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To heal from a physical injury, a doctor may prescribe you medications. Some people also decide to take medications, drugs, or drinks when they feel things like intense pain or stress. In other words, they may self-prescribe something for their pain. However, using alcohol and other drugs to self-soothe can lead to an addiction. Are you self-medicating or is it a sign you may need addiction treatment?

What Is Self-Medicating?

Some people turn to alcohol or drugs when they have a bad day, are overwhelmed, or are hurt. When this happens, you may think, it’s one night. It won’t hurt anything. As a result, you decide to drink or take drugs to lessen your frustration or hurt.

When you take substances to feel better without consulting a medical professional, that is self-medicating. Self-medicating is dangerous, as you do not always know what will happen when you take substances. There are always risks when it comes to substance use. With self-medicating, one of these significant risks is the development of an addiction. 

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

When a person has substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder, this is known as a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders can cause you to process and feel things differently, which can be confusing and isolating. Leaving co-occurring disorders untreated can further increase your risk of self-medicating. 

The National Insitute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that there are three possibilities that suggest why SUD and mental health disorders often occur together. These possibilities include:

  1. Both mental health disorders and SUDs develop from shared risk factors: Including genetic vulnerabilities and trauma 
  2. Mental health disorders can contribute to SUD: Through attempts to self-medicate symptoms
  3. Substance abuse can trigger the development of other mental health disorders

Self-Medicating or Substance Use Disorder?

Consuming drugs or alcohol can change how your brain functions. For some people, these changes occur after one-time use. However, for others, these changes occur as a result of chronic, long-term substance abuse. All substances have the ability to alter you and your executive functioning. When your executive functioning is altered, you experience less control over your behaviors. 

Further, drugs and alcohol can change the brain’s chemical system. Since your brain is in charge of how you feel and your movements and behaviors, this will affect your: 

  • Feelings of pleasure from life, food, sex, etc. 
  • Decision-making and planning
  • Judgment and impulse control 
  • Memory and behavior 

If you are using alcohol and other drugs to manage your feelings, you are self-medicating. However, if you have been using drugs and alcohol to the point that things like your decision-making are affected and you cannot control your substance use, it stops being self-medication. You may need help with addiction.

When Is Addiction Treatment Needed?

As an adult, you get to decide your limits and boundaries. You get to enforce them and keep yourself accountable to them. This is the same for alcohol and drug use; you get to choose when and how you partake, that is, until addiction develops.

What happens if drugs and alcohol stop being fun and start feeling like a need? What happens when you can no longer control your use?

When that happens, or you start ignoring other aspects and responsibilities in your life, it may be time to look into addiction treatment. If you want to get sober, addiction treatment can be a great source of growth and support. To achieve sustainable sobriety, addiction treatment can help you. 

Finding Quality Addiction Treatment

There are plenty of options for you to choose from when it comes to addiction treatment. However, it is important to know that they are not all the same. Some treatment facilities only provide a standard 30-day treatment program that is the same for every client. If you are not able to target the root of your addiction and receive personalized therapy to help you understand your addiction, your risk of relapse increases.

This is why it is important to research your treatment facility options. Many treatment programs, such as the ones provided by Lighthouse Recovery Texas, provide holistic healing options. Holistic treatment will allow you to address not only your substance abuse but also the effects that it has caused on your life. 

Through a quality treatment program, you will also build your confidence in your sobriety so you can function independently following treatment. You may learn skill-building, like financial budgeting or career development skills. Helping your whole person heal and develop in addition to ceasing your substance abuse can facilitate a successful recovery after treatment. This way, you will, hopefully, no longer feel the need to self-medicate. 

Alternatives to Self-Medicating

Self-medicating is an attempt to solve a problem. Depending on a person’s trauma or symptoms, a small problem may feel massive. You may self-medicate because:

  • Your emotions feel out of control
  • You want to resolve physical pain
  • You want to feel joy and psychological safety

There are alternative options to explore instead of self-medicating with substances. For example, you can: 

  • Engage in self-care to soothe feelings
  • Use coping skills, like mindfulness, to calm you down
  • Talk to someone to get your feelings and thoughts out
  • Go on a run to distract you

If taking small steps to avoid self-medicating is not working, an addiction treatment program is always a helpful option. In cases where you need a little more outside support, there are options like a Dallas intensive outpatient program (IOP) or recovery coaches. These programs are there to support you with recovery on your terms. While still being able to attend work or school, you can have the time to recover and take care of your responsibilities in life.

Are you weary of trusting someone with your health and well-being? You longer need to be afraid or struggle with decisions about medications and appropriate healing at Lighthouse Recovery Texas. With our combined 100 years of service in the addiction treatment and mental health fields, we understand that you need to have a say in your treatment. With unique, individualized plans of care, you will receive help understanding and healing what drives your substance use. You will be at the forefront of your recovery, so you can trust that we will have your best interest at heart. Located in Dallas, Texas, our homes and facility provide privacy and tranquility to heal. Call us today at (214) 396-0259