Self-Medicating to Deal with Stress: Why This Isn’t a Good Idea
by Sara Stringer
Stress is a fact of life. No matter what your financial status, race, or gender, at some point or another you’re bound to be faced with the challenges of stress. The trouble with stress is not necessarily stress itself, but a person’s inability to cope with it effectively. More common than not, people dealing with high levels of stress look to drugs or alcohol as a solution. Though this type of self medication may offer some temporary relief, at the end of the day it causes a lot more harm than good.
What is Stress?
Stress is one of those terms that is easy to comprehend but hard to define. While you may be able to provide examples of the stresses in your life, you probably cannot describe exactly what it is. In essence, stress is subjective. People may not agree on what is considered stressful and what isn’t. For example, someone can be stressed by parenthood, while another person could be stressed by the pressures of having to speak publicly before a group of their peers.
So what does it mean to be stressed? It is best defined as the mental strain of dealing with adverse or highly demanding circumstances in life. Believe it or not, stress is essential for survival. It is in the most stressful situations that our bodies release chemicals that send our brains into a fight or flight response. It helps us to react in times of need and can also help us to prepared for important events.
Abusing Substances to Cope with Stress
Taking a drink or utilizing certain substances might seem like the only way to deal with the stressors in your life. Alcohol and certain substances can act as depressants therefore producing a calming effect on the body. This then gives you the feeling that you’ve escaped your issues. The only problem is that the stresses are still there once the substance or alcohol wears off. In turn, people take more and more substances or alcohol as a means for masking their true emotions. This, however, is a dangerous cycle.
Dangers of Using Alcohol and Drugs While Dealing with Stress
It may seem at the time like a quick fix to any problems you may have going on, but using any drugs or alcohol in excess can lead to dangers.
Addiction – When trying to mask the reactions to stress with drugs or alcohol, over time the body becomes used to dosages. As a result, you need to use more substances or drink more alcohol as a method for coping. Eventually, the brain begins to think it needs these substances to survive, which causes addiction. If you feel as though you’ve become addicted to drugs or alcohol it is important to seek professional help from an addiction therapist. They can help to treat your chronic stress along with addiction for an overall improved quality of life.
Increased Stress – Substance abuse and alcohol addiction will always lead to increased turmoil in your life. Addiction and abuse can lead to stresses that include: loss of employment, loss of important family relationships, financial difficulties, and even legal issues. The increased amount of stress can lead to increased substance abuse which can then begin to impact your health.
Educating yourself on stress, what your triggers are, and how to best deal with it are the most effective solutions to getting through some of life’s most challenging moments. While it may seem simpler to use substances or alcohol as a means for masking your issues, don’t make this mistake as it is only temporary and can lead to more adverse circumstances in your life. If you’ve found comfort or relief in the use of alcohol or substances, get help from a professional before things get worse.
About the Author
Sara Stringer is freelance writer who enjoys writing about natural health alternatives. In her spare time, she enjoys maintaining an active lifestyle through swimming and practicing yoga.