The Worst (And Best) Ways to Self-Medicate
When some people are in mental distress or physical pain, they may turn to their own forms of treatment without consulting a medical professional. This is known as self-medication.
In most cases, self-medication is harmful – consulting the help of a medical professional should always be the first course of action, whether you’re dealing with physical or mental health problems. That said, when it comes to professionally diagnosed conditions, there may still be healthy ways of supplementing professional medical treatments, which could be deemed as ‘healthy’ forms of self-medication. To help you determine the bad from the good, here are the worst and best forms of self-medication.
Alcohol is one of the most common forms of self-medication. While there is generally nothing wrong with using a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day to unwind, self-medicating with alcohol can become a problem if you constantly rely on it or end up getting drunk just to deal with health problems. A residential alcohol treatment center could be worth looking into if you’re heavily drinking as a way of coping with mental health concerns (especially if this heavy drink has also started to develop health damage of its own). Drinking could be particularly dangerous if you’re also taking other forms of medication.
Taking non-prescribed drugs as a way of coping with health problems could also be a negative way of self-medicating. This is particularly the case with illegal drugs, but could also be an issue with over-the-counter drugs such as codeine or previously prescribed drugs for other conditions. Be careful of taking any drugs for a current condition that haven’t been prescribed by a doctor as there could be negative health effects.
A lot of people binge-eat as a way of self-medicating. Many junk foods that are loaded with sugar, salt or fat produce feelgood surges of dopamine that can help to counteract depressive thoughts. However, you could end up then getting addicted to these foods and causing harm through issues such as weight gain, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. Unless you’re comfort eating using healthy foods, avoid this form of self-medication.
Upping your sleep could be a healthy way of self-medicating – especially if you’re getting less than six hours of sleep per night. Good sleep quality is essential for our mental and physical health, reducing cortisol levels contributing to anxiety and inflammation. There are lots of ways to improve sleep quality. Of course, oversleeping can be unhealthy too and you should try not to exceed nine hours per night.
Exercise is great for offering an endorphin rush that can help beat depression. Low-impact exercises like swimming and yoga can even be used to temporarily numb chronic physical pain. Some people can unhealthily over-exercise, but this tends to be rare.
Listening to music can also release endorphins that can be a great form of supplementary medicine. There are absolutely no negative health effects to listening to music (unless you’re listening to it very loudly). It’s even used as a form of therapy for many mental health issues.
The phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’ has some truth to it. Laughter has proven health benefits such as releasing endorphins and even boosting our immune system. Next time you’re feeling down, find that thing that makes you laugh, whether its socialising with friends or watching your favourite comedy.