Addictions to drugs and alcohol usually don’t happen overnight. There is a variety of reasons that people get hooked on a substance, and one of the big reasons is self medicating. This can start of innocently and quickly turn into a very bad habit that is difficult to get rid of.

Self medicating occurs when someone takes drugs or alcohol in order to get through symptoms. Literally, they are playing doctor and using substances to self-diagnose and make themselves feel better. This can happen for a variety of symptoms ranging from pain to anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Often, people don’t even realize what they are doing until it is too late and a habit is formed. At that point, it is important to get help as soon as possible to get on the path to recovery.

The Process of Self Medicating

When you self medicate, you use drugs or alcohol to numb unpleasant feelings. This can be a physical ailment, like chronic pain, or a mood disorder, like anxiety or depression. Many people go to the doctor for conditions like chronic pain and walk out with a prescription to strong opioid medications like vicodin or oxycontin. Doctors often don’t properly inform patients of the dangers of these drugs, or warn them about how addicting they are. As a result, the patient ends up getting hooked and has to turn to other sources once their prescription runs out.

When an opioid patient runs out of drugs, they usually do one of two things. They start doctor shopping – visiting multiple doctors for the same prescription, or they turn to street drugs. Heroin is in the opioid family and often easier to find and cheaper than prescription meds. It is easy to see how one of these patients would slip into using heroin.

Another example would be social anxiety. Lots of people feel the pressure to be around other people, especially in a large group, is overwhelming. If you think about it, how “normal” is it to have a drink or two to take the edge of. People on first dates, at business meetings, and old friends commonly go out for alcoholic drinks as a way to bond. This can start of innocent enough, but before long it can turn into a nasty habit.

Drinking before a date can turn slowly turn from 1 or 2 glasses into a bottle, leading to dangerous behavior and blacking out. If you start to rely on alcohol to get through situations, you might find yourself needing it earlier and earlier in the day. As your alcoholism progresses, you might drink before work or before other events during which it would be inappropriate to drink. You’ll find yourself dependent on alcohol, unable to start your day without having a drink first.

How to Stop Self Medicating

To stop self medicating, the first thing you need to do is admit you have a problem. Alcohol and drugs shouldn’t be a source of something that makes you feel better. If it is, remember that the feeling is temporary and you will ultimately need more and more to achieve the same effect. And, once the drug or alcohol gets taken away, you will feel that much worse.

For this reason, it is important to do two things: 1) Get off of whatever substance you are addicted to under the guide of a treatment center. It is close to impossible to correct this on your own, so you have a much better chance at getting and staying sober if you get professional help. 2) It is essential to diagnose the condition you have and get it treated properly. There are non habit forming medications and lifestyle modifications you can learn to fix almost anything. You are worth it!

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