Signs and symptoms that you are substituting Drugs and Alcohol for Mental Health Treatment 



Tough day at work? - Do you head to the pub or fridge for a bear.


Big fight with your partner? - Do you light up a joint or reach for the wine bottle




These may sound like “normal” reactions to a stressful or emotionally difficult situation, and perhaps they are “normal,” but they are not necessarily healthy. In some cases, when these behaviours become the natural response to any difficult situation, they may indicate that you might actually be self-medicating. The act of self-medicating occurs when someone turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to deal with tough issues or difficult or painful feelings and emotions rather than talking about them or addressing them in a healthy way. Unfortunately, this can lead to substance abuse and, in time, result in addiction and a host of new problems that are far more difficult to manage than the original difficulty that drove you to drink or drugs.




Do you self medicate? Here are four signs that you might be.



You drink or get high when you feel stressed, depressed, angry, sad, lonely or other uncomfortable feelings or emotions?

On a rare occasion many people “drown their sorrows” in a bottle of wine.  However, if it becomes a regular habit, say every Friday, Saturday night, or even more regular, it is a sign of self-medication. If every time you get angry, feel depressed, attend a social event, or just feel bored because you are stuck at home with nothing to do, you turn to drugs or alcohol, you are using substances in an unhealthy way.


Some people crave their drug of choice as soon as they enter a situation that is stressful. Others may begin to panic if they are unable to drink or get high when they feel social anxiety, anger, depression and other uncomfortable feelings and emotions. If you find that you get irritable or restless when you are unable to drink, smoke, or snort away your difficult feelings, you are likely self medicating.



Your mood, feelings or mental health problems get worse the more you drink or take drugs.

Over time, substance abuse takes a toll on your physical and mental health and well being. You may find that you are not sleeping as well, your eating habits may change from eating well to eating junk food or less often, and you may find that you more frequently struggle with illness such as colds, headaches or bad stomach. Additionally, you may find that the moods and emotions you were primarily trying to quell through substance abuse have become stronger, more frequent, or longer in duration since you began drinking or getting high to deal with them. Though initially you may have experienced some relief from these symptoms, over time, regular use of drugs or alcohol can worsen them.



You are experiencing more health, social, financial, and other problems in your life.


Drug and alcohol abuse brings with it a host of others problems. Whether or not there are underlying difficulties in managing mental health symptoms, feelings or emotions, ongoing substance and alcohol abuse creates too many issues to list. In general, people state that they usually experience:


  • Relationship problems
  • Difficulties in maintaining commitments at work and friendships
  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Lowered libido
  • Physical health issues
  • Mental health symptoms related to drug and alcohol abuse such as paranoia, anxiety, poor memory and intrusive thoughts
  • Financial difficulties
  • Decreased ability to experience true joy and connection and empathy with others



You’ve been told by doctors, loved ones, and friends and family that you need to stop drinking or taking drugs or need treatment.


You may not take it seriously, but when the people who are closest to you tell you that they are concerned about the amount you are drinking or the drugs you are using, it’s worth you listening to them. Our loved ones, friends and family know us better than anyone else and they are more objective than and addict or alcoholic and therefore more capable of assessing the situation when someone has shifted from recreational drug use or social drinking to drug addiction or alcoholism.


Similarly, when a doctor tells you that you are experiencing chronic health problems, or building toward chronic health problems, due to your drug use or  level of alcohol intake, it is time to listen.


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