The Dangers of Self-Medicating
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: July 20, 2020

Self-medicating happens all the time, and it often works out well. You have a cold, and you take Nyquil. You call your mother for some chicken noodle soup. Technically, you are self-medicating anytime you are self-diagnosing and treating an illness or mental problem. Self-medicating generally isn’t a problem when you have a cold, but there are many dangers of self-medicating in the wrong way. Abusing substances like alcohol or prescription drugs in order to treat your symptoms can quickly lead to the need for a substance abuse treatment program.

Dangers of Self-Medicating a Physical or Mental Illness

One of the biggest dangers of self-medicating is that it can mask a serious problem. This is true for both physical and mental illnesses. You are experiencing pain in your back. You take an opioid prescription you had from a prior prescription and go about your day. A few days later, the pain is unbearable. You have a serious kidney infection that you would have already sought treatment for if you hadn’t self-medicated. Now your kidneys are at risk of shutting down.

You have anxiety and depression. You realize a few drinks ease your symptoms. Over time, you feel worse and worse when you aren’t drinking. You begin to spiral until you see only one solution.

Both of these situations can put your life at risk. Self-medicating can allow you to function normally temporarily, only to hide a problem that gets worse until it can’t be ignored.

The Dangers of Misinformation

There’s a wealth of information about diseases of all kinds available today. However, Dr. Google isn’t always correct. You may have incorrectly diagnosed yourself. You may not have chosen the best medication for the job. You also run the risk of increased drug interactions if you are taking more than one type of medication without a doctor’s supervision. This includes mixing over the counter medications with prescription drugs, which can lead to the need for a polysubstance abuse treatment program.

Risk of Drug Addiction

It’s thought that addiction is often a form of self-medicating that has gotten out of the user’s control. Underlying emotional or mental issues are often believed to be the cause of addiction. One of the dangers of self-medicating is the risk of becoming addicted to the substance. Prescription drug users often start using the medication to treat medical or mental issues as well. However, even if you have the correct diagnosis and the correct medication, you don’t have the professional supervision. There’s no oversight. No one to say you are taking too much or using it incorrectly. Even using prescribed medication in a different way than indicated puts you at risk of developing a prescription drug addiction.

Can Over the Counter Medications be Dangerous?

So, we know self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is dangerous. But over the counter medications are safe though, right? Not necessarily. There are still dangers of self-medicating, even if you are only using over the counter medications. All of the above risks still apply. Over the counter medications are generally safe, when used according to their directions. This means following dosage guidelines and seeking help if you find yourself taking the medication on a regular basis or taking more than recommended.

How Lakeview Health Can Help

At Lakeview Health, we take an individualized approach to addiction recovery. Our staff will work with you to design a treatment plan that meets your unique needs. Through a range of addiction treatment programs and services, we can help you overcome your struggles with addiction and self-medication and help you learn healthier coping skills.

If you are concerned about the dangers of self-medicating and need help to stop, contact Lakeview Health today.

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