mental health, addiction and self medication

on tuesday i had the honour of hosting the #mhsm (mental health and social media) chat. that’s a weekly one-hour conversation about mental health on twitter. the topic we discussed was mental health and addictions. it was very lively, and perhaps the biggest topic was self medication, a topic that sprung up within the first few seconds and just kept coming back. here are some of the things that were said. the categories i chose are not mutually exclusive – they just make it a bit easies to see some of the patterns.

self medication to deal with life’s stressors
1:02 am floridlymad: [addiction is a] coping mechanism to life’s stressors gone wrong…
1:03 am floridlymad: @JoyFull_deb YES. a girl i know w/crack addiction once told me it’s her only joy left in life…
1:04 am GermanInAlabama: From my uneducated view I would say oftentimes attempt at self-‘medicating’ and means of forgetting about probloems
1:48 am twitertwotter: If addicts r using drugs 2 self-medicate we need to find out why and help them learn to cope with it and move forward from past trauma
1:06 am NAMIMass: Sometimes people don’t want to take prescribed medications but think it’s ok to drink or take illicit drugs to feel better
1:18 am twitertwotter: I think an important thing that gets missed in addiction is in many cases the underlying trauma

self medication to deal with mental health issues
1:02 am JoyFull_deb: Yes !! Addiction (whatever kind) can be used to self medicate mental illness.
1:04 am petequily: @moritherapy society often doesn’t take mental health seriously & pays the cost in self medication / addictions & other MH conditions
1:05 am EatsShootsEdits: I used to self medicate before I came to understand my illness and get stable on meds
1:08 am hollymclennan: @moritherapy i see the conx btwn mental health + addiction when ppl don’t get the help they need + self-medicate.
1:08 am floridlymad: addiction to certain substances can trigger (or worsen preexisting) psychosis, which may or may not persist even after *quitting*.
1:17 am perthtones: We now know cannabis is effective on a range of depressive disorders, ketamine being trialled for bipolar – legal/illegal is abritrary
1:47 am icantican: My hx of drinking problem w/ alcohol was directly related to self medicating my symptoms of depression, blips of mania, anxiety, ADHD
1:08 am EatsShootsEdits: at lot of people self medicate long before they know they have a mental illness. our minds seek comfort sometimes it is drugs first
1:23 am twitertwotter: Many addicts use marijuana and other drugs to medicate their hyperarousal, that can be a result of PTSD or overactive flight/fight

self soothing
1:26 am twitertwotter: Treatment definitely needs to address mental health issues, coping mechanisms, affect regulation and self-soothing techniques
1:51 am twitertwotter: People who drugs to feel better, or to forget, or to escape. That is self-medication. They do not know how to self-soothe.
1:53 am NAMIMass: @twitertwotter Not all addiction is about self soothing. We’ve talked about self-medicating substance abuse for #mentalhealth issues
1:46 am moritherapy: if addiction is about self soothing, then it doesn’t matter that much what the substance/behaviour is
1:57 am NAMIMass: @moritherapy I’m not sure I do agree. I’m not thinking of them at same level. I think of self soothing as less than self medicating
1:54 am moritherapy: @NAMIMass self soothing and self medicating very similar, wouldn’t you say?
1:56 am moritherapy: @NAMIMass but if you talk to health care ppl, self soothing/medication will NOT be #1 for them

self medication and ADHD
1:08 am petequily: Smallest # of addicts with #ADHD in clinical journals I’ve seen is 20%. But only 5% of pop. has ADHD http://bit.ly/7cXP8
1:10 am petequily: Study 35% of Cocaine Abusers had #ADHD http://bit.ly/4vRuoi #selfmedicate #mentalhealth
1:25 am petequily: I know of people who had undiagnosed #ADHD & self medicated w/ one addiction, stopped it & started & stopped multiple other addictions
1:44 am petequily: Study 33% of Alcoholics had #ADHD 65% of Drug Users Had ADHD http://bit.ly/b4EwqG #addiction
1:47 am petequily: @unxpctdblessing well by telling other people about how he self medicated his #ADHD w/ pot you may save others from same exp.
1:54 am asdquefty: With ADHD or depression, substance abuse can be obtaining artificial motivation.

stories of self medication
1:03 am JoyFull_deb: I watched my sister “self medicate” for many, many years….
1:16 am MelissaMashburn: my brother is a vet and almost lost his license because he was self medicating with xanex and writing his own scrips.
1:39 am MelissaMashburn: I used internet games to self medicate
1:40 am unxpctdblessing: @petequily I agree. He had been self medicating since he was 14 years old. I knew he used when I met him but had no idea the extent.
1:44 am MelissaMashburn: For me the addiction to an internet browser game, was away for me to self isolate, and self medicate

7 thoughts on “mental health, addiction and self medication

  1. Douglas Eby

    Self-medication as an explanation, at least a partial one, can probably help de-stigmatize addiction. There are a number of articles on the subject on the AddictionInfo site http://www.addictioninfo.org/

    And in several posts and articles on my own site, I write about – and quote – prominent artists (actors, writers etc) who have used drugs, sometimes (or often?) to dampen their intensity and high sensitivity. Here is one post: Gifted and Talented, Drugs and Alcohol
    http://talentdevelop.com/3212/

  2. isabella mori

    douglas – “Self-medication as an explanation, at least a partial one, can probably help de-stigmatize addiction. ” – what an interesting idea. i wonder what others think about that?

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  4. barefootwriter

    I don’t know. . . my concern is that self-medication implies all these people would need psychiatric medication were they not using other substances. I doubt that’s the case for everyone.

    Maybe they just need therapy, maybe they just need to learn different ways of coping.

    Maybe instead of “self-medication,” think of it as “altering your brain’s chemistry.”

  5. sheldon

    It seems the running theme in these comments revolve around self medication for either ones internal environment (mental health) or external environment. Both of these types of environments, when lacking essential parts, require an individuals’ ability to cope. Substance use (along with compulsive behaviors such as gambling) can provide a way of coping. When these substances provide adequate coping mechanisms, in the absence of functional coping strategies, we can see how addiction can set in…

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