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Mental Health 101 - What You Need to Know About Self-Medicating and ADHD

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Stressed out millenials, do you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? Are you constantly feeling exhausted and struggling to focus on tasks critical for success in life?

Well, you’re not alone. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and ADHD affect millions of people—especially those in the 18-35 age bracket. Mental health is a tricky thing, and it can be difficult to both recognize potential issues and seek help.

Self-medicating is something many do in an attempt to cope but it rarely addresses the underlying issue while often leading down an even more complicated path.

In this blog post, we’re going to talk about why self-medicating is potentially dangerous, what ADHD looks like in adults, how stimulants are used with adult ADHD treatment, as well as provide some answers on where you can find help if self-medicating has become a habit for you.

With knowledge comes power; read ahead for all that information plus a special free printable journal and additional resources.

The Risk of Self - Medicating

Living with ADHD can be difficult, but self-medicating shouldn't be the solution. While the idea of self-medicating may seem appealing, it's crucial to understand the potential dangers that come with it.

When an individual with ADHD is self-medicating, (the practice of using medications without a doctor’s supervision) they are not receiving the necessary guidance from a medical professional. Without proper guidance and care, individuals may end up taking higher doses than what is necessary for their condition.

This overuse of medication can cause serious side effects including

  • dizziness

  • drowsiness

  • irritability

  • insomnia

  • anxiety.

Additionally, too much medication could lead to dependency or addiction issues if not managed properly.

Self-medication can also lead to misdiagnosis since many other conditions share similar symptoms with ADHD. Furthermore, taking medications without any medical advice makes it difficult to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment being used; this means that symptoms may not improve or even worsen if no one is monitoring them professionally.

Lastly, self-medication increases the risk of dangerous drug interactions which could have serious consequences on an individual's physical health and well being. To avoid these risks associated with self-medication and ensure proper diagnosis and management of ADHD symptoms, it is best to seek help from a medical professional who specializes in ADHD treatment.

ADHD & Self Medicating

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty with executive functioning abilities, such as self-control and inhibition.

People with ADHD may

  • struggle to concentrate and focus on tasks

  • be easily distracted

  • have difficulty sitting still and staying organized

  • suffer from low self-esteem due to their inability to keep up with peers and the expectations of adults.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of ADHD can lead to individuals engaging in risky behaviors or alcohol and drug abuse as a form of self-medicating.

Alcohol and drugs can be used to try to manage the symptoms of ADHD or cope with feelings of anxiety or depression that stem from living with the disorder. Self-medication can also be a way for individuals to try to control their emotions in response to feeling overwhelmed due to not having effective coping skills.

Some people may attempt to use nicotine, marijuana, opioids, stimulants (such as amphetamines), benzodiazepines, or other substances in an effort to reduce the negative effects of ADHD. However, this type of substance abuse can have serious short-term and long-term implications related to physical health, mental health, social relationships, financial security, and more.

It is important to remember that self-medicating does not address the root cause of ADHD and does not provide any real long-term solution for those suffering from the condition. Treatment for ADHD should be sought through counseling, medications, lifestyle changes, and other evidence-based interventions which can help individuals manage their symptoms more effectively in order to lead a healthier life.

Medically Approved Medication for ADHD

Stimulants are a primary medication used to treat adult ADHD. Stimulants are a class of drugs that increase levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain, leading to improved focus and concentration.

The most commonly prescribed stimulants for adult ADHD include

  • amphetamines - Adderall

  • methylphenidate - Concerta, Ritalin, Journay

These medications can be taken orally, or longer-acting forms may be administered through skin patches or injections.

Stimulants work quickly; often providing relief within 30 minutes. They typically last up to 12 hours, but shorter acting forms may need to be taken two or three times throughout the day. When prescribing these stimulant medications, doctors closely monitor the patient’s progress and adjust dosage levels as needed until an optimal effect is achieved.

Stimulants can help improve attention span, reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, improve organization skills and decrease distractibility. Additionally, they can help boost self-esteem by enabling better academic performance in school settings.

While stimulants have proven effective for many adults with ADHD, it is important to remember that medication alone will not cure ADHD.

Stimulant therapy should be supplemented with other treatments such as psychotherapy, lifestyle changes (e.g., healthy diet and exercise), developing a positive attitude towards life and building an environment that promotes personal growth and development.

Rising Perspectives on How to Seek Help

If you have developed the habit of self-medicating, there are a number of resources available to help you. Seeking professional help is the first step in treating your condition properly and safely.

At Rising Perspective Counseling, we specialize in ADHD, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. We offer personalized treatment plans that are tailored to each individual’s specific needs and provide an authentic, educational, and compassionate environment.

Other resources to consider include visiting your local doctor or health professional. They can provide you with the right medications or treatments needed to address your issues effectively. Additionally, joining a support group may be beneficial to helping you cope with difficult feelings or thoughts without having to resort to self-medication as a solution.

Finally, talking with trusted family members or friends can also provide invaluable support and understanding as you work through your issues. Not comfortable talking out loud with someone? Journaling is a great way to process our thoughts and expel negative thoughts. You can download our FREE Accountability Journal below.

Accountability Journal
Download PDF • 767KB

Self-medicating should not be used as a long-term solution for any mental health issue; always consult with a qualified health care professional before deciding on a course of treatment for yourself.

With the right resources and support system in place, it is possible for anyone suffering from mental health conditions to find relief without falling back into unhealthy habits like self-medication.


If you feel this is something you or a loved is struggling with, we encourage you to tap the button below to take advantage of a FREE 20 Minute Online Consultation. Our hope is that this time together will help you decide if we're the right fit to assist you in conquering any obstacles that may come your way.


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