By Jennifer Seigworth
I think of myself as a person that is approachable and easy to talk to. I do not believe it is my place to judge anyone for their actions; yet I give them a safe place to speak out and hopefully keep them from harming themselves or others.
Therefore, when someone shares their thoughts with me and asks for advice, I might suggest fur-ther counseling or possibly seeing a doctor for medication. This is where I find myself getting frus-trated at times.
Most people prefer to self-medicate before seeking any type of medical treatment, especially when it comes to mental health. For example, if you’re feeling a little stressed, you might have a drink or two to relax. But, when every night you are coming home from work, stressed out, drinking more just to go to sleep- you may be self-medicating.
There are problems that are happening at work or at home, or both, that are causing you stress. You may need to talk to someone, or try taking a walk after work. Your family doctor may simply prescribe melatonin. These solutions are more healthy alternatives to drinking more alcohol to re-lax.
I’m not stranger to this line of thinking, because I used to self-medicate. When my children were young, there were times that I had no health insurance and I had no time to be sick. I had to work and take care of my children. If I had a sinus headache or toothache, I took Nyquil. It was the only thing that took the pain away. I didn’t get drowsy when I took it because I was still young and was able to power through it. I did that for years.
Then, eventually I started to take it for anxiety; then, to sleep at night. Until, it started to cause nightmares and liver problems. Surprise, Jen! You’re not a doctor! So, I learned the hard way that I needed to get medical help for my health problems. Even though, I had been giving people that same advice for a while before I did it myself!
Depending on which perspective you are viewing this subject from, there are different theories on self-medication. There are some who go for homeopathic medicines, and see that as self-medicating.
However, even that is done with the guidance of a trained professional who knows the proper dos-es of the natural compounds and herbs that are used for treatment. So, it seems safer to me than combining mixtures of alcohol and possibly different types of drugs.
For example, there is a woman that is in her 30s, she is a single mother. She has been diagnosed by a doctor (she will not return to) with ADHD and anxiety. She refuses to see a psychiatrist to treat her mental health but has instead decided to drink and smoke marijuana that she buys off the streets.
She often does not wake up for work on time and misses her rides, needing to call off of work. She also has locked herself out of her apartment several times leaving her child unattended inside the apartment for hours while waiting for someone to bring her a key.
When I spoke with her about why she will not see a doctor for her mental health issues, she said that she doesn’t want to be put on pills that have side effects. What about the side effects of her un-controlled alcohol and marijuana use on top of the mental health conditions that are not being treat-ed but possibly being made worse by the drug use?
One of the dangers of self-medicating is that even if the current method works for a little while, you will continue to need more. Also, while this is happening, the problems that are happening in life continue to grow. That is why when a person is dealing with mental health, it takes more than just medication to make progress.
We have to deal with the issues that are happening in life to manage the stress and keep it from spi-raling out of control any further. Self-medicating can lead to losing relationships as well as further-ing health problems. It is best to get the proper care in the first place.
When you sit down to have a drink, do it for the taste and the feeling of enjoyment. Let your bur-dens already be handled by your everyday routine through your doctor and therapist and good friends. Be good to yourselves and each other.