If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line or call 911: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or Text 838255

The Risks of Self-Medicating

Imagine you strain your back while loading heavy equipment. You’re in pain and that ibuprofen isn’t working, so you look through your friend’s bathroom for prescription drugs. Does self-medicating sound like something you or a buddy would do?

What is self-medicating?

Self-medicating is selecting and using prescription drugs to treat a concern without talking to or seeing your health care provider. This is illegal and considered prescription drug misuse. When a Service member takes a medication without a valid prescription, they run the risk of popping positive on a drug test and may face serious legal consequences.

Why do Service members self-medicate?

Service members may face unique concerns, and, in the moment, it might seem easier to self-medicate. These concerns may include:

  • Fear about reporting injuries or conditions, such as trouble sleeping, that can affect your deployability
  • Time it takes for a health care visit and/or treatment
  • Denial that you need help
  • Fear of having a serious illness or condition
  • Unsuccessful treatment for the same problem you’ve had in the past
  • Fear of being seen as weak

Why not self-medicate?

Self-medicating carries serious risk for your health and career. If you choose to self-medicate, you risk:

  • Delaying proper treatment or diagnosis.
  • Taking the wrong medicine, which can cause serious side effects or even death.
  • Mixing a prescription drug your health care provider has given you with another medication can lead to drug interactions and serious health risks.
  • Harming your career with a positive drug test and no valid prescription.
  • Becoming addicted to a prescription pain medication. Self-medicating with certain drugs, such as opioids or sleeping pills, can increase the risk of addiction.

Self-medicating for an injury or a symptom, whether it is physical or psychological, may seem to work in the short-term. But there are safer ways to address concerns. Consider other options like making an appointment with your health care provider or calling the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line or call 911: 1-800-273-8255, press 1 or Text 838255