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.