Sunday, December 13, 2009
Self-Medication With Chronic Disease
Today, I feel the desire to reach out to my readers about addiction and self-medication -- which is timely for me, but not by me or of me (don't worry) -- because the overuse and abuse of substances is way more common than anyone would prefer to admit. I finished, not too long ago, a period of time working with the mentally ill and chemically addicted through group therapy, and at this adult day program, the client's primary diagnosis was mental illness with a secondary diagnosis of chemical addiction. Meaning, many self-medicated with drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the frightening, overwhelming symptoms of mental illness, very often being psychosis. But what does this mean to a bunch of people with chronic pain?
The use of alcohol for pain management is quite prevalent amongst chronic pain sufferers. Depression is a universal predictor of self-medication through alcohol, while being comorbid with chronic pain conditions, and rightfully so. Without the possession of the proper coping tools for major life stressors, like a RSD diagnosis, this can be a dangerous mix. Add all of this to copious amounts of pain medications, like vicodin and morphine, and it is only a matter of time before a major crisis will hit.
My goal: Let's erase the stigma. Depression is quite normal with chronic illness. Wanting to "escape" for a bit? Yea, that's quite normal, too. So what do we do about it? We kick the shame to the curb, and we ask for help from a mental health professional to learn the proper ways to cope with those feelings. This rugged individualism, Horatio Alger "pull yourself up by your boots straps" crap is dated and ridiculous, and our society needs a big, fat makeover. True strength involves knowing when to admit you have a problem and ask for help, so make the move toward lasting health, wellness, and longevity today.