Depression, Self-Medication and Drug Abuse

It is often seen that people who are depressed reach out to certain drugs to attain mood elation and a reprieve from the depressive symptoms. According to a research, titled “Drug Abuse as Self-Medication for Depression: An Empirical Study,” most patients used drugs in response to depressive symptoms and experienced mood elevation irrespective of their drug of choice.

The study – done by Roger D. Weissa, Margaret L. Griffinb and Steven M. Mirinb – involved examining of drug effects and motivation for drug use in 494 hospitalized drug abusers. The researchers were of the opinion that more men than women were prone to this rampant abuse of drugs to get an instant relief from depression.

Another study, called “The Self-Medication Hypothesis of Substance Use Disorders: A Reconsideration and Recent Applications,” stated, “Individuals discover that the specific actions or effects of each class of drugs relieve or change a range of painful affect states.”

The abstract of this study further states, “Self-medication factors occur in a context of self-regulation vulnerabilities – primarily difficulties in regulating affects, self-esteem, relationships and self-care. Persons with substance use disorders suffer in the extreme with their feelings, either being overwhelmed with painful affects or seeming not to feel their emotions at all. Substances of abuse help such individuals to relieve painful affects or to experience or control emotions when they are absent or confusing. Diagnostic studies provide evidence that variously supports and fails to support a self-medication hypothesis of addictive disorders.

“The cause-consequence controversy involving psychopathology and substance use/abuse is reviewed and critiqued. In contrast, clinical observations and empirical studies that focus on painful affects and subjective states of distress more consistently suggest that such states of suffering are important psychological determinants in using, becoming dependent upon, and relapsing to addictive substances. Subjective states of distress and suffering involved in motives to self-medicate with substances of abuse are considered with respect to nicotine dependence and to schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder co-morbid with a substance use disorder,” it says.

How harmful is self-medication for depression?

Self-medication for depression is a dangerous step and would only complicate matters, swelling into a two-pronged issue. Dr. Tian Daytonn, a clinical psychologist and author of repute, in her article, titled “Why We ‘Self-Medicate’ Our Own Depression or Anxiety,” revealed that when we use alcohol or drugs as our “go to” to get through troubled moments, to manage social or interpersonal anxiety, or to manage our real emotional pain, a self-destructive and vicious cycle is set in. And we keep whirling around this self-triggered mayhem only to become more miserable.

When faced with a low mood or anxiety – social or personal – we discover that gulping a couple of drinks, doing that pot or some drug will ease the symptoms considerably. But, on the contrary, these solutions and coping mechanisms only shove us to a deeper abyss. We become completely dependent and this self-medication turns into an abuse. We are left with no option but to knock at the doors of a depression rehab center.