Self-medication is the use of drugs, sometimes illicit, to treat a perceived or real malady, often of a psychological nature.

Over-the-counter drugs are a form of self medication. The buyer diagnoses his/her own illness and buys a specific drug to treat it. The World Self-Medication Industry (WSMI) define self-medication as "the treatment of common health problems with medicines especially designed and labeled for use without medical supervision and approved as safe and effective for such use."

A person may also self-medicate by taking more or less than the recommended dose of a drug.

Some mental illness sufferers attempt to correct their illnesses by use of certain drugs. Depression, for example, is notorious for being a trigger of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or other mind-altering drug use. While this may provide immediate relief of some symptoms such as anxiety, it may evoke and/or exacerbate some symptoms of several kinds of mental illnesses that are already latently present, and may lead to addiction/dependence, among other side effects of long-term use of the drug. The theory that drug dependence or addiction results from self-medication for the distress caused by a pre-existing condition was introduced in 1974 by David F. Duncan and Edward J. Khantzian in independent publications. This theory has come to be known as the self-medication hypothesis. For example, sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder are prone to self-medication, as well as many individual without this diagnosis which have suffered from (mental) trauma.

Occasionally an individual will attempt self-medication for physical illnesses. For example, it is believed that Kurt Cobain's use of heroin partially stemmed from a painful stomach condition.

The current phenomenon in many Western societies of the widespread usage of vitamins, herbs, and other over-the-counter "supplements"--usually without the advice, supervision, or even knowledge of any licensed health professional--is another possible example of self-medication. Some observers of health behavior and medical affairs have speculated that this trend may arise from the desire of laymen to feel more in control of their own health--rather than relying on the traditional medical establishment, whose motives are sometimes seen as suspect. The extraordinary increases in the cost of traditional health care in recent decades--doctors, hospitals, prescriptions, etc.-- causes some individuals to desperately try to find more affordable alternatives to treat or prevent their own afflictions.


* Achalu, ED (2002).The self-medication hypothesis: a review of the two major theories and the research evidence. SMH: Recent Developments on the Self-Medication Hypothesis, 1(10), id1. []
* Blenkinsopp A, Bradley C (1996). Over the counter drugs: the future for self medication. British Medical Journal, 312, 835.
* Duncan DF (1974a). Reinforcement of drug abuse: Implications for prevention. Clinical Toxicology Bulletin, 4(2), 69.
* Duncan DF (1974b). [ Drug abuse as a coping mechanism.] American Journal of Psychiatry, 131(6), 724.
* Duncan DF (1975).The acquisition, maintenance and treatment of polydrug dependence: A public health model. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, 7(2), 201.
* Frances RJ (1997). The wrath of grapes versus the self-medication hypothesis. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 4(5), 287.
* Hughes CM, McElnay JC, Fleming GF (2001). Benefits and risks of self medication. Drug Safety, 24, 1027
* Khantzian EJ (1985). [ The self-medication hypothesis of addictive disorders: focus on heroin and cocaine dependence.] American Journal of Psychiatry, 142(11), 1259.
* Khantzian EJ (1990) Self-regulation and self-medication factors in alcoholism and the addictions. similarities and differences. Recent Developments in Alcoholism, 8, 255.
* Khantzian EJ (1997). The self-medication hypothesis of substance use disorders: a reconsideration and recent applications. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 4(5), 231.
* Khantzian, EJ, Mack JE, Schatzberg AF (1974). [ Heroin use as an attempt to cope: clinical observations.] American Journal of Psychiatry, 131(2), 160.
* Wazaify M, Shields E, Hughes CM, McElnay JC (2005). [ Societal perspectives on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.] Family Practice, 22: 170.

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  • self-medication — self med·i·ca·tion .med ə kā shən n medication of oneself esp. without the advice of a physician: SELF TREATMENT <self medication with nonprescription drugs> …   Medical dictionary

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  • self-medication — /self med i kay sheuhn/, n. the use of medicine without medical supervision to treat one s own ailment. * * * …   Universalium

  • self-medication — self′ medica′tion n. med pha the use of medicine without medical supervision to treat one s own ailment • Etymology: 1940–45 …   From formal English to slang

  • self-medication — noun Medication of oneself without professional advice in order to treat a real or imagined condition. See Also: self medicator …   Wiktionary

  • self-medication — /sɛlf mɛdəˈkeɪʃən/ (say self meduh kayshuhn) noun the use of medication or drugs to treat a perceived ailment, the person suffering the ailment making their own choice of remedy …  

  • self-medication — ¦ ̷ ̷ ˌ ̷ ̷  ̷ ̷ ¦ ̷ ̷  ̷ ̷ noun : medication of oneself especially without the advice of a physician • self medicate ˈ ̷ ̷ ˈ ̷ ̷  ̷ ̷ ˌ ̷ ̷ verb …   Useful english dictionary

  • World Self-Medication Industry — (WSMI) Zweck: Interessensvertretung von Unternehmen aus dem Bereich OTC Arzneimittel und Nahrungsergänzungsmittel Vorsitz: Christopher Combe (USA) Gründungsdatum: 1970 Mitgliederzahl: 55 Sitz …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • self-medicate — self med·i·cate med ə .kāt vb, cat·ed; cat·ing vt to treat by self medication <the patient had attempted to self medicate depression> vi to treat oneself by self medication <patients with dental pain often self medicate with… …   Medical dictionary

  • self-med|i|ca|tion — «SEHLF MEHD uh KAY shuhn», noun. 1. the act of taking medicines without the advice of a doctor: »Many compounded the mischief by harmful self medication, especially with laxatives (Time). 2. the proper medical treatment of oneself, in the absence …   Useful english dictionary

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