Self-medicating is the practice of trying to use medication or alcohol to stabilize your mood when you suffer from mental illness. Many people turn to mood-altering substances long before they approach a medical professional when they suffer from anxiety or depression. When something triggers the extreme emotional response of some forms of mental illness a readily available sedative or stimulant can seem to make things better and make it possible for a person to face daily life for a while. Self-medication can be effective for months and sometimes even years, but eventually it will add to the problem rather than fixing it.
Where to Begin
One of the biggest hurdles facing those who self-medicate in the face of chronic anxiety or stress is where to begin when trying to put a stop to the behavior. As the experts of the leading drug center detox Atlanta note, addiction brought on by a long-term effort to self-medicate can activate a cycle of addiction. This is due to changes in the brain’s chemistry over time due to the recurring dependence on drugs or alcohol to manage emotional burdens. Oftentimes, such detox solutions are the only way to break this cycle, but rarely are those who self-medicate interested in taking the initiative with treatment.
Most drugs, even the legal ones like alcohol, can be relatively expensive. If you are using a substance to help you feel better because of a mental illness you will likely need to keep using that substance for a long time. It can be tough to keep a steady job if you are under the influence regularly, which means you will eventually find yourself unable to afford what you need to maintain your emotional balance. The addictive nature of many mood-altering substances can cause you to need more and more to achieve that balance, which might eventually lead to emptying your bank account or resorting to illegal activity just to keep up your supply. If this continues and does develop into addiction you may lose control over aspects of your life adding to your feelings of insecurity, lack of confidence and this can easily develop into depression.
More Extreme Highs and Lows
Taking mood-altering substances to control a mental illness can be dangerous because there is no one monitoring your body’s response to those substances. Depression and drug use do not always mix well because when the drug wears off the emotional crash can be worse than the initial depression. Drug and alcohol use eventually cause a roller coaster of emotions with higher highs and lower lows that can exhaust your system and make you feel worse than you felt before you started taking them. You may find that you build up a tolerance for the drug, which means you will need to take more and more to feel the same effect. As your dosage increases, you put yourself at a higher risk of danger from an overdose or alcohol poisoning.
The Emergence of New Health Issues
Drugs and alcohol bring along their own set of health problems that will eventually compound the initial problem that led to their use. Alcohol might numb the pain of depression temporarily, but it also saps the body of nutrients and causes severe dehydration if used in excess. Stimulants can cause the heart rate to increase to unsafe levels and add dangerous stresses to the cardiovascular system. Each health problem that is experienced due to self-medication only increases the emotional and physical problems that the substances were meant to get rid of in the first place. If you suffered from depression before, and this caused you to seek relief in self-medication, your situation will only become worse until you seek professional help.
Ineffective in the Long Run
Although the substances might make things seem better at first, in the long-run they will cause even more trouble. The reason self-medication is rarely effective over time is that the drugs or alcohol do not address the initial problem. If you suffer from mental illness and take drugs to mask the symptoms the mental illness does not go away. The drugs and alcohol wear off, but the chemical or physical issues that cause the problem are going to remain until they are treated directly. You can only solve a problem like depression by seeking to address the reasons why you are depressed, and this requires guidance from a professional counsellor or therapist.