Clear-Cut Signs Someone You Love is Self-Medicating and Why

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someone self-medicating with pills

In this day and age, we are constantly being bombarded by expectations. Those we set for ourselves, those that have been set by our families and loved ones, and those that we feel society places on us.

It can be a pretty heavy load to bear sometimes. Not to mention, adding in any medical ailments we might come along on our journey through lives.

That being said, it is pretty common for people to start to self-medicate. While the advancement of western medicine over the last century has been a Godsend for so many different diseases and medical conditions, the influx of over the counter and prescription medications have started to become a quick remedy to take the edge off of life for a lot of people.

But where does the line blur between taking medicine, and SELF-MEDICATING, and how can we tell if our loved ones are taking it overboard?

What is Self-Medicating?

Primarily, self-medicating is when someone uses personal remedies of comfort to ease any sort of physical or mood disorder. It is commonly associated with people who are knowingly or unknowingly suffering from depression but can also be common among people with chronic pain, anxiety issues, etc. These people, for any of the several reasons listed below, don’t receive professional help for their issues, thus, taking matters into their own hands.

  • Unaware that there is a problem: our society has a limited education plan around mental illness and physical injuries. Many people are uninformed about what the symptoms of these issues can look like, thus, not knowing that they have a problem.
  • Guilt, Shame, Embarrassment: For some reason, it seems that the US has a general lack of compassion around mental and physical illness. Due to lack of education, many people feel uncomfortable discussing it, and it often gets ignored or brushed under the rug.
  • Don’t know where to turn: Again, the issue with uninformed communities, is that even when there is a problem, many people don’t know where to get help for it, or don’t think they have the means to do so. Many people assume that help comes in the form of long hours of therapy, or an extended stay in a mental hospital, which is most often not the case.

Different Types of Self Medicating

Not everyone finds comfort in the same things. For example, while some people can turn to a pill or a bottle, other people find more comfort in sleep or in food. If you are looking for signs or symptoms of self-medication in a loved one, you have to keep an eye out for behaviors that you know they find soothing or to be most effective.

Binge Eating

People that find comfort in food as a means to combat their feelings of mental instability, whether from depression, anxiety, or physical distress.

  • Result – for those people who have previously struggled with their weight in the past, or for those who may gain weight due to their bingeing, this can create heightened levels of mental instability, i.e, more depression and anxiety about their weight, and a further decrease in physical shape.
  • Note: not everyone who eats for comfort struggles with binge eating, it is only when the person’s mental state goes into further turmoil due to the eating.


We’ve all seen those articles online that say, “One glass of beer or wine a day can help with depression and health!” Studies have actually shown this to possibly be true, however, when the drinking becomes problematic for the person’s daily routine, it can lead to addiction.

  • Result: Excessive drinking can lead to addiction, which can seriously deplete healthy mental activity and physical condition. The long-term effects on the body and mind of an alcoholic are lengthy and can be seriously detrimental.
  • Note: Not everyone who drinks heavily is an alcoholic, however, if you notice your loved one continues to drink despite negative consequences in their life, it can be wise to seek outside advice.

prescription pill bottles

Prescription and OTC Drugs

Using pharmaceutical medicines to help alleviate chronic pain or symptoms of mental disorders, to the point of excess.

Result: The tricky thing here is that many people who abuse prescription medications have been prescribed to them by a doctor. Therein, validating the rationale that they are not bad and cannot be abused.

Many people who have one prescription for a mood disorder, often have multiples to combat the side effects or to attack different areas of the brain, this can lead to overmedication and abuse pretty easily.

Illegal Drugs

For many people, access to prescription drugs is either more expensive or the illegal drugs came into the picture first, so a person can use these in any of their forms to soothe their mental or physical distress.

Anything from opiates to cocaine, to marijuana, can be used, and are usually pretty easily obtained, and sometimes cheaper, than prescription medications.

There is a high rate of addiction associated with these drugs, which will result in even more severe symptoms of the mental or mood disorders, and a prolonged recovery process for any physical ailments such as chronic pain.

What to Look for in your Loved One

Just like how each person finds comfort in different tools of medication, people will show varied traits if there is a problem. For example, some people can function normally, going about their day, especially once a tolerance has been built up. For others, self-medicating can hit them hard, and can drastically decrease their day to day functioning.

  1. If you notice that your loved one is isolating, lying, manipulating, running out of money often, and experiencing worsening symptoms and mood swings, there might be an issue with addiction to their medication technique.
  2. If you find that the person uses one thing every time they become distressed, emotional, sickly, tired, or even happy, those can also be signs of abuse.
  3. If despite warnings from doctors or loved ones, they still turn to these methods in those hard times and don’t wish to look for other alternatives, a chemical dependency can be building up and worsening quickly.

The best way to approach these situations is with love, compassion, and understanding. If your loved one has been struggling for a while, and calm talks don’t seem to work anymore, it could be wise to seek outside help.

Getting Sober With Restore

At the end of the day, some of us require a bit of additional help before comfortably moving into any type of sober residence. Addiction will show up at your door with both barrels blazing and it’s up to us as the alcoholics we are to know how to handle it appropriately. Nobody wants to be victim to this disease. It’s on us to get clean while the getting is good.  If you or your loved one is ready to leave substance dependency behind and start a new way of life, please call 1-800-982-5530 or visit Our teams of specialists are waiting by to explore your options with a drug detox center.

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