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How Can I Stop Hurting?

Dealing With Emotional Pain Without Drugs

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Updated February 03, 2013

There are times when emotional pain is overwhelming, and all you can think of is how you can stop hurting. At these times, drugs such as marijuana, painkillers and alcohol can seem to be effective in reducing emotional pain. This includes opiate-based drugs, which are sometimes prescribed to people for the management of physical pain -- which is exacerbated by emotional pain. However, there are several reasons that using drugs to try and manage emotional pain is not a good idea:

Understand That Drug Use Drives the Addictive Process

By trying to escape your emotional pain through the use of drugs, you are setting yourself up for needing more of the drug once the effect has worn off. Drugs that numb emotional pain as well as physical pain tend to be addictive, both because of the physical dependence that builds up, and the need to keep taking the drug to suppress emotional pain, which exacerbates your physical pain. In fact, learning how to deal with your true feelings, no matter how unpleasant they seem, will liberate you from addiction.

Notice Emotions Tend to Worsen if You Use Drugs to Cope

If, instead of dealing with your feelings, you suppress them with drugs, they will tend to get worse rather than better. Take shame, for example. If you feel badly about something you did or didn’t do, then get drunk to suppress those feelings, there is a good chance you will feel more shame for something embarrassing or ill-judged that you did while you were under the influence. In contrast, facing up to your embarrassment and resolving to understand what you did and why you did it will make it less likely that you will make the same mistake again -- especially if your judgement is not impaired by drugs, so your embarrassment will probably decrease over time.

The Effect of Drugs Is Temporary

Although a drink or dose of opiates might seem to relieve your pain, the effect will only last as long as you are under the influence. As soon as the drink or drug wears off, the emotional pain will come back. Although escaping the pain might seem like the answer, the only way of truly escaping is by facing your pain.

What To Do Instead

So the best thing you can do to avoid developing or worsening an addiction is to deal directly the emotions that burden you. There are many strategies for doing this on your own, but if you need help, you may find that counseling helps. If you seek treatment for an addiction, your therapist will help you to uncover and deal with the emotions underlying your addiction. If you can't afford or don't want to see a therapist, go to the library of bookstore and find a book to help guide you. Books on mindfulness work for any kind of emotional pain.

Get Prescribed Medication For Your Condition

Sometimes emotional pain is caused by a related condition, such as depression or an anxiety disorder. These are not "normal" emotional reactions, and can be effectively treated with medications if properly identified. Anti-depressant medications are not usually addictive, although anti-anxiety medications can be, and all should only be taken as and when prescribed.

Talk to your doctor if you don't feel you can manage your emotions effectively on your own, and they will be able to advise you about whether another kind of medication is right for you. This is much safer and more effective than self medicating with drugs.

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Sources

Caudill, M. Managing Pain Before it Manages You. Third Edition. New York: Guildford. 2009.

Sadler, J. Pain Relief Without Drugs: A Self-Help Guide for Chronic Pain and Trauma. Third Edition. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2007.

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