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  • Writer's pictureTyler Zuccarelli

Self-Medication and the Cycle of Addiction: Finding Lasting Relief

Many people struggling with mental health challenges like depression, ADHD, anxiety, or PTSD may find themselves turning to drugs or alcohol for relief. This seemingly quick fix, however, often leads down a dangerous path of self-medication and ultimately worsens the very issues it seeks to soothe. At LA Valley Recovery, a leading Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center in Los Angeles, we understand the complex connection between mental health and addiction.

This blog post will explore the self-medication trap, its dangers, and the importance of seeking professional help. We'll also highlight the effectiveness of integrated treatment programs that address both mental health and addiction simultaneously.

The Allure of Self-Medication

Imagine feeling constantly overwhelmed by a wave of negativity. Depression weighs heavy, anxiety tightens your chest, or past traumas replay in your mind, causing debilitating flashbacks. Daily tasks become insurmountable, and social interaction feels draining. In the midst of this emotional turmoil, substances like drugs and alcohol can appear as a beacon of hope. They offer a seductive escape, a temporary numbing of the emotional pain.

For someone struggling with mental health challenges, the initial relief provided by substances can be incredibly powerful. Alcohol might create a sense of euphoria, momentarily lifting the crushing weight of depression. Drugs might offer a feeling of calm, silencing the constant chatter of anxiety. This deceptive sense of control can be highly appealing. It feels like a solution–in the moment–or a way to cope and function in a world that seems overwhelming. 

This isn't always the case, though.  Many addicts go straight for the hard stuff. Knowing damn well that there will be conquests but the fact that, for a few hours, they can get “out of their heads” to escape the torment of their minds, means more to them in the moment. 

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), these are the potential risks of self-medication practices include: 

  • delays in seeking medical advice when needed

  • incorrect self-diagnosis

  • infrequent but severe adverse reactions

  • dangerous drug interactions

  • incorrect manner of administration

  • incorrect dosage

  • incorrect choice of therapy

  • masking of a severe disease 

  • risk of dependence and abuse

The allure of self-medication is a dangerous illusion. While substances may offer temporary relief, they do not address the underlying emotional issues. They don't heal the wounds or provide healthy coping mechanisms. Instead, they create dependency, a need for the substance to maintain that initial sense of control, and often more issues than before. This can quickly lead down a destructive path, worsening the very problems it was meant to solve.

The Downward Spiral of Self-Medication

All is good until you run out, until you can’t find more, until you notice that this thing, this substance, was controlling you more than you thought.  We (addicts) often notice this, and instead of going straight for help, the chemical dependencies in our brains are already waaaay stronger than we can fight off.  Making us choose the drug over basically, anything else.  

The deceptive nature of self-medication lies in its creation of a vicious cycle. While substances may initially offer a temporary escape from emotional distress, they don't address the root cause of the mental health issue.

It's like putting a band-aid on a deep cut – it might provide some initial relief, but it won't heal the wound. 

Over time, as the body and mind become accustomed to the effects of the substance, dependence develops. Tolerance increases, meaning you need more and more of the substance to achieve the same level of relief. This can lead to a significant increase in consumption, putting a strain on nearly every aspect of your daily life.

The problem doesn't stop there. The very substances used to cope with negative emotions can actually worsen them. Drugs and alcohol discrupt the brain's natural chemistry, leading to intensified anxiety, and depression, and even triggering new mental health issues. This creates a desperate need for even more of the substance to numb the amplified emotions, further deepening the cycle of addiction.

The downward spiral continues. Social interactions and work performance suffer as the addiction takes hold. Physical health deteriorates due to the negative effects of the substances. Relationships crumble under the strain of addiction's secrecy and consequences. The life that was initially meant to be "improved" through self-medication becomes increasingly unmanageable.

This downward spiral can seem unstoppable, but it's important to remember that there is hope for recovery. With professional help and integrated treatment programs, individuals can break free from the cycle of self-medication and rebuild a healthy, fulfilling life.

Breaking the Cycle: Seeking Professional Help

Some people with mental illness develop it as a result of their compulsive drug use, and some may take drugs to alleviate their symptoms.  Regardless if you have a mental illness alongside substance abuse—they both need to receive treatment simultaneously.  There could be something else going on that has caused both conditions rather than one causing the other.


Our Los Angeles dual-diagnosis treatment program is designed to help patients overcome their addiction and cope with underlying issues. An essential element of our approach includes identifying these personal problems and developing a long-term plan for successful treatment and aftercare.

Over 40% of people struggling with substances abuse are also dealing with mental health disorders such as anxiety, trauma or depression, also known as co-occurring disorders


We treat several co-occurring mental disorders, including but not limited to: depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, and OCD.  Our clinical team will help identify and treat any undiagnosed mental illness so that all barriers to success in recovery are removed.  Through individualized therapy and group sessions, you can expect to urn how to manage both addiction and mental illness in a safe and judgment-free setting.

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-medication or addiction, professional help is crucial. Here at LA Valley Recovery, we offer comprehensive Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles that addresses both the addiction and the underlying mental health condition.

Integrated treatment programs combine evidence-based addiction therapies with mental health interventions. This holistic approach allows individuals to heal from the root cause of their addiction while developing healthy coping mechanisms for managing their mental health challenges.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and self-medication, don't hesitate to reach out. At LA Valley Recovery, we understand the challenges you face, and we're here to help. We offer a variety of Addiction Treatment Programs in Los Angeles tailored to meet your individual needs.

Contact LA Valley Recovery Today to receive the help you or your loved one needs today!

We offer a free and confidential assessment to determine the best course of treatment for you.

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