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How Self-Medicating Can Lead to Addiction

By on Mar 4, 2024 in Addiction, Blog

Are you self-medicating? Self-medication is a term used to refer to a person using substances to treat mental, emotional, or physical pain. Many people do this, but not everyone realizes what’s happening. For that reason, many people who self-medicate end up developing a substance use disorder. If their mental health symptoms stem from a mental health disorder, they have what is called a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis, which requires professional treatment. 

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests 13.5% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 have both a mental illness and a substance use disorder. As common as this condition is, many people with co-occurring disorders do not get the help they need. 

What Is Self-Medicating?

When people use drugs or alcohol to help numb their feelings, they are self-medicating. For example, a person who battles intense anxiety may find that having a drink can help to calm their nerves. Alcohol, which is a natural depressant, slows down the function of the central nervous system and can help people feel more relaxed. 

Of course, self-medication does not fix the problem. A person who uses substances regularly will find that, eventually, those substances are not enough to provide relief. They’ll need to increase either the amount they use or how often they use the substance. This increases the risk for overdose and addiction.

Why Do People Self-Medicate?

There are many reasons why people self-medicate, but here are two of the most common: 

  • Substances seem to make mental health conditions manageable

While substances do not treat mental health conditions, they can temporarily ease some of the symptoms a person is struggling with, such as a racing heart or severe depression. They can provide a brief escape from overwhelming thoughts or emotions. This makes the mental health disorder seem more manageable, but in reality it will make the disorder worse over time. 

  • They don’t have another way to deal with their co-occurring health condition

Some people self-medicate because they are unaware they have a diagnosable condition that could be treated in a more sustainable way. Or, they may know they have a disorder but feel unable to pay for the cost of treatment. Once addiction develops, it’s even harder to seek treatment because the addiction is taking up their time and money. Trying to stop using the substance will lead to painful withdrawal symptoms.

Stress Can Also Lead to Self-Medication

In addition to mental health disorders, everyday stress can also trigger the desire to self-medicate. Feeling overwhelmed at work or at home, having difficulty in a close relationship, or suffering financial burden can all lead to substance misuse. A person who has gone through a major life change, like a divorce or the death of a family member, may be experiencing intense grief that leads to heavy substance use. 

In short, you do not have to have a diagnosed mental health disorder to fall into the process of self-medicating. However, addiction can worsen the symptoms you’re experiencing and lead to a mental health disorder if one was not already present. No matter why you’re misusing substances, it’s critical to get help.

How to Know If You Are Facing Addiction 

Some people may be well aware that they have co-occurring anxiety and addiction or depression and addiction seem obvious. Yet, others may not know their symptoms are related to a mental health disorder. Some people, for example, have undiagnosed bipolar disorder or may suffer from disordered eating, both of which can also lead to substance misuse.

If you have any of the following symptoms, seek out mental health and addiction treatment in Lafayette, LA, with our team at Victory Addiction Recovery Center:

  • You need to use a substance to stop thinking or worrying
  • You are using substances on a consistent basis
  • You want to stop using substances but cannot seem to do so
  • If you are not using a substance, you feel less in control over your thoughts and feelings
  • Your health is impacted by your substance use
  • You have cravings for substances

Treating co-occurring disorders is possible. Our trusted team of professionals has the resources and tools to help you get back in control over your mental health and overall well-being.

Do Not Wait to Give Us a Call

At Victory Addiction Recovery Center, we offer comprehensive treatment for mental health issues and addiction. Allow our treatment center to offer you strategies to reach recovery. Contact us now.

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