NShore Patient Advocates, LLC
150 S. Wacker, Ste 2400, Chicago, IL 60606
info@northshorern.com  ·  312-788-2640

The NSPA Blog

Self-Medication: Dangers and Drivers

    [0] => 62
    [1] => 50
    [2] => 51

Posted on May 1st, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Drug Related Adverse Effects, Patient Tools, Prescription Drugs

“In the United States, around 1 out of every 10 people who are at least 12 years old abused an illicit drug in the month leading up to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.”(NSDUH)

And that’s not even counting the legal drugs that are used for self-medicating. People self-medicate for a plethora of reasons. Some don’t even know they’re doing it. But whether it’s mixing medications without consulting a doctor, or engaging in binge drinking to mask they signs of a mental health disorder, it’s important to know the risks of self-medicating, and what drives people to do it.

The risks

  • Mismanaging an undiagnosed, underlying condition – when symptoms persist that could stem from a number of conditions, you should see a doctor. Ibuprofen and other pain relievers may provide temporary relief, but it’s always best to know what’s going on with your body and health.
  • Mixing medications – mixing medications is always risky. This manifests as a huge issue in our current healthcare landscape. When patients see multiple doctors (who usually don’t communicate) they risk adverse drug reactions. There’s also the issue of taking prescription drugs in combination with illicit drugs or alcohol. Often times this risk can be severely dangerous or even fatal.
  • Inaccurate doses and expired medications – when we have more medication than we need to treat a condition, it’s easy to want to hold on to the extras for the next time we need them. This is risky because expiration dates on drugs are put in place for a reason. Once they’re expired, they may lose potency or become unsafe. This leads right into inaccurate doses. Dose recommendations are also put in place for safety reasons. Eyeballing an amount or taking medications until your pain stops is a huge health risk. The current opiod crisis in our country is a direct result.

The drivers

  • Compassion is key – in many instances of self-medicating, substance abuse is involved. While it not make sense from an outsider’s perspective, people with substance abuse issues need compassion above all else. Substance abuse and mental health disorders are both highly stigmatized and judged by society. People with mental health disorders are twice as likely to develop substance abuse issues as their mentally healthy counterparts. With a little compassion, we stand to give these people safe spaces where they may not feel as strong a need to turn to self-medicating.
  • Mistakes – lots of times people don’t mean to self-medicate. It can be a total accident, especially depending on the condition being managed. It’s easy to lose track of pills or remember if we’ve taken our prescriptions on a given day. If this is this case, pill boxes can be a lifesaver!
  • Fear – let’s face it, the American healthcare system is complicated, and can be extremely intimidating. For so many reasons, people don’t trust their doctors or engage in their own health, until it’s too late. Still, people have to participate in their own health to stay healthy. Part of the ACA included free preventive care for this very reason. It’s always better to catch and diagnose a condition and start treating it asap.


We are honored to say this post was featured in the May edition of Aging Insider! Please see below:



With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

For a no-cost 30 minute initial consultation, please call 847-612-6684 or click here to fill out our online callback request form.