Self-medication is the abuse of alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to
relieve problems such as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, emotional pain
or bipolar disorder (also called manic-depression). Self medication is a temporary
fix, because it treats the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself. When
people use drugs other than those health care professionals prescribe for them,
the underlying problem goes untreated and worsens. It can be said that self-medicating
is short term gain, long term pain.
is the most popular drug used for self-medication.
It is readily available and socially acceptable. Because it is a depressant,
alcohol brings out many of the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.
While providing some temporary relief, alcohol worsens depression and can get
in the way of a person's ability to resolve their depression more effectively
with professional help.
is the second most common drug used for this purpose. It is used to relieve
symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia. There is some evidence that marijuana
may have antidepressant properties. Although the depressed person may feel some
relief from their symptoms, it may not be a sign of better health if the person
becomes apathetic, isolates from social contact, and loses motivation and productivity.
Other drugs used for depression and
bipolar disorder are Methamphetamine
and Cocaine. Using prescription
pain killers, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills
in ways other than prescribed are also used for temporarily relief from
emotional pain and anxiety.
Self-medication often means that a person is not willing to consciously recognize
that a mental health issue is the cause of their emotional distress. There is
a perception of stigma about having any form of mood disorder. Self-medicating
to gain temporary relief, may seem more acceptable to them than getting professional
help, but this strategy can lead to drug abuse.
Once self medication has lead to substance abuse, ending
the vicious cycle can be very challenging. Seeing the underlying
problem and getting appropriate care for it, means having to give up the drugs
that were used to self medicate the problem's symptoms. A person that has been
self-medicating for a long time may find it difficult to cope with the symptoms
that started the pattern in the first place. Giving up the quick
fix for a long term solution might mean having to experience the symptoms of
the emotional problem for a while in the process.
Focus on change can be difficult. Stages of change
before appropriate treatment is sought, but once a person is ready, counseling can end the