A person who is living with a mental illness may self-medicate as a way to cope with his or her symptoms. The strategy of using drugs or other substances for self-soothing may also be used by individuals who have experienced a traumatic event or who are living with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). A number of substances may be used for this purpose, including stimulants, depressants and painkillers. Some people also turn to marijuana when attempting to self-medicate.
Stimulants include street drugs like crack and cocaine. Nicotine, caffeine and amphetamines, or "uppers," also belong to this category. All of them give the user a feeling of well-being or even euphoria when ingested. The search to re-experience the "high" is what makes someone want to repeat the experience.
In the case of someone who is looking to self-medicate, turning to a stimulant may be a way to deal with symptoms of depression. An individual who is living with feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness may not realize that he or she is depressed and that effective treatments are available by consulting with a health care professional. Stimulants may also be used by individuals with low self-esteem who are looking to feel better about themselves.
Depressants, such as alcohol and some prescription drugs, are the choice for a person looking to self-medicate their feelings of anxiety. Ingesting them creates a feeling of relaxation. Using alcohol lowers inhibitions, and this drug may be chosen by people who are unable to express emotions or closeness easily.
Painkillers, such as heroin and morphine, are effective at managing pain. These drugs also give the user an initial feeling of euphoria that develops into a state of deep relaxation. A person who is either anxious or depressed may be drawn to self-medicate using a strong painkilling medication. This may also be the drug that an individual with anger issues turns to.
Marijuana is a common drug used by people who are attempting to self-medicate. It's relatively inexpensive and readily available on the street. People who are feeling stressed or anxious and looking for a way to feel calmer may choose this drug for its sedative qualities.
Choosing to self-medicate is not the best choice for people living with a mental illness or suffering the effects of PTSD. At best, these remedies only mask the symptoms of the disorder or condition. These substances have the potential to change brain chemistry, which only makes dealing with the underlying issue more challenging.