Why Self Medicating is a Horrible Idea: And What You Should Do Instead
Self-medicating is a common precursor to addiction. Many of us who are in the fight to overcome addiction look back now to realize that our problems with drugs or alcohol really began as a legitimate need to feel better. But, in recovery, we must learn how to cope with everyday triggers, how to deal with stress and anxiety, and what to do in the event that we feel like self-medicating to solve our problems.
Self-medicating is a bad idea because it leads to a thought process that, “I’m doing this to help this.” But when we are providing ourselves with medications or substances as a means of coping without having been prescribed such medications or substances for that coping mechanism, we are walking a thin line between recovery and relapse. In fact, self-medicating can VERY QUICKLY lead to relapse if we are not extremely careful.
Why Do People Self-Medicate?
Those who suffer from mental illness or a substance abuse or alcohol problem self-medicate to cope with underlying issues and to feel better. They often believe that the actions they are participating in are helping them, not hurting. It may be difficult for an outsider to understand WHY an individual would take drugs or alcohol to fix their problems when most people would seek the help of a doctor, or therapist, or some other professional, but to the user, self-medicating IS solving the problem.
Individual self-medicate to deal with all types of different problems including:
Coping with an undiagnosed mental illness such as depression or anxiety.
Coping with a diagnosed but otherwise untreated mental health issue.
Dealing with trauma or other kinds of grief or loss.
Soothing symptoms of social anxiety or other feelings.
It is common to self-medicate as a means of dealing with stress. Unfortunately, stress is a part of everyday life and we must find healthy ways to cope with it, without turing to a prescription pill, or a harmful substance or alcohol.
Signs You May Be Self-Medicating
Recognizing whether you or someone you love is self-medicating can help you to more quickly see the dangers and seek support. Below are just a few of the signs that you may be doing more than just coping effectively with a little stress or a side of anxiety:
Drinking or getting high because you are stressed or anxious. Stress, anxiety and depression are all common elements of everyday life. If you feel stressed, and you use drugs or alcohol to cope, you are likely self-medicating to mask the feelings or emotions. There are healthy ways to cope with these emotions, and you may actually need medications, but only a doctor can tell you for sure what medications (and at what dose) you should take to deal with emotions that are interrupting your ability to function.
You think that medications are helping you, but your mood and ability to interact with others is worsened when you are medicated. You may be self-medicating because you think you are doing what the doctor ordered and that it is helping, but if your loved ones are noticing that you are not nice or that your mood is unsettled it may be time to rethink. Consider talking with your doctor about how the medication is adjusting your mood and what you can do to fix the problem.
You’re worried if you are not under the influence of a drug or alcohol. Do you panic is simple social situations? Are you angry or upset when you can’t get high? Is alcohol a necessity when you are around other people? All of these are signs that you are self-medicating. You may need help coping with social situations and there are safe, healthy ways of doing so without drugs or alcohol.
You’re taking your medications but your problems keep getting worse. If you’re taking medications to cope with financial struggles or relationship woes or to deal with anxiety or mental health problems that have yet to be addressed formally by a doctor, you are likely making matters worse in doing so. Self-medicating leads to an array of problems that will not just go away on their own because you took more of a medication. Some problems require intervention to truly heal.
Why is Self-Medicating So Bad?
In recovery, we learn how our choices led to the problems that we had with addiction. We can often look back and see where we took that first pill or drink and where things went wrong. In fact, many 12-step groups teach that it’s not the 10th beer that gets us drunk, it’s the first. Because if we never had one, there never would have been ten. Similarly, if we don’t self-medicate, then there is no risk!
If you’re struggling to cope with pain or an emotion that seems to be getting the best of you, consider speaking to someone in a support group, online or a professional about this. Before you get to a point where the emotion has created an urge to self-medicate to “solve” the problem, seek support.
Pocket Rehab is a great place to get support from others that are likely facing similar challenges in life right now. You can get immediate, real-time support and talk to others in recovery. This is actually a really close-knit group of people who share goals, coping mechanisms, and other tidbits of information that will actually HELP you in recovery--and it’s all free. Download the Pocket Rehab app today to immediately seek support from others in the group.
If you are dealing with an event or situation that is making you feel like you need medication, consider this before you seek the help of a doctor:
Most doctors are inclined to prescribe medications over therapy. If you’re struggling with emotions, therapy may be the best option to learn to cope without medication. Consider seeking therapy first and then, IF therapy is not effective, consider alternative treatment options.
Most medications, even those prescribed by doctors, are self-administered. This means that you must practice great self-control in administering the medication and dose properly, on-time and only for the purpose for which it is prescribed. That can pose a number of potential triggers or risks for a recovering individual. If you can safely cope with whatever ails you without medication, try that before you attempt medication.
Doctors have a lower percentage rate of providing “Cures” than we think. We are often inclined to believe what the doctor says because he or she is the professional with the degree. However, consider all options for treatment first, before you take whatever the doctor prescribes. If you are prescribed medication, be sure that you understand all of the potential risks as well as the benefits.
What to Do Instead of Self-Medicating
Instead of self-medicating why not seek support? Support is a great option for most emotions. If you’re experiencing grief or loss, you don’t need medications, you need love. If you’re experiencing stress or feeling overwhelmed, you don’t need medications, you need help--physical, tangible help that will reduce your workload. If you’re experiencing anger or fear or some other emotion, it is possible that just talking to an outside source will make much of the negative feelings subside.
Pocket Rehab provides support when you need it. No other app connects as many people in recovery in real-time. In fact, when you download the app from Google Play or the Apple App Store you can immediately start interacting with others, seeking support, talking about your recovery and finding out how this app has changed the lives of more than 100K people to date. Instead of self-medicating, take your recovery one step at a time and consider all the benefits online support can offer including:
Consistent availability when you need it.
Lifeline support for when you are feeling like you absolutely MUST hear from someone.
Free tools for recovery.
Tags: recovery, triggers, self-medicating, relapse, relapse triggers