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Although illicit drugs or alcohol can temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms of mental illness, the enduring costs of such self medication far exceed the immediate benefits.

People with mental illness will sometimes self medicate – by taking drugs or alcohol to temporarily reduce negative symptoms of mental illness:

  • A person with depression might use something to feel happier or euphoric, such as cocaine or alcohol
  • A person with mania might use alcohol, to slow down a racing train of thought

Although self medication works in the short term, over the long run, it just makes things worse.

  • In the immediate withdrawal period after use, drugs like cocaine or alcohol can increase feelings of depression and despair, or increase manic thought processes. During this ‘morning after’ stage, people will often turn to alcohol or drugs once again, to start feeling better.
  • The repeated use of alcohol or drugs can easily lead to addiction and a whole new set of problems, and the repeated use of alcohol or drugs also interferes with the effectiveness or medications used to treat mental illness.

Self medication can feel good at first, but it can cost you in the end. 1

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Page last updated Aug 30, 2010

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