The Dangers of Self-Medicating

Self-medicating is a typical practice nowadays. Individuals often turn to substance use to cope with life stressors despite their awareness of the potential consequences. While there are many dangers of self-medication, the major one you may expect is the development of addiction. The more we use drugs or alcohol, the more the body requires it. If your journey with self-medicating has led to a substance use disorder (SUD), consider treatment immediately.

Causes of Self-Medicating

People may start self-medicating for a variety of reasons. These can include but are not limited to trauma, mental illness, and chronic illnesses. Let’s explore these causes further.


While there are many reasons individuals start self-medicating, trauma is a typical instigator. Trauma occurs throughout life, but traumatic events during adolescents can lead to substance use.

A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showcases the connection between early exposure to traumatic events and intoxication through substance use. Researchers examined self-medication among youths in residential treatment for “antisocial behavior via recursive and non-recursive relationships between trauma history, substance misuse, and psychological distress.”

The study focuses on two hypotheses:

#1. The effects of trauma are somewhat “mediated by substance misuse.”

#2. The experience of trauma causes “a feedback loop between substance misuse and psychological distress.”

At the end of their study, the research supported these hypotheses. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to say that trauma likely creates a cycle of emotional distress and substance consumption.

Mental Illness

Trauma is not the only cause of substance use or the only reason people turn to self-medication. Many self-medicate to cope with mental illness symptoms. In fact, results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that 9.5 million people in the United States were diagnosed with a mental illness and SUD. From this, we can infer that untreated mental illness may be a leading cause of self-medication.

Chronic Illness

Trauma and mental illness are not the only potential instigators of substance use. Other chronic conditions may lead to self-medication. Individuals diagnosed with chronic pain, cancer, or any other chronic illness may turn to substance use to cope with symptoms. Additionally, they may want to numb complex feelings surrounding their diagnosis.

Forms of Self-Medicating

One of the most common ways people self-medicate is with alcohol. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is prevalent across the United States. People drink to escape their problems, have a good time, be more social, and ultimately inebriate themselves. Especially when trying to avoid stress, alcohol helps people temporarily forget their problems.

Drug use is another form of self-medication. Substances, like drugs, impact the reward circuit of the brain. This causes a euphoric effect which only perpetuates further drug use. People begin drug use for similar reasons — escape problems, inebriate themselves, or experience euphoric effects. There are a number of known dangers to drug use, including dependency, overdose, and death though.

Dangers of Self-Medicating

One of the main dangers of self-medicating is the development of SUD. With SUD, there are several short- and long-term effects, as well as the potential development of chronic health conditions and overdose.

Drinking causes several risks. Excessive drinking can lead to the following:

  • Violence
  • Risky behaviors like unprotected sex and drunk driving
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Chronic conditions like heart or liver disease, a weakened immune system, or cancers

There are several potential risks of excessive drug use due to the number of drugs available. However, many dangers are similar to excessive drinking – chronic health conditions, drug overdose, impaired cognitive function, and death.

Another danger of self-medicating is that it does not resolve the underlying problem. Mental illness, trauma, and other distressing events have a profound impact on our overall well-being. Substance use only numbs us to pain and causes an uproar of future problems.

Treatment for Self-Medicating

If you are self-medicating to cope with a deeper problem, we encourage you to educate yourself further on the dangers of self-medicating. As discussed, it can lead to addiction and many other damages. Psychoeducation is the first step. It often helps a person understand the need for treatment.

Dual-diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders is the next step. A mental illness and SUD experienced in conjunction with one another are referred to as co-occurring disorders. It is usually hard to indicate which was present first In either case, dual diagnosis is required, and individuals must seek treatment for all conditions involved.

An integrated dual-diagnosis program offers many benefits. Individuals can begin to understand the relationship between these two disorders. Additionally, they learn coping skills to manage both and engage in treatments that help them heal and maintain recovery.

Lastly, you should find a support system. This can look like a 12-Step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. It can also mean reconnecting with friends and family. Moreover, it can involve leaning on others in your treatment program. The support system will ensure you have help building long-term recovery.

Do you drink or use drugs in order to deal with stress, block out traumatic memories, or cope with emotionally volatile situations? If so, we encourage you to educate yourself on the dangers and potential harm of self-medicating. Substance use can lead to addiction, chronic health conditions, and a number of other problems. To truly recover from trauma and mental illness, you must seek treatment. Excel treatment center offers comprehensive treatment to those struggling with addiction and mental illness. We provide a dual diagnosis program led by our expert staff. During your program, you might participate in traditional therapies, support groups, and holistic therapies. With our help, you can cease all self-medication. For help, call us at (833) 883-9235

The Importance of Individualized Treatment

Back in the day, the paths to addiction recovery were more rigid and uniform. However, professionals today have seen the benefits and improvements that come with individualized treatment. In fact, professionals across the entire medical community are beginning to see that not one path of treatment does not fit all clients.

All health care is most effective when tailored to each individual. The same goes for addiction treatment and recovery. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment and recovery or relapse prevention. To create a treatment plan, you must go through an assessment and work with professionals to create something that works well for you.

Addiction as a Unique Experience

Millions of people across the United States struggle with behavioral addictions, substance use disorders (SUD), and other mental illnesses. Despite being a common issue, each struggle with the above conditions is unique. No one person goes through the same experience, though people can relate.

For example, when you attend a support group meeting – such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous – you hear the narratives of people with the same disorder. However, each individual tells a unique story. These narratives offer a diverse perspective on how addiction, SUD, and other mental illnesses affect other people.

Due to the uniqueness of your experience with addiction, treatment must be individualized. That does not mean your treatment will not have some similarities. It means that you should have some power in your overall treatment plan. Treatment facilities should work with their clients and assess their addiction journey.

As the individual seeking treatment, you should feel empowered to make decisions about your treatment. Additionally, consider educating yourself on the potential treatment options as you embark on your recovery journey.

Individualized Treatment Options

Even when doing individualized treatment, there are commonalities. Typical treatment options for people seeking addiction recovery include behavioral therapies and medication.

Behavioral therapies are effective when treating both SUD and other mental illnesses. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common modalities. However, you may also try dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), trauma work, and emotional regulation. Some behavioral therapies may work better than others, but being open about which works best with a clinical professional is vital.

There are also several medications that treat these conditions. Medicines are effective when treating depression, anxiety, and other mental disorder, but some people are weary of using them to treat SUD. However, many find medication-assisted treatment (MAT) effective in their treatment program.

Medication-Assisted Treatment in Individualized Treatment

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines MAT as “the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavior therapies, to provide a ‘whole-person’ approach” to treating SUD. MAT is clinically effective and can help many people manage withdrawal symptoms during detox.

You will have to try different methods during treatment, but many individuals find that a combination of MAT, behavioral therapies, and support group meetings is most effective.

Choosing a Recovery Program

In addition to working with a clinical professional to create a treatment plan, you must pick a recovery program. Typical recovery programs include:

  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Inpatient rehabilitation

Picking the right program is dependent on your specific situation. For example, some people may require more intense treatment and 24/7 care. These individuals most likely benefit from an inpatient rehab program. However, if your circumstances require you to stay home with your family and provide for them, outpatient programs are an excellent choice.

The Importance of Assessments

As mentioned, assessments are critical to individualized care. Some of the questions you may be asked include:

#1. How long have you been consuming substances?

#2. What substance do you most struggle with?

#3. Are there specific goals you have for your addiction treatment?

#4. Why are you choosing to seek out treatment now?

#5. Do you know of or are you aware of underlying issues that may have led you to SUD?

Questions such as these help therapists and clinicians understand where you are at in your journey and create a plan accordingly. You may also consider discussing personal goals with your medical team during this time. Together, you can work on implementing a timeline and goals for your treatment.

Advocating for Your Treatment Needs

Feeling empowered to advocate for yourself in your treatment program can be challenging, especially at first. That is normal for anyone new to treatment. Remember that an individualized treatment plan will be more effective, help you achieve your goals, and decrease the risk of relapse later on.

Do not hesitate to advocate and co-create your individualized treatment plan. Addiction is a unique journey, and your treatment should be specific to your story. To learn more about individualized treatment, reach out to a professional today. A life of recovery is just around the corner.

Millions of Americans struggle with behavioral addiction, SUD, and other mental illnesses. However, each individual story is unique. For that reason, treatment must be tailored to every one of those million Americans struggling with these concerns. That includes you. Regardless of where you are in your journey, you should feel empowered to advocate for individualized treatment. You must work with clinicians and case managers to ensure your goals for treatment are heard Excel Treatment Center offers fully individualized treatment. You can attend various experiential therapies that cater to your personality and needs. Additionally, you’ll engage in traditional behavioral therapies. This combination sets you on the path to recovery. If you require treatment, call us at (833) 883-9235