I turned to substances to self-medicate

Mental illness among youth is often undiagnosed and untreated, leading youth to self-medicate with substances.

By Lauren King

I felt like I had finally found the thing that was going to fix me. My low self-esteem seemed to disappear when I was high, and the feelings of emptiness were temporarily gone. But after a while of numbing myself, no amount of drugs or alcohol could take away the emotional pain and insecurities I felt inside. Getting high only gave me artificial confidence. When it wore off, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness and fear of not knowing how to stop using drugs and alcohol, and not knowing who I could trust or turn to for help. What at first seemed like a way to have fun and fit in started to feel like riding in a car without any brakes. I didn’t know how to stop it.

The Problem

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2019, less than half of adolescents with depression received treatment. The lack of mental health treatment providers, especially for youth, leads to untreated mental illness. In addition, individuals with untreated mental illness self-medicate with substances, increasing the risk for developing addiction.

The Solution

Increase availability of and access to mental health services for youth.

Take Action


Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 supports youth mental health

Send a letter to your members of Congress thanking them for passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which includes provisions to support youth mental health, a critical element of substance use prevention. It requires technical assistance and best practices for school-based mental health and substance use disorder services, reauthorizes youth mental health intervention and treatment programs, and provides support for youth suicide prevention and mental health and substance use disorder services for students in higher education.