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Risks of Self-Medicating for Depression

Risks of Self-Medicating for Depression

Feelings of sadness and experiencing grief are normal human emotions. Every person has those dark moments throughout their life, but usually, those feelings dissipate relatively quickly. On the other hand, major depression, or a depressive disorder, is more severe and potentially debilitating. Depression is a diagnosable condition classified as a mood disorder. With it can come long-term symptoms, including overwhelming sadness, low energy, loss of appetite, and a complete loss of interest in the activities and hobbies you once found joyful. Sadly, self-medication for depression is common as affected individuals try to get through each day. If you or someone you love shows signs of depression or self-medication, contact Greater Boston Addiction Centers (GBAC) to learn about our depression treatment program and our prescription drug rehab in Massachusetts. Contact GBAC online or call 877.920.6583 today to get the professional help you need and deserve.

How Does Self-Medicating Work?

Self-medicating is the name given to using medications or substances like drugs and alcohol to treat symptoms or conditions that you have self-diagnosed without the skilled assistance of a trained healthcare professional. If you or someone you care about is struggling with self-medication and addiction, treatment centers offer the following programs to help:

  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders

Those who self-medicate for depression may experience substance abuse or addiction. A professional depression treatment program can help.


Self-medicating by drinking alcohol is extremely common, thanks mainly to being readily available and a generally accepted practice making it easy to blend in with the crowd. While alcohol might temporarily reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, drinking excessively as your body becomes tolerant of certain consumption levels could lead to alcohol abuse, dependency, and alcoholism. Drinking alcohol to alleviate clinical depression is not an effective treatment.


In the United States, marijuana has been legalized in some states for both recreational and medical use. Although opinions on the matter are still divided, evidence suggests self-medicating with marijuana can effectively treat depression. However, it is essential to note that self-medication should never replace professional help from a mental health or addiction specialist. Additionally, due to its illegal status in many states and countries, self-medication with marijuana may have legal repercussions depending on the location of use. Therefore, individuals considering self-medicating with marijuana must understand their local laws.

The United Nations has identified marijuana as the most widely used substance among people suffering from depression. While research is showing mixed results on the effectiveness and potential benefits of using the drug to lessen the symptoms of depression, self-medicating with pot without the consultation of a medical professional may make your depression worse in the long run.


Many depressed people turn to what’s in the freezer, refrigerator, and pantry to cope with their condition. While “eating your feelings” might get laughs on social media, using food to self-medicate for depression has potentially harmful effects. Regularly eating and over-eating to cope with the sadness and grief may ultimately lead to the following:

  • Unhealthy weight gain
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Digestive issues
  • Overeating disorder
  • Painful self-criticism
  • Self-loathing due to self-image issues

These behaviors can also harm your physical health. Unfortunately, people struggling with depression can quickly turn to self-medication as an alternative to seeking professional help, and the risks could be life-threatening.

What Are the Risks of Self-Medication for Depression?

When people self-medicate with harmful and addictive substances for mental health conditions that have yet to be diagnosed, it can be challenging to determine which disorder was present first, the mental health issue or the addiction. This is because a person’s depression can often be exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, making it an unsafe practice.

Some of the risks of self-medication for depression include the following:

  • Incorrect self-diagnosis
  • Delaying proper treatment
  • Harmful reactions to the substances
  • Worsening the depression
  • Dangerous drug interactions
  • Masking other diseases
  • Risk of developing a dependency
  • Risk of substance abuse

Failing to treat depression properly is risky as it affects how a person acts in everyday relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Improper depression treatment may increase the chance of self-harm or causing harm to others.

Learn How to Spot Signs of Depression and Self-Medication at Greater Boston Addiction Centers

Understanding why you or someone you love might be self-medicating can be the first step to ensuring they get the medical help they need to overcome and recover from addiction or a mental health condition properly. Learn how treatment at Greater Boston Addiction Centers can be the starting point for reshaping the rest of a person’s life. Contact GBAC today at 877.920.6583 to learn more.