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As a clinical counsellor I do not have the authority to prescribe people medications, and that is just fine by me. Having briefly been a client of big pharma as a teenager for depression and anxiety, I quickly realized that this type of intervention was not for me. Many clients I speak to these days have tried meds for a time and perhaps benefited from them in the beginning, but have been seeking more holistic and lasting solutions.
Like many teens, I also went through a phase of experimenting with various street drugs. In hindsight, I realize I was simply medicating symptoms of anxiety and depression under the guise of having a good time.
Having talked to many people in my practice about substance use, this is basically the bottom line: People want to find what will make them feel better, period. I know many people who smoke pot to deal with anxiety in the same way another person is prescribed benzodiazepines.
A key difference in how people medicate themselves has in part to do with the means of obtaining any given substance as well as the societal perceptions around different drugs.
I remember in school learning about "good drugs" and "bad drugs." The distinction was simple in practice: good drugs come from your doctor or pharmacist and bad drugs come from the shady guy on the street corner.
This opens up a larger can of worms into the the realization that the government has been overstepping its boundaries by telling adults what they can and can't ingest. The pharmaceutical industry has what can only be described as a monopoly over the socially acceptable "medicinal" substances at any given time.
An argument can definitely be made for why there is resistance from governments/big pharma in terms of cannabis decriminalization, but that is a debate for another day and another article. The central point I want to make here is that no comprehending adult has the right to tell any other comprehending adult what to put into their body or not.
I take myself back to age 17 sitting in front of my doctor. I tell him I have been smoking marijuana on a daily basis to ease my symptoms of anxiety. He proceeds to tell me to stop smoking pot and start taking Prozac.
I ask him how Prozac works, and if he has ever tried it. He looks at me surprised and starts telling me about double-blind studies and other clients in his practice. This always stuck out to me since I realized that most doctors do not routinely take their own medicine.
This is important to realize, especially for young people. The average drug dealer has, at the very least, sampled their own products. They know what they are selling firsthand which helps them gain trust among their buyers.
If I am a young person who is suffering from mental health issues or simply teen awkwardness, chemical intervention may be very tempting at different times. Young people I talk to in my practice tell me about how they feel conflicted between what authority figures in their lives tell them versus what their peer group is doing and advocating.
A common thing I hear is, "I know it's bad, but I smoke weed to deal with my anxiety..." Often, my young clients will then go on to say that they have been prescribed pharmaceuticals but do not like the side effects they get, and so opt to continue using street drugs instead of or in addition to their prescribed medications.
The basic point is that, at the end of the day, any drug use is only going to provide temporary respite and symptom management. Rather than argue over specific drugs, I endeavor to help clients go deeper into their own experience where their natural tools and abilities can be remembered and implemented. It is by helping one person at a time that we can begin to replace society's compulsion to reach out to big pharma as well as the small-time dealer.
If you're interested in exploring alternatives to self-medication, feel free to contact me here.