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Self-Harm and Addiction

Self-harm and addiction, unfortunately often go hand-in-hand.  Fundamentally, addiction and substance abuse itself is a form of self-harm, so just by abusing drugs and alcohol one is already setting oneself up for a grim and dismal future.  When a person abuses drugs and alcohol those substances take a pretty heavy toll on not only his or her body, but on his or her mind as well.  Drug and alcohol abuse by itself creates a pretty heavy effect on an individual’s body; witness the sores of meth abuse, the weight loss and poor health of a heroin addict, and the sunken, depleted physique of a pills junkie.

To exacerbate the situation, substance abuse also has a highly diminishing and dangerous effect on the mind of an individual.  He or she will experience all of the worst emotions imaginable, all of which could be emotions that might be experienced on a day to day basis, but are now experienced ten times worse than that because of addiction and substance abuse.  Doing drugs and abusing alcohol totally offsets dopamine levels, serotonin levels, and endorphins in the human brain, and this is in a large part what contributes to such serious mental shifts that come about as a result of substance abuse.

A buildup of emotions like frustration, anger, self-loathing, depression and anxiety can cause someone to seek an outlet through self-mutilation or through some form of masochism.  A common misconception and misunderstanding is to lump suicidal behavior with this deliberate self-harm, sometimes referred to as DSH and other times as NSSI, i.e. non-suicidal self-injury. They are, however, not the same and should be considered separately because not all addicts who seek to harm themselves ever want to actually take their own lives.  So what exactly is self-harm?  From the dictionary:

“Self-harm, or self-mutilation, is defined as a self-inflicted and deliberate injury to the body tissue that causes pain, bruising or bleeding without any suicidal intent and not for purposes that are considered socially acceptable like tattooing or body piercing.”

The Difference Between Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideation

Self-harm is essentially when individuals deliberately and intentionally hurt themselves so as to get some kind of satisfaction.  Especially while high, this can apparently be quite enjoyable and can release a lot of stress.  Of course, this is a totally insane outlet for such emotions, but as it is inspired by substance abuse to begin with, insanity is of course always in the mix.

Unlike suicide where the intent is often to end the pain of life, (be it mental or physical pain or both), with death, self-harm is usually a release or an outlet for suffering of some kind, as perverted and as contra-survival as that might be. The British Medical Journal reports that the most common methods of DSH are cutting at 64.6 percent and poisoning at 30.7 percent.

Other methods include but are not limited to:

  • Hair pulling
  • Biting
  • Burning
  • Head-butting
  • Hitting
  • Carving
  • Scratching
  • Skin picking
  • Intentional interference with wound healing

Statistics and Truths on the Matter: Substance Abuse Having Wide-Spreading, Ill Effects

Self-harm is one byproduct of substance abuse, but so is overdose, which is essentially the worse type of self-harm that there is that a drug or alcohol addict can do.  Substance abusers seem to always be hurting themselves, and opiate addicts and alcoholics seem to have it worst.

For example:

  • When it comes to substance abuse, the nation has it bad with prescription drugs.  Specifically, the ones that do the most damage are opiate pain reliever drugs.  Day in and day out opiate pain relievers kill dozens of people as a result of overdose, of accidents, of injuries, or of misuse.  Following wide scale production, distribution, and proliferation of prescription drugs by American pharmaceutical drugs into the American populace in 2001 there was about a three-hundred percent increase in the abuse of prescription drugs.
  • Drug overdose is now easily the leading cause of accidental death in the United States with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in the year of 2014 alone, and an estimated over fifty-thousand in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic without a doubt, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in that same year of 2014.
  • Alcohol abuse actually does kill more Americans every single year than all types of drugs used and abused combined.  Nearly a full 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes, accidents, injuries, damages, and overdoses every single year in just the United States.  In fact, only smoking and obesity beat alcohol abuse in the category of annual numbers of preventable deaths in the nation.

How to Help Those Who Seek to Harm Themselves as a Result of Substance Abuse

Those who harm themselves on purpose typically are seeking solace in the action to one degree or another, or they wouldn’t be doing something that is so obviously painful.  For some, it is a cry for help. Episodes of self-harm can be difficult to quantify as much of the time they go unreported and untreated so, except with overdoses, it is tricky to produce statistics on them. Many times self-harming behavior is wrongfully identified as a suicide attempt, when in reality the intent was not meant to be fatal.

But how does one help an addict who is also engaging in self-harm?  This must done quickly, smoothly, and efficiently and with grace.  What must be done here is that the self-harmer who is addicted must be gotten into an inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment center, detox facility, rehabilitation program, and recovery organization.  At a program like this, literally anyone who has any degree of addiction problem or self-harm problem will be treated effectively at an inpatient rehab program.  Inpatient rehab programs specialize in helping those who need assistance not only with tackling their addiction, but also with tackling other aspects of life.  With the application of effective inpatient rehab, self-harm in the addiction work can become a thing of the past.

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