Dangers of Self-Medicating with Drugs and Alcohol

A distressed woman is sitting with her hands on her head contemplating the dangers she faces from self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

People may choose to start self-medicating for any number of reasons. Some turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to cope with mental or emotional difficulties such as depression, anxiety or the loss of a loved one. For others, alcohol, opiates or other drugs are used in an effort to overcome severe pain or other physical ailments. The problem is that attempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs can quickly lead a person down the slippery slope to abuse and addiction.

Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse continue to be a huge problem in the United States, and statistics show that approximately 19.7 million Americans suffered from a substance use disorder in 2017 [1]. Worse still, drug overdoses are also becoming far more common. In fact, 72,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017, which is more than double the number from only a decade ago [1]. The fact that substance use disorders can cause numerous issues for the individual’s physical and mental health as well as their overall life makes it essential that everyone fully understands the potential consequences of self-medicating.

Why Self-Medicating Is Never a Good Idea

It can be extremely tempting to turn to drugs or alcohol when you’re feeling depressed or under a huge amount of stress. In general, people who suffer from chronic pain or other debilitating physical ailments use drugs or alcohol as a short-term solution because they believe that they are the only things that can help them feel normal. Nonetheless, even short-term drug and alcohol abuse can potentially carry major consequences.

If you use drugs or alcohol frequently, then you are more likely to experience emotional, mental, social problems. For example, you might suddenly find yourself unexpectedly lashing out and getting into more arguments with your loved ones or co-workers, which could have negative impacts on your job and your relationships with family and friends. Feelings of depression, increased anxiety or losing interest in the things you once took joy in can also set in after even a short period of drug or alcohol abuse. Some people might also find themselves feeling constantly tired, aggressive, paranoid, angry or unmotivated, and these are only the potential short-term effects that self-medication can bring.

The Potential Long-Term Effects of Drug Abuse

Overdose is obviously one great risk that comes along with drug and alcohol abuse. Nonetheless, overdose definitely isn’t the only thing you need to worry about as there are also a huge number of possible health issues that prolonged drug or alcohol abuse can cause in the long term. Liver failure, heart and kidney disease, increased risk of cancer, hypertension, loss of cognitive function, and increased risk of stroke are just a few of the many potential health risks people face by self-medicating.

If you’re suffering from severe emotional, physical or mental problems, then you might think that self-medicating is your only option. However, considering the huge number of potential consequences, the truth it that self-medication is one of the most dangerous things you could do. No one wants to become addicted to or suffer from a substance abuse issue, but this process often takes far less time than you might think. Therefore, it is vital that you educate yourself on self-medication so you can understand why it is never the right choice.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHFFR2017/NSDUHFFR2017.htm#sud