self medicating

Self-Medicating: Using Drugs and Alcohol for Depression

Self-Medicating and Its Impact

There is a large percentage of the population who chooses to self medicate depression. There are a variety of reasons why. Many say they didn’t find the relief they needed with therapy or under doctor’s care. For others, it’s just easier.

Both prescription and illicit drugs have the ability to change the way a person feels, and this can be tempting for a person who feels smothered under the weight of depression.

  • Stimulants, like meth, cocaine or ADHD meds, can improve focus, increase energy levels and provide that temporary feeling of being able to “conquer anything.”
  • Alcohol, Xanax and Valium can help reduce anxiety and lull a person into numbness.
  • Opiates like heroin and hydrocodone help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, including pain associated with depression.
  • Marijuana helps improve relaxation and elevates mood.

Under the care of a doctor, some prescription medications may help a person better cope with the symptoms of temporary depression. However, when you take matters into your own hands it’s called self-medicating. This can lead to serious problems.

(Editor’s note: Even prescriptions taken under the direction of a doctor can lead to addiction, but for this article, we are addressing self-medication.)

Why do Many Turn to Self-Medicating?

It’s easy to think, “Oh, I’d never do that.” However, when you are face to face with the intense feelings brought on by a mental disorder, your reaction may be different.

Many people suffering from depression, anxiety or another disturbances, such as manic-depression, don’t realize they’re suffering from these conditions. Their symptoms may be confusing and sudden. They don’t know why they can’t bring themselves to get out of the house or why they feel so tired all of the time. Instead of seeking help, these individuals try to help themselves.

At first, it may be a prescription medication shared by a friend or colleague. Then, when that supply runs out, they’re buying the medications or switching to alcohol and often illegal drugs. Anything to relieve the symptoms and feel normal again.

Signs You May be Self-Medicating

Many individuals don’t even realize they self-medicate until it’s pointed out later to them, usually once real problems arise. There are signs you can look for, however, that can help you determine if you’re self-medicating.

  1. You tend to use alcohol, drugs or prescription drugs when feeling stressed, angry or uncomfortable.
  2. Your symptoms tend to get worse as you drink or use drugs, which means you have to take more to feel “normal” again.
  3. Your friends and family voice their concern.

In addition to these three signs, you may also experience ‘triggers.’ These triggers can be big, like losing a job, or small, like hearing a song that reminds you of a troubling experience. When a trigger occurs, drugs or alcohol may seem like a rational option.

Getting Help From Gracious Care Recovery Solutions

Self-medicating can lead to serious problems, like high blood pressure, increased anxiety, neurological changes, psychosis, overdose, seizures and even death. Using drugs to self medicate also leads to physical dependence, some more quickly than others. This means your body will experience physically painful and emotionally difficult withdrawal symptoms when you stop.

If you have a mental health disorder (or are going through an emotionally trying time in your life) self-medicating with drugs or alcohol isn’t the answer. If you simply can’t stop taking the drugs on your own, or it isn’t safe to do so, give Gracious Care Recovery Solutions a call. We’ll help you safely detox from the alcohol, medications or illegal drugs you’ve been using to self-medicate. We’re trained in identifying dual diagnosis patients, and we know exactly how to help you.

Give us a call today.