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Group 401

Self Medicating is an Unhealthy Coping Mechanism

Man who is self medicating with alcoholHow do you deal with stress? Do you take a walk, hit the gym, talk to a friend, or light up a joint? When your day goes wrong or you’re under the gun at work, do you pour yourself a drink as soon as you get home?

The act of self-medicating occurs when you turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with life’s issues. Although many people view drinking or smoking pot as a normal and socially acceptable reaction to stress — the truth is that self medicating is a slippery slope that may lead to more serious issues and consequences down the road.

If you think you might be in danger of heading down the wrong path with your substance use, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Do you drink or get high when you are faced with difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, stress or other negative feelings?
  2. Does your mood get worse after using substances or do you feel guilty the next day?
  3. Has anyone voiced concern over your drug or alcohol use?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, then you may be headed toward trouble with your substance use. So what can you do?

  1. Talk to someone. Whether it be a friend, relative or counselor, talking to someone is a step in the right direction. Voice your concern and listen to feedback. Reaching out for help is the first step, the hardest one to take, but it is the most important.
  2. Learn new ways to cope with negative feelings. Stressed? Take a hot bath. Anxious? Go for a run. Angry? Cook a meal, clean the house, go to a yoga class or practice meditation. There are so many healthy and fun ways to deal with negative emotions that do not require masking your symptoms with drug or alcohol abuse.
  3. Attempt to moderate your use of substances. This might not be possible. If you’ve been self medicating for some time, you may already have physical addiction and need to seek treatment.
  4. Find out if you have an underlying mental health disorder. Sometimes generalized feelings of depression or anxiety that lasts for several months or more will lead to substance abuse. Talk with your doctor about any mental health condition you may be experiencing.

If you find that you can’t stop alone you might need professional help. Horizon Health offers many different services for people and their families struggling with substance use and mental health disorders. Usually the two go hand in hand, and one can cause the other. To talk to someone confidentially, please call our team at 716-831-1800.