicted while others do not. It is estimated that about 10 – 20% of individuals using drugs and alcohol get addicted to them long-term.
One of the most popular studies called “Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE“ is very interesting. This large study of 17,000 participants is often cited. They asked about the adverse experiences the participants had in childhood and then tracked their drug, alcohol, food, or smoking abuse. What makes it so interesting is the finding showed a direct correlation. The more abuse an individual experienced the more likely that they abused drugs and alcohol.
What What Are the Top 7 Different Types of Self-Medicating?
Self-medicating is not just with illicit drugs. We see this all the time at our inpatient drug rehabs Laconia centers. It can be done with food or caffeine. The key is to understand what you are doing and reach out for help. Early intervention can help save a lot of time in recovery. It can also prevent long-term damage. Learn more about the top 7 different types of self-medicating.
- Self-Medicating with Food
Think of this as comfort eating. Maybe you are an emotional eater and get out of control with eating when your emotions are high. This is a form of self-medication. When this happens it usually involves binge eating. That in turn leads to over eating causing weight gain, and then self-esteem issues.
- Self-Medicating with Caffeine Products
In addiction recovery this one happens quite frequently without many realizing what is happening. Energy drinks have fueled a dramatic increase in this category. however, any caffeinated drinks including coffee and sodas are used to increase energy. While these are legal it does cause problems with the body. These are all stimulants to the nervous system increasing energy and causing its own high, however with that comes a crash. They have an affect with anxiety, increased heart rate and in general being on edge.
- Self-Medicating with Alcohol
Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs. In fact, it is socially acceptable to drink. The problem is the 10-20% that become addicted as we explained earlier. This is one of the most popular ways individuals try to escape. There is even more of a chance of self-medicating with individuals that have post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. The problem lies when the alcohol wears off and the individual crashes.
- Self-Medicating with Marijuana
This is an area of great concern with many drug and alcohol addiction professionals. Right now, there is a surge of law makers trying to make marijuana legal. Cannabis and marijuana are being used to self-medicate, however they are gateway drugs into heroin. This is of great concern due to the heroin epidemic. In addition, scientific studies show a link from marijuana to depression.
- Self-Medicating with Prescription Pain Medications and Heroin
Our prescription drug rehabs in Boston see this one often. This is most likely because the heroin epidemic started from prescription medication abuse. For many years these types of medication were easy to get from the doctor. This made it easy for anyone to get them. This is a popular way to self-medicate. However, as we have seen they can be extremely dangerous. This is why there are now restrictions on doctors to prescribe them.
6. Self-Medicating with Stimulants
Stimulants offer a quick and easy high. While this type of self-medication was more popular years ago, it is still a big concern now. Some of them may include amphetamines or cocaine. They provide a euphoric effect. This is often used for self-medication.
7. What Are the Many Dangers of Self-Medication?
Self-medication is dangerous because it deters us from dealing with problems. The underlying factors must be correctly dealt with for a mentally and emotionally healthy life. This type of behavior can lead to overdose, long term health problems and even death. Self-medicating hides mental illness issues thus making them stronger to break.
Many times, people fool themselves and think the self-medicating they are doing is helping. For instance, you may have a friend that has a prescription for Adderall. You have him give you some to increase your concentration. This is a bad situation because Adderall may not be what you need, or it may be the wrong dosage. We live an instant society. We think there is always an instant solution. There may be a lifestyle change that would work better, or even a totally different medication. Either way self-medicating is not the answer.
What Are the Major Signs?
There are some tell-tale signs of self medicating. Exhibiting these behaviors are warning signs to reach out for help. Again, remember early intervention helps in so many ways. Take some time to learn these so you can spot them if they are happening. In addition to the signs be on the look out for feelings of anxiety, depression, or trauma. Some of the major signs of self medicating include;
- Taking someone else’s medications to calm you down or get rid of depression.
- If you only feel good by consuming alcohol or taking certain medications.
- Using drugs and alcohol in times of great stress. Some of these times may be losing a job, the death of a family member a fight with a girlfriend or spouse, or just a tough day at work.
- The use of drugs and alcohol as a way to completely escape. Trying to forget a traumatic event or situations at home.
- Hiding your drug and alcohol consumption because you are concerned with what others might think.
We must always remember drug and alcohol use can change the chemistry of the brain. More specifically the reward center. Operating the brain with high levels of serotonin require to maintain those levels. These changes can cause you to lose everything you have and your relationships. It could send you into drug seeking behavior. It could also cost you your job and home.
What Are the Best Treatments for Self-Medication?
The use of drugs and alcohol to self-medicate is extremely dangerous. This does not alleviate the symptoms; it only exasperates them. The best treatments are provided by professionals. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers have the staff that is equipped to effectively treat them. They should have credentialed substance abuse counselors and evidence based programs to achieve long-term recovery.
Substance abuse rehabilitation centers are the best equipped to handle co-occurring disorders. Self-medicating is a huge sign that there are co-occurring disorders triggering the addiction. A startling fact is that about 8 million people in the USA have dual diagnosis. Treating co-occurring disorders requires “integrated intervention.” The process requires;
- inpatient detoxification to taper off of medications or MAT to reduce painful withdrawal symptoms
- an inpatient drug rehab
- an outpatient treatment program
- participate in support groups
- family therapy
Our Men’s Inpatient Drug Rehabs Boston Can Help with Self-Medicating
Riverbank House men’s inpatient drug rehabs Boston are specifically equipped to treat prescription drug mis use and self-medicating individuals. Self-medication is a dangerous practice that prevents the proper professional care you need. You can only escape your problems for a short period of time. Self medicating is only going to eventually make the problems worse.
It’s important to understand this type of behavioral leads to addiction and poor overall health. More importantly it provides the high risk of overdose and even death. If you or a loved have shown any of the signs in this article, we urge you to call 603-505-7912 and reach out for help. You are only a quick phone call away from freedom.