Addiction A-Z

Self-medication

Self-medication and self-medicating refer to the use of a drug, alcohol, food or other substance, or a certain activity such as sex or gambling, to relieve stress, anger, depression or other unwanted emotional states or symptoms of mental illnesses. Self-medication can lead to chemical dependencies and other health issues, including obesity. For example, people with anxiety often abuse marijuana, depressives tend to abuse alcohol and opiates, and those with low self-esteem often use stimulants. Some people turn to “comfort foods” when they are upset. Self-medication usually makes things worse because an underlying mental illness can be ignored for years, leading to unnecessary suffering and impaired functioning. Abusing drugs and other substances typically leads to problems in health, career and relationships, as well as feelings of guilt, loss of control and even legal troubles. Part of recovery from chemical dependencies is forgoing self-medication and learning new ways to cope with stress and everyday emotions through healthy outlets such as sports, relaxation techniques and hobbies, among other activities.

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