Woman leans against wall as she struggles wtih self-medicating with alcohol

Dangers of Self-Medicating with Alcohol

Self-medicating with alcohol is a fairly common behavior. Many people do not realize they are even doing it. Since alcohol consumption is normalized in our society and used as a means of relaxing or celebrating, some people may not recognize when they are using it to self-medicate. Learn what it means to self-medicate with alcohol, as well as the tight relationship between alcohol and mental health conditions, so you can help yourself or a loved one recognize if alcohol addiction treatment is needed.

Drinking to cope with mental health conditions and symptoms can only lead to more challenges. End this cycle by enrolling in Washburn House’s alcohol rehab in Worcester. You can get in touch by calling 855.298.3104. We look forward to speaking with you.

What Does It Mean to Self-Medicate with Alcohol?

Self-medicating with alcohol means using alcohol to manage symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. Here are a few examples of what self-medication might look like:

  • Drinking to alleviate anxiety in social settings
  • Drinking to deal with grief over the loss of a loved one
  • Consuming alcohol to wind down after a stressful day
  • Using alcohol as a sedative before bed to counter insomnia

As you can see from these examples, the term self-medication refers to a person using alcohol as a means to self-treat a mental or physical health condition. Of course, alcohol is not an appropriate treatment for these conditions, although it can temporarily ease symptoms. Over the long term, alcohol consumption will only make symptoms worse. 

Is There a Relationship between Alcohol and Mental Health Conditions?

There is a strong correlation between alcohol and mental health conditions, and the relationship typically begins in one of two ways:

Alcohol Is Used to Self-Medicate Mental Health Symptoms

When someone has an untreated mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or bipolar disorder, they may not know how to manage their symptoms.

The discomfort can become overwhelming, and alcohol provides a quick, easy escape from emotional distress. Once a person experiences the relief alcohol offers, they may be more likely to reach for the substance whenever symptoms arise.

Alcohol Use Triggers Mental Health Issues

In some cases, a person may not have existing mental health symptoms before alcohol use. Instead, they experience changes in the brain due to alcohol’s interaction with neurotransmitters responsible for pleasurable feelings.

The brain becomes dependent on alcohol to influence these feel-good hormones and becomes less efficient at producing positive feelings on its own. Over time, this can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms.

The Dangers of Self-Medicating with Alcohol

Alcohol can provide a temporary respite from low mood, anxiety, hypervigilance, or other symptoms of mental health disorders, but it is not a good alternative to proper treatment. Self-medicating with alcohol leaves you susceptible to the following:

  • Increased risk of addiction – The longer you use alcohol to cope with a mental health condition, the more likely you are to become dependent on it.
  • Worsened mental health symptoms – Although alcohol may ease your symptoms, the effects are fleeting, and your symptoms will continue to worsen over time.
  • Deterioration of brain health – In addition to changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters, long-term alcohol use can also lead to cognitive impairment, including memory loss, decreased focus, and diminished decision-making ability.
  • Physical health consequences – Self-medicating with alcohol can eventually lead to liver damage, cardiovascular problems, and weakened immunity.

Finding healthier ways to manage mental health symptoms is crucial to protecting yourself from the dangers of self-medicating with alcohol. Addiction treatment will provide you with the tools you need to address mental health symptoms and break free from alcohol dependence.

Call Washburn House to Start Alcohol Rehab in Worcester

Learning about self-medication can be eye-opening and alert you to problematic drinking behaviors. If you discover that you have been using alcohol to self-medicate, consider talking to a professional about whether you may be a good candidate for alcohol rehab. Call Washburn House at 855.298.3104 or reach out online to begin the next, healthier chapter of your life.

Scroll to Top