To change your mood, face your anxieties, or deal with uncomfortable emotions, do you drink or use drugs? There are healthier ways to deal with challenges and boost your mood than self-medication.

What does it mean to self-medicate?


During times of great anxiety and distress, many people resort to using substances to alter their mood. However, it’s important to note that certain foods can also provide a mood boost or alleviate boredom..

Instead of relying on a joint or a beer, or even Xanax or Valium to calm your nerves or ease social anxiety, consider alternative methods. For instance, you could try mindfulness techniques, exercise, or even simply talking to a friend. While prescription medication may be necessary for some mental health issues, it’s important to use them under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

When you use drugs or alcohol to treat symptoms of mental health issues, it’s referred to as “self-medicating”. This may be a sign that you’re aware of your mental health problem but don’t know how to address it in a healthy way. Alternatively, you may be coping with an undiagnosed condition through the use of substances. Given the changes that the pandemic has brought about, many people have turned to self-medication to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. However, it’s important to explore healthier coping mechanisms and seek professional help if needed.

Why People opt for Self-Medication?

At some point in life, we all experience sadness, worry, and a sense of being off-balance due to challenges or failures. However, if feelings of hopelessness, fear, anger, or overwhelming stress start to interfere with your daily functioning, it could be an indication of an underlying issue that requires professional help. Unfortunately, instead of seeking help, many people tend to resort to the most basic coping mechanism of grabbing a drink or taking medication.

The current global financial and social crisis has left many of us feeling anxious and uncertain, and some have turned to self-medication to cope. Others use drugs or alcohol to deal with unresolved traumatic experiences or to manage stress and stay focused on daily activities.

The reasons behind self-medicating with drugs or alcohol vary from person to person, and so do the methods used. However, it’s important to remember that relying on substances to manage emotions and stress is not a sustainable solution and can lead to further complications. Seeking professional help and exploring healthier coping mechanisms is crucial for long-term well-being.

Kinds of Self-Medication


Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance for self-medication as it’s readily available. Despite being a depressant, it’s often used to cope with stress, sadness, and anxiety, worsening symptoms in the long run.

Prescription medications such as opioid pain relievers, ADHD medicine, and anti-anxiety medications are also easily available and used to manage various conditions from pain relief to improving attention and energy levels.

Recreational drugs such as marijuana, cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines are used to cope with unpleasant feelings, experiences, and memories. However, the use of these drugs can lead to addiction and violent behavior.Nicotine found in cigarettes and tobacco products can help some individuals focus, but it can also worsen ADHD symptoms and make it harder to quit smoking.

Emotional eating is another coping mechanism, where people use food to self-medicate and deal with stress, depression, and anxiety. However, this can lead to negative effects on both physical health and mood as emotional eaters often seek foods high in sugar, calories, and fat.

Self-medicating Warning Signs

Identifying self-medication behaviors is not always straightforward. Alcohol consumption is a socially acceptable practice in many cultures, and prescription medications are commonly found in most household medicine cabinets. Additionally, the legalization of recreational drugs like marijuana has made them easily accessible in many regions. To determine if you are self-medicating, examine the reasons for your alcohol or drug use and assess their impact on your life. For instance, are you taking painkillers for a legitimate medical condition or to alleviate stress? Are you drinking to unwind with friends or to cope with negative emotions like anxiety or depression?

The following are signs that you may be self-medicating:

When you are anxious, upset, or depressed, you turn to drink or drugs. Many of us have used drugs or alcohol to cope with unpleasant news, such as losing a job or breaking a relationship.

However, if you are drinking or using drugs on a regular basis to deal with stress, boredom, improve your mood, or prepare for a social engagement, you are probably self-medicating.

Sometimes the drugs and alcohol can even make the situation even worse. Alcohol and drugs only tend to resolve the issue temporarily. As soon as the numbing effects worn off, you are more likely to feel even worse. Self-medication can affect your sleep, lower your energy levels, adversely affect your immune system, making you more prone to sickness.

To gain relief, you may require self-medicating again and again. Previously, if you only needed one or two drinks to ease your anxiety or de-stress at the end of the day, now you may need three, four, or even more than that. Increased tolerance means you require more drugs or alcohols to get the same effects. With the continual use of self-medication, you will experience an increase in your patience – along with the issues caused due to the rise in drug usage. The only way to break this cycle is to go for healthier means to deal with such problems.

In the beginning, you just started to drink to cope with the anxiety, but now you are facing relationship, health, and financial issues to cope with too. You feel your problems to be multiplying. In short, the more you opt for self-medication, the more problems it keeps on adding to your life.

You are stressed when drugs or alcohols are not accessible for you. Are you stressed about coping with a social situation where alcohol will not be available? Do you feel anxious when your prescription medicines are finished? Do you feel uneasy and restless while waiting for the payday anxiously so that you have enough money to call your supplier or restock your cabinets with drinks? The more discomfort you feel at the thought of getting separated from the drug of your choice, the greater are the chances that you are self-medicating.

Are your friends and loved ones are worried about your drug usage? Have you closed relations expressed their concerns that you are getting addicted to drinking more than usual? Or probably they have noticed significant changes in your overall attitude, personality, or social life? Drug abuse can equally affect others around you as much as it may affect you. It might be easier to dismiss others’ concerns and pretend everything to be ok and normal. However, it takes much strength and courage to listen to your close ones and identify when the use of drugs has become problematic.

How to Recognize if You are Facing a Drug Abuse Issue?

While self-medicating to deal with an emotional or mental health issue, it becomes easier to step into abusing drugs or alcohols.

Drug abuse issues are neither defined by what kind of drug you are using or drinking nor when or how much you are using. Instead, the effects of drug use define an issue.

What Dangers does Self-Medication Offer?

Self-medicating for mental health issues can lead to a range of problems beyond the risk of addiction to your drug of choice. Here are some examples:

  1. Worsening of symptoms: Attempting to self-medicate a mental health problem could intensify symptoms or possibly cause new ones.
  2. Interactions with prescription drugs: Abusing alcohol or drugs can negatively impact the effectiveness of any prescriptions you are taking, as well as cause unpleasant side effects.
  3. Triggering new mental health issues: If you are already at risk for a mental health problem, alcohol consumption or drug abuse could lead to the emergence of additional issues unrelated to the ones that led to your self-medication. For instance, opioid and alcohol abuse have been associated with depression, while marijuana and methamphetamine abuse have been linked to psychosis.
  4. Delaying or preventing you from seeking assistance: Once you have committed to self-medicating, it can be challenging to change your mind and explore healthier, more effective ways to deal with your difficulties. However, if you recognize how your substance abuse is exacerbating rather than resolving your problems, you may begin to address them once and for all.

1st Self-Help Tip: Recognize Your Self-Medication Patterns.

It is common to try to excuse your substance usage, underestimate how much or how often you use or deny that you have a problem at all, whether you are drinking or using drugs (or both). You can try to blame external factors for your marital issues or money difficulties, for example.

Anyone can get depressed, anxious, or stressed due to the epidemic, the economic recession, and rising unemployment. However, it is also critical to recognize how the amount of time and money you spend drinking or using drugs may be contributing to your difficulties.

Denial can also arise because of mental health problems. You could be embarrassed to acknowledge that you are having trouble coping with sadness or anxiety, for example. While it may appear to be easier to ignore your problems and hope they go away, denial is the first step toward rehabilitation.

Admitting that you have a mental health issue is not a sign of weakness or a flaw in your character. Whatever challenges you are dealing with, there are efficient ways to deal with them and reclaim control of your life.

Keep track of your drug and alcohol use as well as your moods. Keep a note of when you use alcohol or drugs, how much you use, and how you feel when you first start—stressed, nervous, unhappy, or bored, for example—for several weeks. You should be able to discover similarities and mood triggers in your substance use behaviours after reviewing the results.

For a few days each week, avoid using them. Are you able to stay away from drugs and alcohol for some days? Keep a note of how you are feeling during those days—do you feel less stressed, anxious, or depressed when you avoid their usage? Are you able to sleep properly? Is it possible to pass the time by finding healthier and more effective ways to manage your emotions?

Dealing With Depression

It can feel terrible and helpless when you are depressed as if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. However, there are numerous things you can do to improve and maintain your mood, ranging from confronting negative thinking to spending time in nature and planning exciting activities in your day.


Anxiety can be referred as a set of disorders rather than a single illness. Some people have uncontrollable panic episodes, while others shudder at the prospect of mixing with strangers at a party or deal with unreasonable concerns, anxiety attacks, or depressed mood.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues, and they’re also one of the most manageable. Stressing, for example, is a mental habit you can learn how to eliminate.


Stress can feel overwhelming, especially when it seems like there’s no end in sight. With bills piling up, endless work and family obligations, and not enough time in the day, it’s easy to feel trapped. However, even if stress catches you off guard, there are many effective ways to manage it and keep it in check.

Tip #4: Use A Variety Of Therapies.

A dual diagnosis or co-occurring condition occurs when self-medicating a mental health issue triggers a substance abuse problem (addiction or dependency). To obtain therapy for a co-occurring disorder, you’ll need to address both the substance abuse problem and the mental health problems that first prompted your drug or alcohol use. Detoxification, withdrawal management, therapy, and/or attendance at peer support groups may all be part of your substance misuse treatment. Depending on the intensity of the addiction, some people can attain and maintain recovery independently with the help of friends and loved ones, while others require professional assistance.

Self-help techniques, healthy lifestyle modifications, individual or group therapy, and medication may be used to treat your mental health issues.

What can you do to assist someone who is choosing self-medication?

It might be challenging to assist a loved one who is self-medicating. It would help if you overcame any denial they may have regarding their difficulties or substance usage, assisting them in recognizing why they are self-medicating, and then address both the underlying condition and the problems caused by their drinking or drug usage.

It is crucial to keep in mind that you cannot take care of your loved one’s difficulties for them. You cannot make someone deal with their mental illness any more than you can make someone stay sober. You can, however, urge your loved one to seek assistance while also offering your love and support.

Speak with the individual. Talk to your loved one about the harmful behaviours and difficulties you have noticed while you are both sober and calm. Listen to them without being judgmental or accusatory and encouraging them to open to you.

Find out as much as you can about the person’s underlying mental health problems that have led them to self-medicate. You will be better able to support your loved one’s rehabilitation if you have a greater understanding of what they are going through.

Encourage your loved one to get medical assistance. Suggest seeing a doctor for a general checkup and perhaps offer to accompany them on the initial visit. Speaking with a professional about their reasons for self-medicating may help them see their difficulties more clearly.

When your loved one is alcoholic, do not drink or use drugs with them or quarrel about their substance usage. Instead, spend your time together doing interesting, healthy activities and hobbies that do not require drinking or using drugs.

Encourage people to interact with one another. It can be tempting for someone who is depressed, anxious, or suffering from any mental health issue to escape into their shell. However, maintaining social contact and receiving support from friends and family members is critical for their recovery.

Define your limitations. Be honest with yourself about how much care and time you can provide your loved one without becoming overwhelmed. Set and keep to boundaries for inappropriate behaviour. Allowing the difficulties of a friend or loved one to take over your life is unhealthy for both of you.

Patience is required. It takes time to recover from depression, anxiety, or any other ailment that caused them to self-medicate. Relapse is a regular occurrence throughout the recovery process. Be patient, optimistic, and encouraging.

Seek out your own help. It is easy to become depressed because of your loved one’s troubles. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you are going through. Getting your treatment or joining a support group for persons dealing with similar challenges may also be beneficial.


In conclusion, self-medication is a growing challenge that affects many people struggling with depression, anxiety, and stress. It is a risky coping mechanism that can lead to addiction and cause more harm than good. Self-medicating can make the mental health symptoms worse and trigger new issues, delay or prevent seeking professional help, and even impact one’s physical health. It is essential to recognize the signs of self-medication and seek healthier ways to manage stress and emotional distress. Seeking professional help, building a support system, and practicing healthy habits are effective ways to cope with mental health challenges and avoid the harmful effects of self-medication. It takes courage and strength to acknowledge and address mental health concerns, but it is worth it for a healthier, happier life.

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