Many people turn to drugs or alcohol today when they are upset, angry, or otherwise having a bad day. They use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and feel better. However, there are better ways to achieve this goal. 


When alcohol or a drug is used to manage a person’s mental illness and the accompanying symptoms, professionals refer to this as self-medicating. The alcohol or drug provides a brief respite from the symptoms but will make the problem worse over time. Addiction is always a concern when people use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Mood disorders worsen with substance use, and health problems may arise. Furthermore, substance use can damage relationships. A person might find they need professional help to stop self-medicating and may spend time in sober living homes to ensure they are ready to reenter society fully without turning to drugs and alcohol again. 

Why Do People Choose to Self-Medicate?

When mental health issues begin to interfere with a person’s daily life, they might choose to use drugs or alcohol to cope. They don’t know how else to cope with the emotions they are feeling or bring their stress under control. Drugs or alcohol can help them cope with unresolved trauma or face a frightening scenario. 

How Do People Self-Medicate?

Most people reach for a beer or another alcoholic drink when they self-medicate because alcohol is easy to obtain. However, alcohol is a depressant and will make symptoms worse. Prescription drugs are also commonly used to self-medicate, as they aren’t hard to get. However, some people turn to recreational drugs to stop the emotional pain they are feeling. 

Common items may also be used to self-medicate. Emotional eaters turn to food and may find they gain weight when they do so. Other men and women turn to nicotine, as it helps them focus, but it can make ADHD worse over time. 

Why is Self-Medicating Dangerous?

Self-medicating can make existing symptoms worse or bring about new ones. When a person self-medicates, they might find the substance used to do so interferes with prescription medications they are taking or leads to new mental health issues emerging. Additionally, self-medicating allows them to think they have their problems under control, so they don’t seek professional help. 

How to Know if a Person is Self-Medicating? 

A person might be self-medicating if they frequently overeat or engage in binge eating episodes. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the emotional pain they are experiencing. They might engage in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex with strangers or gambling.

When a person uses drugs or alcohol more than they intend to, they may be overindulging to self-medicate. The same holds if they find they can no longer control their use of this substance. Often, negative consequences come with this use, and the person continues using anyway. They appear to ignore their job difficulties, financial problems, and health issues, even when these problems are apparent to everyone around them. 

Self-medicating is dangerous for many reasons. The biggest problem with self-medicating is it allows the individual to feel as if they have their mental health issues under control when they are only masking these issues. Any person who uses drugs or alcohol should question why they are doing so.

Occasional use isn’t something to be concerned about. When it becomes more frequent, however, it is time to take a second look and determine if the individual is self-medicating. If they are, help is needed to address the substance use and find a better way to address the mental health issues they have.