Self-Medicating with Dual Diagnosis

Understanding the Risks of Self-Medication in Dual Diagnosis

If you’ve got a dual diagnosis, you should know you’re not alone. Dual diagnosis means you’re dealing with both a substance use disorder and a mental health issue at the same time. This can make treatment a bit more complicated because you have to take care of both problems. It’s important to get help from a doctor or a therapist instead of trying to fix it on your own. They know the best ways to help you get better.

You might feel like you want to ease your mental health symptoms on your own. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, or even some medications for relief. But doing this can bring up more problems. Self-medicating is risky, and it can complicate your situation further. In this article, we’ll explain why self-medicating, especially when you have a dual diagnosis, can be dangerous and why it’s better to seek help.

What is Dual Diagnosis? 

As mentioned above, dual diagnosis means someone is dealing with both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse problem at the same time. This can look different for everyone. For instance, someone might be struggling with depression, anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder, and they might be facing challenges with more than one of these mental health issues.

At the same time, they might be using substances like drugs or alcohol, sometimes more than one kind, as part of their addiction. The reasons behind a dual diagnosis are varied, and the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse can be complex. Sometimes, using substances might lead to mental health problems, or someone might start using these substances to cope with existing mental health issues.

Treating a dual diagnosis usually involves a mix of different therapies and treatment plans that focus on both issues at the same time. The goal of these treatments is to help reduce your reliance on substances, manage your mental health symptoms better, and improve your overall well-being.

What is Self-Medication?

Self-medication is when an individual chooses to use medication or other substances to help relieve their symptoms. This is done without the help or guidance of a professional. There are many reasons people might choose to self-medicate, including:

Choosing Unconventional Methods for Symptom Relief

Some people try to ease their symptoms in ways that doctors wouldn’t recommend, like using drugs or alcohol. They might do this because they think it will help, without getting advice from a healthcare professional. For example, someone might drink alcohol or use drugs to feel better when they’re anxious or depressed.

Concerns About Healthcare Costs

Healthcare and medications can be costly, and not everyone has extra money for these expenses. So, some people might decide to treat themselves instead of paying for professional treatments. This might seem like it saves money at first, but it can lead to bigger problems later on.

Hesitation to Discuss Issues with Healthcare Providers

Also, some people might feel too shy or embarrassed to discuss their symptoms and problems with a healthcare provider. Instead, they might determine what’s wrong and treat themselves based on their own research and understanding.

The Risks of Self-Medication in Dual Diagnosis

Self-medicating when you have a dual diagnosis can be risky and affect both your physical and mental health in the short and long term. Here are some of the risks involved:

Choosing the Wrong Medication

If you try to diagnose and treat yourself, there’s a chance you might misunderstand your symptoms or pick a treatment that doesn’t suit your needs. Using the wrong medication can make your condition worse or even cause severe reactions.

Increasing Dependence on Substances

When you self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to relieve symptoms, you might start relying more and more on these substances. This can lead to physical health problems and make your existing mental health issues more complicated.

Masking Underlying Issues

By self-medicating, you might just be covering up the real problems behind your mental health condition. This can make your condition worse or prolong it because you’re not getting the right treatment.

Risk of Dangerous Side Effects

If you’re already taking prescribed medication and you add other substances to the mix, you could end up with dangerous side effects. There’s also the risk of allergic reactions or using something that your doctor wouldn’t recommend, which could have the opposite effect of what you need.

Take the First Step Towards Healing

The temptation to self-medicate when facing a dual diagnosis is understandable. However, the risks of self-medication far outweigh the temporary relief it might provide. Remember, choosing the path of professional dual diagnosis treatment is not just about managing symptoms—it’s about addressing the root causes of your struggles and embarking on a journey toward lasting recovery and well-being.

If you or someone you know is navigating the complexities of a dual diagnosis, it’s important to reach out for professional help. The Massachusetts Center for Addiction is here to support you every step of the way. Our team of experts understands the unique challenges of dual diagnosis and is equipped with the knowledge and compassion to guide you toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Don’t let the hurdles of dual diagnosis hold you back. Contact the Massachusetts Center for Addiction today, and take the first step on your path to recovery. Your health, your well-being, and your future are worth it.

MCA Staff
Written By

MCA Staff

The Massachusetts Center for Addiction expert staff is dedicated to helping individuals overcome... Read More

Contact Us



1515 Hancock Street, Suite 300
Quincy, MA 02169

Phone Number

24/7 Support

Start your recovery with
Massachusetts Center for Addiction

Our team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call today and begin your journey toward long-term recovery.

MCA Contact Form