It’s devastating to consider the loss our communities experience due to a chronic illness like an addiction. Skyrocketing rates of substance misuse indicate that the problem requires a deeper look at how we educate and understand the way addiction works. Self medication is just one small component of the overall larger picture of overdose deaths, drug incarceration statistics, and chronic illnesses caused by prolonged substance abuse. However, self medicating is an issue that calls for attention. But why do people self medicate? Causes of self medication vary, but let’s explore.
Dealing with everyday life struggles can be taxing. Each of us copes differently, and with each situation, we may feel more compelled to find outlets when bad situations are happening. Emotional or psychological outlets can include:
- Building positive relationships
- Defining passions
- Hanging out with friends
- Enjoying a hobby
Other types of self medication with more negative, emotional, or psychological outlets can include:
- Bad behavior or choices
- Finding negative influences
- Substance use
Depending on how we choose to cope with issues and what we are capable of handling mentally, it’s easy to understand how turning to substances to alleviate negative feelings is so prevalent.
If you or someone you know is struggling with self medication, it’s important to understand options for recovery. Addiction is not a choice, but a chronic relapsing disease that can affect how a person behaves, interacts, and ultimately lives their life. AspenRidge Recovery offers support and tailored treatment options to help individuals overcome this disease. Contact us today to learn more at 855-281-5588.
What Is Self Medication?
Self medicating refers to the risky act of turning to substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of conditions of other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Many people who are suffering from mental illness turn to self-medication because of how accessible things such as alcohol and even drugs are. These substances can elicit pleasurable responses in the brain, which helps to provide temporary relief from the uncomfortable symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses.
Self-medicating is an extremely slippery slope that will inevitably lead to much greater problems down the line. But why is this?
Why Is Self Medication Thought (Initially) To Be Beneficial?
Many people take up substances initially because they are easily accessible and give them exactly what they want. Substances such as alcohol and drugs are able to provide instant relief from depression and anxiety, and while that relief may only be temporary, accessing more of those substances is incredibly easy, especially alcohol which can be purchased at a local grocery store.
Self-medication also allows those with mental illnesses to feel a bit more in control because their dosage of whatever substance they are using is not controlled by their doctor, so they can take as much as they like.
Self-medication is also initially viewed as beneficial for the mental illness sufferer thanks to the fact that these substances are readily available. The effects of drugs and alcohol are instantaneous, unlike the effects of antidepressants and many prescribed medications which can often take some time to get to work. This means that people who suffer from mental illness feel as though they are left with no choice but to try something themselves.
And finally, self-medication is thought to be beneficial because it gives people a sense of independence. It helps the sufferer to feel like they are more in control and that they are actively taking action to improve their mental state by using something that they have acquired themselves.
Why Self Medication Is Dangerous
The causes of self medication are numerous. One of the most crucial reasons why self-medication is dangerous is because people often begin misusing it, leading to substance dependency. So while the intention wasn’t abusing the medication, the result is physical and psychological dependence that often occurs unknowingly.
What Are The Causes of Self Medication and Why do People Self Medicate?
Almost 21 million Americans are battling at least one addiction. Since 1990, drug overdose rates have tripled and alcohol is a leading cause of death nationwide. Recent studies show that abuse of prescription medications is common and impacts millions. In fact, 52 million Americans, or 18.4% of the population over the age of 12 have deliberately misused prescription drugs.
The causes of self medication vary for each person. Some examples of self medication are:
- Attempting to deal with past trauma
- Address social anxiety
- Change certain habits or deliberately influence moods
- Coping mechanism for mental health conditions
- Cost of healthcare or substance abuse treatment
- Dealing with relationship issues
- Fitting in or peer pressure
- Influence sleep patterns
- Maintaining performance for jobs
- Stigma surrounding mental health or substance abuse
- Trying to navigate life’s pressures and hardships
According to studies fewer than 1 and 10 people who abuse prescription medication, misuse it with the intention of getting high.
The list can go on depending on the person and their individual circumstances. Note that self medication is not only applicable to prescription meds. Self medication also applies to other substances whether it be heroin, meth, or even alcohol. Drugs provide an outlet that ultimately solves, even if only temporarily, some other facet of life.
Substance Accessibility and The Dangers of Self Medication
In order to self medicate, a person first needs access to medication or a substance. Alcohol, for instance, is widely available and its ease of access means that it is frequently among the top substances people choose to self medicate. Pain medications are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs.
A common misconception is that heroin or meth is more dangerous that prescription medications. However, prescription medications also include short and long-term consequences just as detrimental to a person’s mental, physical, and psychological well-being. For example:
- Stimulants have side effects in common with cocaine and may include paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and an irregular heartbeat, especially if stimulants are taken in large doses or in ways other than swallowing a pill.
- Opioids, which act on the same parts of the brain as heroin, can cause drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and, depending on the amount taken, slowed breathing.
- Depressants can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, disorientation, lack of coordination, and seizures upon withdrawal from chronic use.
Although self-medication is a form of self-care commonly used to manage symptoms of minor illnesses or injuries, the practice of self-treatment for serious health conditions, such as mental health conditions, has many risks.
Causes Of Self Medication & Why People Decide To Administer Their Own Drugs
Getting access to even basic substances such as alcohol is often much easier than receiving a prescription for any mental-health medications and is often much cheaper than receiving therapy.
Drugs also provide quick relief and while the feeling might be fleeting, the chemical impacts of substance use on the brain may result in dependency quickly.
The effectiveness and cost of certain drugs also appeal to some. For example, obtaining prescription medications for ADHD is getting much harder to access with tighter regulations. As a result, many may turn to a street alternative such as meth to find the relief they need. Over time, illicit drug use becomes an everyday occurrence, impacting health, careers, family life, and overall well-being.
AspenRidge: Addressing Causes of Self Medication
The causes of self medication may be one reason or a mix of various factors. It’s difficult to definitively say why a person chooses to turn toward substance misuse. It’s extremely common among American households, and with rising rates of overdose death, it’s important to shed light on the dangers of self medication.
One way to address self medication is through substance abuse treatment. AspenRidge Recovery offers treatment programs tailored for each individual, identifying underlying mental health concerns that may prevent long-term recovery. Our compassionate staff works toward establishing plans and strategies to help individuals find healthy coping mechanisms, beyond drugs and alcohol. While the direct causes of self medication are not always clear, we can work to provide solutions to issues directly impacting health.
Contact us today to learn more about our programs and dual diagnosis care at 855-281-5588.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it OK to self medicate?
No. Though self-medicating may provide instant relief, to begin with, and though it may seem like you are regaining control over your condition, it can very quickly lead to a slippery slope of addiction and further mental distress and complications.
Do drugs relieve stress?
Technically, yes, some drugs can definitely relieve stress, but it is incredibly important to keep in mind the fact that drugs will only ever provide temporary relief from stress. Once you come down from a high provided by drugs you may find that your original stresses return, perhaps even stronger. This is how many people become addicted to drugs very quickly.
How can self medication be fatal to our health?
Self-medicating with substances such as drugs can be incredibly dangerous because the risk of overdose is incredibly high. The more you use drugs to relieve symptoms of mental illness the more you will have to use those same drugs to receive the same relief as their effect begins to wear off. And when you begin actively taking more of certain drugs your chance of a lethal overdose steadily begins to increase.