With millions of Americans impacted by addiction, substance abuse issues have become more visible in the United States. With as many as half of all people struggling with addiction also have a mental health disorder, many people end up addicted to drugs or alcohol because they are using substances to self medicate. But what is self medication?
If you abuse or use substances to alleviate symptoms of a mental health or medical disorder or to cope with things like stress, depression or pain, you likely are self-medicating. Drugs and alcohol change your brain chemistry, which is responsible for the euphoric feelings intoxication creates.
The changes in brain chemistry caused by using drugs and alcohol can alleviate symptoms like stress, restlessness, anxiety, and depression temporarily. However, abusing drugs and alcohol long-term in order to self-medicate can significantly worsen your mental and physical health.
What is Self Medication?
So, what is self medication? Self-medication occurs when you use drugs or alcohol, or misuse prescription medications, to alleviate physical or mental health symptoms. If you experience chronic pain and use alcohol or opiates to find relief, your drug use is actually self-medication.
If you are self medicating with drugs or alcohol to treat symptoms related to a mental health disorder, while you may find short-term relief of your symptoms, addiction ultimately worsens your condition. Addiction causes your brain to rely on drugs and alcohol to release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Mental health disorders are also related to brain chemistry, with excess or depleted levels of neurotransmitters causing symptoms like depression and anxiety. As addiction progresses, your brain begins to associate drugs and alcohol with happiness, resulting in cravings when you are exposed to triggers.
Some symptoms of self-medication and addiction can include:
- Misusing prescription medications to treat symptoms
- Having underlying mental health or medical problem and abusing drugs or alcohol
- Relying on drugs or alcohol to treat your symptoms
- Inability to stop using drugs or alcohol once you start
- Symptoms of your underlying conditions worsening as your substance use increases
How is Self Medication Treated?
Now that you understand what is self medication, you may wonder how it is treated. Self-medication is most effectively treated when the mental health or medical condition causing your self-medication and drug use is properly managed.
If you struggle with anxiety or depression and use drugs and alcohol to feel better, an important aspect of treatment is addressing those symptoms without drugs and alcohol. While your underlying condition stabilizes, receiving treatment for your substance dependency is also necessary. As your body adjusts to life without drugs or alcohol, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can make it difficult to balance your underlying conditions without help.
A dual diagnosis program is especially beneficial if you have a mental health disorder and addiction issue, as such programs work to treat both. Here are some other programs you may want to check out as well:
Contact the San Antonio Recovery Center
If you or a loved one is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol or is battling a substance abuse problem, treatment can help you regain control of your life. San Antonio Recovery Center, the premier drug and alcohol rehab San Antonio TX trusts, knows what it takes to recover. Call us today at 866.957.7885 to learn more about our programs.