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Self-medication is a dangerous behavior that affects not only the individual, but also society in general as those surrounding the individual seek to help him or her address deeply-seated issues head-on. Understanding what motivates people to self-medicate can help prevent people from taking the wrong approaches to treating their afflictions in the first place, and it can better prepare society as a whole for helping those who do self-medicate. Here is a brief overview what self-medication is, what motivates people to self-medicate, and how self-medication can be addressed.

What exactly is self-medication?

Self-medication happens when a person takes in substances as a form of self-administered treatment for an unresolved mental health condition. The affected individual will typically seek substances that have initial soothing or euphoric effects, and these substances can truly be anything within the realm of alcohol and drugs. The goal of this substance abuse is to achieve temporary relief for an unresolved problem that the user is coping with. A person who regularly battles anxiety might seek relief in the form of alcohol, for example, or someone with depression might find solace in prescription painkillers.

Many abusers do not even realize that they are becoming addicts because they do not realize that they have an unresolved mental health condition. They simply know that they get relief from the pain they are feeling when they take the substance. These mental health conditions that turn people to seeking relief in drugs or alcohol do not have to be extreme conditions, either. A condition can range in seriousness from minor stress and worrying to major depression. Alcohol and drugs may offer immediate relief of pain for the user; however, chronic use of these substances will eventually lead to greater health problems and may very well develop into addiction. Additionally, once a person becomes addicted to a substance such as alcohol or drugs, they can have a higher risk of suicide. Depression can also increase within the user as they are simply masking the pain of a greater unresolved mental or health issue.

How to stop self-medicating

The best way to address self-medicating, whether you or a loved one is the affected individual, is to recognize that drugs and alcohol will not help the problem, and to then work toward getting to the root of the deeply-seated issues at hand. Educating those who are suffering and making them aware of the signs of self-medication is also crucial from helping prevent and stop self-medicating. If you feel that you might be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, you should seek professional help immediately through loved ones and licensed professionals who are prepared to address both addiction and mental health issues. It’s best to look for a comprehensive addiction recovery program that can help you overcome a dependence on drugs or alcohol while at the same time addressing any mental health problems that are at the root of the issue.