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self-medicating for pain

The Dangers of Self-Medicating to Deal With Pain

Pain is difficult to live with, and depending on the source, it can impact all aspects of your life. There is a high correlation between chronic pain and substance use disorders. People who suffer from chronic pain look for easily accessible ways to counteract it. Self-medicating may bring temporary relief. However, over time, it could create more problems and even worsen the underlying condition, leading you to experience higher pain levels. You should always get advice from your doctor before taking anything, including natural treatments and over-the-counter medications. 

A 2016 article describing research from Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine stated that approximately 87% of people who self-medicate do it because they are trying to find relief from chronic pain. A third of study participants reported “both severe pain and severe pain-related dysfunction.” Chronic pain is also known to increase the risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. 

What Counts as Self-Medicating? 

Self-medicating is treating yourself by taking any substance, including herbs, prescription medications, illegal substances, alcohol, or home remedies, without consulting a doctor. You may be taking these things to stop an unwanted symptom or side effect producing pain or extreme discomfort. Whatever you take has the potential to cause temporary or permanent harm if you are not under the care of a medical professional. 

Some people even consider eating disorders a type of self-medicating where they use comfort food to deal with unwanted, painful, or strong emotions. Anything you use to treat a medical condition without the advice of a medical professional might be considered self-medicating. The problem with self-medicating is that you are not always going to be aware of how certain substances will interact with prescribed medications, certain foods, or other things you may be taking. There is always a risk that you will accidentally harm yourself by taking too much of a substance, even one you might believe is harmless. 

What are the Possible Risks? 

There are always risks associated with taking any substance without the advice of a medical professional. Not even natural remedies or supplements are entirely safe to take without consulting a doctor. Self-medicating is especially dangerous for treating pain. Common risks associated with self-medication include the following: 

  • Developing a dependence
  • Adverse drug or food interactions
  • Tolerance build-up can lead to an accidental overdose
  • It may mask a severe illness or disorder
  • Rare and severe side effects may occur
  • You may not be aware of dosage limitations and accidentally overdose
  • Withdrawal effects might appear if you build up a tolerance or stop taking it suddenly

You can lower the risks associated with any substance by speaking with your doctor and always following instructions and dosage limitations that come with the product. In instances where you have self-diagnosed, it is essential to talk with a doctor because you may have an underlying health condition that requires immediate treatment. By self-medicating and not verifying the diagnosis, you could mask a severe illness or injury until it is too late to be treated. 

How to Get Help 

The first thing you should do if you have been self-medicating to manage chronic pain is to immediately inform your doctor or care provider. Depending on what you have been taking, there may be a withdrawal period when you stop taking it, and your medical provider can help you get the treatment you need. You can also use therapeutic techniques to learn new coping skills that will improve your quality of life.

Healthy Coping Skills for Dealing With Pain 

You can learn methods for coping with chronic pain using various forms of therapy. There are also physical treatments you can try to lessen the level of pain you are experiencing. You will need to work with a doctor to determine which approach will work best for your medical history and current injury, illness, or disability. Below are a few that you might find helpful:

  • Physical therapy
  • Animal therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • Meditation

Do I Need to Disclose My Self-Medicating?

You should always disclose any substances that you are taking to your medical provider. There may be drug interactions or other considerations that you might not even be aware of, and they can help determine if you may have taken something dangerous. If you want to try natural methods instead of prescription medication to treat your pain, then a doctor can always advise you on the safest way to do that. You will want to inform your doctor of the following things:

  • What you have been taking
  • What dosage you have been taking 
  • How long you have been taking it
  • Any side effects you may have noticed 

When in recovery, there are few things as inherently dangerous as self-medicating. There may be side effects and drug interactions that you know nothing about, leading to adverse side effects and possibly even severe injury or death. Self-medicating is a dangerous thing, and you should never take any substance to treat chronic pain without first speaking with a doctor. Even natural remedies can lead to an adverse reaction or an overdose if you take it in too high of a quantity. The best way to treat chronic pain is to develop coping skills and get treatment advice from a certified medical professional. Everlast Recovery Centers knows how hard it can be to live in constant pain, and we want to help you get the treatment you need while also encouraging and supporting your recovery efforts. To learn more about our services and how we can help, call Everlast Recovery Centers today at (866) 338-6925.

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