Life is full of challenges, and everyone copes with stress, anxiety and emotional pain differently. For some, the coping mechanism of choice might be drugs or alcohol. While these substances may provide temporary relief, they often lead to a cycle of dependency and further emotional turmoil. It's crucial to recognize the signs of self-medicating to address underlying issues and seek healthier coping strategies.
Let’s explore the common signs that indicate you might be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, along with healthier coping strategies to try instead.
What is Self-Medicating and Why is it Bad?
Self-medicating refers to using drugs or alcohol as a form of treatment. It can look different depending on the person. For instance, one person might come home after work and smoke a joint to relieve stress, and another will get drunk on the weekends to lift their spirits. Or, a person might use prescription ADHD medications to improve focus and concentration at work.
When you self-medicate with substances, you avoid dealing with your problems. While the substance may provide temporary relief, it doesn’t last. In fact, it can make your struggles worse by causing more pain and negative consequences in your life. Plus, continuing to self-medicate only delays the recovery process.
What Causes People to Self-Medicate?
People self-medicate for a myriad of reasons. Some of the most common include:
- Masking negative emotions
- Coping with unpleasant memories
- Facing stressful situations
- Having low self-esteem and self-worth
- Boosting performance at work, school or sports
- Dealing with uncertainties in life
- Having an underlying mental health problem
Some people are aware that they are self-medicating and some are not. But most realize that they don’t know how to cope in any other way. Whether it’s reaching for a drink or smoking a joint, they’ve come to rely on substances to get through their days.
Signs You May Be Self-Medicating
If you’re drinking, using illicit substances or misusing prescription medications to deal with chronic stress and other issues, chances are, you’re self-medicating. It’s important to recognize this, as it allows you to get the appropriate substance abuse treatment in Easton PA. While it may be uncomfortable to experience negative emotions without drugs or alcohol, it’s the only way to truly heal.
Below are some signs that you may be self-medicating:
One of most notable signs of self-medication is using substances to avoid reality. If you feel the need to be intoxicated to cope with everyday life, it's a clear indication of self-medication. This is an easy trap to fall into, as drugs and alcohol can temporarily numb your emotions and give you the false impression that you feel better.
Increased tolerance and consumption
An early sign of self-medicating is the development of tolerance, or when the substance becomes less effective for you. Becoming tolerant to a drug isn’t unusual, especially if you’ve been using it for a long time. While it’s not the same thing as addiction, tolerance does indicate an escalating dependency.
Feeling anxious when you run low
Do you feel stressed or anxious when you can’t get your go-to substance? Whether it’s worrying about refilling a prescription or having to wait for the store to open to buy alcohol, this is a concern. It means you’re probably relying too much on these substances to cope.
Mood swings and irritability
Frequent mood swings, irritability and aggressive behavior are common side effects of substance abuse. If you notice significant changes in your mood and behavior when you're not using drugs or alcohol, it's a sign that these substances might be masking deeper emotional issues.
Another warning sign is neglecting responsibilities at work, school or home. If your substance use interferes with your ability to fulfill obligations and meet deadlines, it's a strong indication that your substance use is taking a toll on your life. You are likely too reliant on them.
Isolating yourself from others
Self-medicating individuals often withdraw from social activities, hobbies and relationships they once enjoyed. Isolation becomes a way to avoid judgment or questions about their substance use. If you find yourself spending more time alone and avoiding social interactions, it's a concerning sign.
Frequent spending on drugs or alcohol can lead to financial strain. If you're struggling to manage your finances due to your substance use, it's a clear indication that the habit is negatively impacting your life. Without help, your substance use can cause you to lose your job, income and stability.
Experiencing more stress - not less
If you’ve been using drugs or alcohol for a while now, ask yourself what they have done for your life. Maybe going out for drinks with friends feels good at the moment, but it wears off quickly. Many people find themselves in a cycle where they need drugs or alcohol to feel good, and once the effects wear off, they feel worse.
Physical health problems
Chronic substance abuse can lead to various health issues, including liver problems, respiratory disorders and mental health conditions. If you're experiencing deteriorating health due to your drug or alcohol use, it's imperative to seek help immediately. The good news is that you can start the physical recovery process quickly.
End Self-Medication with Substance Abuse Treatment in Easton PA
Recognizing the signs of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol is the first step toward recovery. It takes immense courage to confront the underlying issues and seek healthier coping mechanisms. If you or someone you know exhibits these signs, it's crucial to reach out for professional support.
Recovery Cove in Easton PA is an outpatient addiction treatment center that can help you recover from a substance use disorder. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and with the right support, it's possible to break free from the cycle of self-medication. Contact our team at 484-549-COVE to speak with one of our caring, compassionate professionals.