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Self-Harm & Drug Abuse: Everything to Know

The U.S. National Library of Medicine highlights that substance use and self-harm are strongly associated during the adolescent years. It goes on to say that adolescent self-harmers are at an increased risk of abuse substances and dependence syndromes once they reach their teens. 

Self-harm caused a fourfold increase in the odds of someone developing multiple dependence syndromes. The level of substance misuse is likely to contribute to premature mortality and disease by those who self-harm.

Individuals use coping skills to manage their intense feelings, and positive coping skills such as physical exercise will make life better over the long-term. Unfortunately, those who develop negative coping skills like self-harm will make things worse for them in the end. 

Substance abuse and self-harm are among the worst coping behaviors someone can use to relieve their stress or depression. It likely will lead to more pain in the future. Building healthy coping skills can reduce the need to engage in self-harm and substance abuse.

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Effects of Drug Abuse on Self-Harm

Self-harm and substance abuse share a connection. People who are living with mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and trauma, are at a much higher risk of self-harm. The same individuals are at more significant risk of drug abuse and substance use disorders.

Substance use often leads to self-harm, because, as intoxication increases, someone will lose self-control, which results in a higher rate of self-harm. When someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it can lead to self-injury that is much more severe than they intended, if they intended it all.

Self-Harm: Warning Signs 

Psychiatrists have said that self-harm for children with emotional problems has an effect similar to cocaine and other drugs that release endorphins.

Self-harm is very different from abusing drugs because anybody can take drugs and feel good. Still, if you think self-injury works for you, there are underlying issues that must be dealt with, which may be significant psychiatric issues. A healthy individual may indulge in self-harm once but will not continue. 

Self-harm may start as an impulsive reaction after a breakup, or it could start out of curiosity.

A clipboard with a note on it that says "Self-Harm"

For most children, it’s the result of an oppressive home environment. Many families advise their children not to show emotions or express sadness, which causes their child to seek release. 

Here is what you should look for if someone is experimenting with self-harm:

  • Small, linear cuts that are carved into the forearm, upper arm, or the legs. Some people may cut words into themselves if they have body image issues
  • Unexplained cuts or scratches that appear regularly
  • Mood changes such as anxiety, depression, out-of-control behavior, or changes in relationships. People who struggle with managing daily stress are vulnerable to self-harm.

Over time, cutting and self-harm will escalate and occur more frequently. It will take less provocation for someone to cut or harm themselves, and the person will require more cutting for relief, which is similar to drug addiction. You must seek help immediately before the action turns deadly.


Davis, J. L. (n.d.). Cutting & Self-Harm: Warning Signs and Treatment. Retrieved from

Anxiety Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Self-Harm. (2019, November 1). Retrieved from

Moran, P., Coffey, C., Romaniuk, H., Degenhardt, L., Borschmann, R., & Patton, G. C. (2015, January). Substance use in adulthood following adolescent self-harm: a population-based cohort study. Retrieved from




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