Self-medicating is a response to challenges faced in life. It occurs when individuals turn to prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol to help deal with difficult situations that they find hurtful, stressful or emotional. Self-medicating to cope with challenges is often the first step toward substance abuse. Over time, this can enact a drug or alcohol addiction. 

However, this form of self-medicating does not help in solving the issues. Instead, it only leads to more pain and difficulty that affect both mental and physical health. It can also turn into an ongoing cycle of feeling guilt, shame, depressed and anxious. It is essential to understand what self-medicating is to help you to treat the underlying issues early on. Addressing it early on also reduces the risks associated with addiction. 

You Associate Stress with Taking Substances

Stress and anxiety are part of life. Whether it is a cycle or the result of a recent challenge, these feelings that affect the nervous system are enough to make anyone look for a solution to feel better fast. However, how people go about doing that varies. If you find yourself having a drink or using a drug to “blow off some steam,” it could be the beginning of associating drugs and alcohol as a response to stress and anxiety. It might start as a weekend act but could quickly become an everyday occurrence. That drink on the weekends becomes that drink after work, which becomes one more drink before bed.

It is essential to understand that relief from using substances is temporary and not conducive to managing stress healthily. When you associate substances with stress, your body will begin to develop a need for the substance and might create false feelings of stress and anxiety so that you will indulge in using substances. If you notice your habits are developing toward dependency, then it is time to find help. Looking to alternative practices such as yoga, meditation, therapy and pursuing a hobby when stressed can help you manage stress and anxiety more healthily.

Your Mood Worsens While Self-Medicating

Another telltale sign that you’re developing an addiction is when you continue to self-medicate to overcome new challenges. You may begin self-medicating to relieve stress and anxiety but quickly realize that substances can help you overcome other challenges as well. However, when the substance begins to wear off, your mood worsens because you are returning to sobriety; therefore, you use more substances to relieve your mood. Such habits might not be recognized as related to feeding an addiction and might go unnoticed for months or even years. 

Because drugs and alcohol take a toll on your mental and physical health, you are likely to neglect sleep, nutrition and exercise, thus compromising your immune system and leading toward more frequent illnesses. All of these contribute to the deterioration of your mood. You also might begin to experience negative feelings attached to past experiences reemerging. Soon these negative moods become stronger and more frequent. In these times, you need to make an honest assessment of your behavior and recognize your habitual patterns. It is essential to understand that everything weaves together, so by addressing your self-medicating, you will begin to improve all other aspects of your life. 

You Worry When You Cannot Use Substances

When your situation escalates and you have become addicted, you will likely worry or even panic when you cannot drink or use drugs. Your feelings can become exaggerated and cause more anxiety, anger or depression. A significant indicator of addiction is if you become irritable when you cannot have a drink or drug. If you are wondering if this applies to you, try asking yourself these questions: 

  • Do you think about the next time you will be able to have a drink or drug?
  • Do you feel restless if you go a day without using?
  • Does not having the opportunity to drink or use drugs prevent you from completing everyday tasks?

When self-medicating leaves you in a state of obsession over the next drink or drug, this is a clear indication that you have an addiction and therefore need to seek help. 

More Problems with Self-Medicating

Have your problems come far and away from the initial stressors that caused you to begin drinking and using drugs to cope? Ongoing drug and alcohol abuse creates a lengthier list of problems in one’s life. These may include:

  • Difficulties at work or school
  • Financial struggles 
  • Relationship problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Feelings of apathy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Physical health problems

You also might find yourself distancing yourself from others to conceal your drinking or drug use. When you reach a point of solitude and isolation, you are in a dangerous situation. When you find that your problems are beginning to pile up, it is time to take inventory of your habits. If everything comes back to using drugs and alcohol to cope, then your self-medicating habits have gotten out of your control. 


Self-medicating is a slippery slope and can sneak up on you at any point in life, including your recovery. It is essential to learn about yourself, including your mental health, your triggers and how you default to coping, and then work on coping in healthy ways. At New Hope Ranch, we aim to uncover each patient’s underlying issues, including a thorough assessment and diagnosis of each patient. Our mission is to provide you a safe and comfortable setting where you can develop the tools needed to manage your addiction and addiction symptoms. Our treatments include conventional and alternative therapies. We believe that treatment is not a one-size-fits-all, and the approach should be to form correct treatments and therapies based on the individual’s needs. If you or someone you know struggles to overcome addiction, then it is time to seek help. To learn more, reach out to New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, today by calling us at (737) 600-8565.