Self care is practiced by millions of people each year, and often involves self-medication. People who engage in self-medication may administer over-the-counter drugs or other medications in order to heal or relieve a number of symptoms. Self-medication helps people to save time or money by treating themselves for minor ailments instead of seeing a physician or going to an emergency room. However, some people may “self-medicate” by taking substances which will do more harm than good. Self-medicating with alcohol is one of the most commonly misused forms of self-medication.
What Is Self-Medicating With Alcohol?
When a person drinks alcohol to relieve certain symptoms—such as to feel better from his or her depression—that person is self-medicating with alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, though, and is likely to make a person’s symptoms of depression or anxiety worse instead of better. Alcohol also results in impaired judgment or lack of inhibitions. This in turn can lead to change in or reckless behavior. For some, driving while under the influence is a habit which can destroy their lives or the lives of others. Regularly self-medicating with alcohol may also lead to addiction, especially if a person becomes tolerant to the effects of alcohol or forms a physical dependence on it.
Why Do People Self-Medicate With Alcohol?
In simple terms, people choose alcohol to self-medicate because they hope it will make them feel better. This may be especially true for those people suffering from undiagnosed depression or anxiety. As stated in an article from the Huffington Post, “rather than seek out some help in managing depression, anxiety or chronic resentment, [people] seek their own solution…” Self-medicating with alcohol may seem effective to people because it allows them to be in control of when they administer their remedy. At first, people may begin to self-medicate to help get through difficult situations like stress in personal lives or before social gatherings. But when self-medicating turns into habit, the dependence can be long-lasting and may lead to addiction.
How To Recognize Addiction To Alcohol
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains that, “problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of alcohol use disorder.” But how can you tell when a problem becomes “severe”? As outlined by the NIAAA, here are some common alcoholism signs to watch for:
- If the person drinks more often than he or she intends, or for longer periods than he or she meant to do
- If the person has expressed that he or she wanted to quit drinking or stop drinking so much, but couldn’t successfully do it
- If the person spends a lot of time drinking, or a lot of time sick (“hungover”) after drinking
- Does the person have cravings or irresistible urges when not drinking?
- Does drinking interfere with a person’s personal responsibilities, i.e. family, school or work?
- The person keeps drinking, even if he or she is aware that it is disrupting his or her life or personal relationships
- The person has engaged in risky behavior in order to drink or due to drinking
- If a person drinks even if it worsens symptoms of other disorders, such as anxiety or depression
- The person develops tolerance, or is no longer is affected by the same amount of alcohol
- Person experiences withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, like anxiety, depression, irritability, nausea, restlessness, sweating, tremors or trouble sleeping
Who Is Affected By Addiction To Alcohol?
There are many factors which affect a person’s risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. While having one or more risk factors for alcohol addiction increases a person’s chance of forming addiction, there are no guarantees for who may become affected. The best way to fight addiction is prevention of misuse, such as depending on alcohol for self-medicating. Some of the risk factors are:
- Drinking as a habit: drinking on a regular basis or for long periods of time frequently can foster addiction
- Age: some people are affected by drinking at an early age and this can become habit
- Family history: those who have a parent or both parents who habitually drank or were addicted to alcohol have a heightened risk of falling victim to addiction
- Mental health issues: many mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, cause a person to seek alternative ways to cope
- Social or cultural influences: being in the presence of heavy drinking often can increase a person’s risk of developing similar habits
As the NIAAA explains, millions of adults and adolescents alike are affected by alcohol use disorder every year in the United States. In 2012, 17 million adults over age 18 and 855,000 adolescents (age 12 to 17) had an alcohol use disorder.
What Can Be Done For Alcohol Addiction?
Treatment is the most effective way to fight addiction. At AlcoholTreatment.net, we offer resources to a number of treatment centers. Inpatient residential stays may be key to helping an addicted individual overcome alcoholism. Staying at a rehab center and receiving professional care and support could make a margin of difference for success in recovery. To learn more about the resources we offer, hear about our renowned rehab centers, or to talk to one of our experts, contact us today at AlcoholTreatment.net.
Huffington Post—Why We ‘Self-Medicate’ Our Own Depression Or Anxiety
Mayo Clinic—Alcohol Use Disorder: Risk Factors
National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism—Alcohol Use Disorder
World Self-Medication Industry—What Is Self-Medication?