The Myth of Self-Medication: How Temporary Relief Can Lead to Long Term Consequences

The biggest problem I see that keeps those suffering from addiction from getting help is that they succumb to their distorted beliefs regarding the perceived futility of seeking help.
— Dr. Christopher E. Lord, Dilworth Center Medical Director

You take a deep breath. Something catches in your chest. Your lungs refuse to fill with air. Exhale. Try again. And again. Your heart starts to race. Slow down, you tell yourself. Is this another panic attack? Your hand searches blindly for the bottle on the table in front of you. Your fingers finally grasp the glass neck. You bring it to your lips, taking greedy gulps of the warming liquid.

The panic recedes as the fire in your chest grows. Your thoughts begin to slow. Your chest fills with air. Timidly, you take your first full breath. You stand on wobbly legs and walk out the door, ready to take on the once simple trip to the grocery store.

Here at Dilworth Center, we hear stories like this every day. In fact, about 92% of patients receiving treatment for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Which is why we believe that treating co-occurring disorders on parallel paths is crucial to long-term recovery and overall well-being.

To those suffering from mental health conditions, like anxiety or depression, being trapped in a storm of worry, fear, and panic is a part of everyday life. On good days, just leaving the house is a monumental effort. On bad days, getting out of bed seems impossible.

Despite increasing public awareness of mental health conditions, individuals continue to struggle to find help for their afflictions. Unfortunately, many still believe people with anxiety just need to ‘relax’ or those suffering from depression need to ‘cheer up.’

So, many look for relief anywhere they can find it, leading to the discovery that drugs and alcohol offer a brief respite from the mental chaos that their illness brings.

In this case, self-medicating can often make the symptoms worse. While substances like alcohol and marijuana temporarily alleviate the overwhelming panic of anxiety or the unbearable weight of depression, there is often a ‘whiplash effect.’ Symptoms of their mental health condition snap back into focus significantly worse than before as withdrawal exacerbates the effects. This can lead to an endless cycle of substance abuse, mental anguish, and over time, possibly addiction.

At Dilworth Center, we understand that these co-occurring disorders often complicate the treatment and recovery process for both mental health conditions and substance use disorders. That’s why we’re committed to providing holistic and comprehensive treatment for addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders.

Our services include programs for adolescents, young adults, adults, families, and professionals. Additionally, we offer post-treatment relapse prevention to give our patients the tools and community to navigate mental health and recovery.

Our initial assessment guarantees that we tailor recovery programs to the needs of every individual with our treatment philosophy centering around clear and transparent communication.

We provide the tools for those suffering from co-occurring disorders to get sober and stay sober. Dilworth Center alumni maintain an industry-leading 80% sobriety rate after two years (click the link to view more information about Dilworth Center's involvement in the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers outcomes measurement study). We don’t just give our patients the ability to survive without drugs and alcohol. We give them the resources to thrive without drugs and alcohol.