Tag Archives: ADHD

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

help me! what should i talk about?

raul and i are gearing up for vancouver’s second mental health camp, the conference about the intersection between mental health and social media.

i’m hoping to give a presentation there. last time the topic of my session was blogging yourself home – using blogging to find a voice, a place, a community.

would you help me decide what i should talk about this time?

we have a topic – it s “breaking our silence. setting us free.” the idea is that silence is a form of stigma, and in order to break free from it, we need to speak up.

with that in mind, i have come up with the following topics:

12 steps online and anonymity
12-step programs are an important part of many people’s recovery. there is alcoholics anonymous, gamblers anonymous, overeaters anonymous, alanon and naranon (for people in relationships with people who drink or take drugs), etc. there are many strong online 12-step groups. the backbone of the 12 steps is anonymity. in their case, it is silence about certain things that sets them free. how does that work? what are the drawbacks?

mental HEALTH – are we silent about it?
there is mental illness, and then there is mental health. in a recent blog post, we started making some inroads into investigating what “mental” health means. one definition we came up with was that mental health is “authentically felt wellbeing in all aspects of one’s inner life and behaviour.” the practice of working towards this wellbeing is something that is alluded to here and there but no-one takes it really seriously. people are constantly encouraged to work towards their physical health through activities such as taking up jogging or eating healthy foods. but when has your boss asked you lately to get a yoga teacher to help you destress or stop drinking coffee to improve your anger management? it’s just not happening. as bloggers and social media people, we often write about great ideas to manage our mental health, but what’s happening in the real world?

is all this social media really setting us free?
social media requires quite a bit of time and commitment. would people with mental health issues be better off using their time away from social media?

bloggers break the silence
for this session, i would survey and report on some mental health bloggers to see how they have broken the silence, and how that has set them free.

who gets to speak up about mental health?
in the process of coming up with a useful definition for mental health, we also realized that there are different ideas who “gets” to have a mental illness and who doesn’t. depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder – all these are “accepted” mental illnesses. but what about the mental health of people with addictions, brain injuries, aspergers or ADHD, just to name a few? are they taken seriously when they speak about mental health? and what about the perceived hierarchies among mental illnesses – from anxiety being “better” than schizophrenia to binge eating disorder being more “noble” than a crack addiction?

action!
this would be an action-oriented workshop, similar to the social justice session at northern voice. what can participants do within the next little while, concretely, that will create more “voices” for people with mental health issues, or make those voices more effective?

okay, people, help me! which presentation should i make?

more northern voice: ADD among techies

one of the presenters at northern voice was vancouver ADD coach pete quily. he spoke on attention deficit disorder – ADD – for techies. let me share some of the information.

“the internet,” he said, “is the crack cocaine of people with ADD.”

one of the things that happens for people with ADD is that they don’t filter information as much or as effectively as others.

everything is interesting! everything is worthy of attention! and the more attention is given to something, the more there is a desire to squander it. dinner? an important phone call? later, later, let’s just look at one more page, load one more video, check the email one more time … and all of a sudden it’s 2 hours later and the brain, instead of getting much needed food or fresh air, is filled with even more factlets.

pete pointed out that ADD consists of three aspects: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention problems. not all three need to be present, and not in the same intensity. that is, a person may have only mild problems with intentional mental focus but may have great difficulties with hyperactivity and impulsivity. that’s important to note because different challenges tend to have different results.

for example, the person just described may have really good grades at school. when that person, years later, goes to see a doctor wondering whether her long-standing difficulties and general unease may be traced back to ADD, if the doctor is ill-informed, he or she may conclude that because the person had good grades in school they can’t possible have ADD.

paradoxically, one of the gifts of ADD can be the ability to be hyperfocused under certain circumstances. this is why ADD – attention deficit disorder – is a great misnomer. first, it’s not necessarily only about attention. second, often it’s not a deficit – in many ways, it’s actually a surplus of energy and creativity (pete quily likes to call it “attention surplus condition”). and third, if recognized and channeled the right way, it can be a treasure, not a disorder or disability.

for more on this valuable presentation, go to pete’s wiki, here, and also visit his blog, adult ADD strengths.