Emotional and mental struggles always play an important role in why people become addicted and why they continue to abuse substances in spite of the consequences. People with addictions might not realize that their problem is one of self-medication.
Any time they feel stressed out, depressed or anxious they reach for a drink or use a particular drug to relax or ease their emotional distress. Substance abuse becomes an escape for an addict and the more they try to get away from their problems the deeper they get into their addiction.
Self-medication can be at least partially a cause of addiction but it can perpetuate the problem and create a vicious cycle as their addiction will make their life and emotional situation much worse. As their depression or anxiety worsens through drug use, the circle of addiction continues until they finally choose to get help.
Mental Health and Self-Medication
In many cases, the underlying issue that can lead to an addiction is an undiagnosed mental health condition. Someone may be unaware that they suffer from clinical depression or have an anxiety disorder so instead of receiving the proper medication they turn to other substances to help cope with their symptoms.
Self-medication can provide someone with a mental health problem a temporary relief from their problems, but in the end it will only make their issues much more complicated. When people don't realize that they have a mental health problem they might not consider the repercussions of constantly turning to alcohol or drugs to feel better in times of stress.
In the short term it may seem effective as they feel happier, more social or less anxious when using drugs. In the long term though this kind self-medication can lead to a serious addiction and it can be much harder to recover when you are dealing with a mental health problem.
Escape through Substance Abuse
Even when a person is not dealing with a mental health problem, self-medication can eventually lead to addiction. Any attempt to self-soothe through the use of alcohol or drugs can become problematic because it creates a cycle.
A person uses drugs because they feel bad but over time the drugs will make their emotions more volatile as they experience tolerance and withdrawal. As their drug use makes them feel worse they will continue using more and more to get the same effect of self-medication and they eventually can be consuming excessive amounts of the drug.
Someone who does not have a mental health problem can still experiences issues like shyness, anxiety, or even aggression and anger all of which they might find a certain type of drug will alleviate. Whatever the reason for their drug use, any type of self-medication is dangerous and will ultimately cause more problems for any individual.
People who self-medicate could have a mental health issue that they are masking with addiction. They can also be seemingly healthy people who simply want to escape their daily struggles and the stress of their life.
In both situations, self-medication starts a deadly cycle of addiction that can leave them with a severe physical and psychological dependency. Many drugs like alcohol or barbiturates are depressants meaning they can make the symptoms of depression worse. A number of substances are associated with withdrawal symptoms that can worsen anxiety and send users down an emotional spiral any time they are not getting high.
Although not all addictive behavior is a result of self-medication, it is common for people to develop an addiction as a result of their need to escape emotional issues. Anyone caught in the cycle of self-medication needs to get help and seek recovery before their situation gets much worse.