Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: going through a crackhead phase?

addictions are a controversial area of mental health research, what with conflicts over whether an addiction is a mental disorder, a symptom of a disorder or both. [note: it can be both, the conflicts generally arise in determining which it is in each specific case.] but the discussions are about to get even more controversial, because there is evidence we might be giving addictions more credit than they deserve.

because of the degree to which an addict can damage themselves and the people around them, it's tempting to ignore some of the complexities of the disorder and to concentrate on getting addicts into treatment as soon as possible so that they recover as completely as possible. however, the results of a massive study in the united states have shown that the majority of people who meet the criteria to be considered addicts of a large variety of substances recover whether or not they're given treatment. that's a big, scary statement, but there's a lot of data behind it.

stranger still, it seems that some of the drugs associated with the greatest risk of addiction and damage, e.g. cocaine, are associated with higher rates of recovery [from the addiction itself- this doesn't cover any health problems that may have been exacerbated by the addiction] than drugs like nicotine and alcohol. in fact, nicotine addicts had the lowest rate of recovery of any addict group, but a substantial majority were able to break their addiction at some point.

there is a lot of information that needs to be analysed here, not least the fact that gender, race and socio-economic status seem to influence your odds on being able to shake the addiction bug or that those with co-morbid mental or mood disorders are less likely to recover , but the point is that our woefully inadequate understanding of what addiction is and how it works is more woefully inadequate than we realise. health journalist maia szalavitz thinks, for instance, that we should reject the model of addiction as a disease, which is by nature progressive unless treated/ cured and more like a developmental condition that may well pass with time if controlled. this absolutely flies in the face of the usual methodology [used by so-called 12 step programs like alcoholics/ narcotics anonymous], where someone is an addict for life whether they are in remission or not.

now let me be clear that no one is saying that you shouldn't treat addiction and that it will just get better with time. what's being said is that not all addictions require treatment and that rather than painting everyone with the same brush, health professionals should consider a lot of factors, such as the level of damage that's being done, the age of the addict and the substance that's being abused in order to come up with the best individualised plan.

this ultimately seems to be the truth behind much of the research on mental disorders: the more we study, the fewer general rules there seem to be.

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

eat the pain away?

nearly twenty years ago, an emergency room doctor took a look at the crushing muscle tension i was experiencing [they were clenched enough that a doctor at my regular clinic couldn't get a reflex reaction on my left side and thought i might be having a stroke] and told me she believed that i had fibromyalgia. a couple of weeks later, i went to see a family doctor that a coworker had recommended to me. when i told him what the other doctor had said, he snapped that i was being ridiculous, because, if i'd had fibromyalgia, "i wouldn't be able to move". after i moved to toronto, i got a new family doctor and told her what the other doctors had said. she said that she couldn't be sure, but it was better just to deal with any symptoms i had one at a time. then i came back to montreal and got a new family doctor, who didn't really buy into the whole idea of fibromyalgia and said there was no way to do any definitive test anyway. that doctor passed away, and my …

long suffering

i've been meaning to write this post for a while, but, every time i get started, something happens that makes me rethink portions of it, to add or subtract or consider a different way of looking at things. the post was originally going to be my take on a #metoo statement, but i ended up making that post on my personal facebook page. [it's not that i don't love you all, but there are a few things i'm not comfortable putting in the entirely public sphere.] but beyond joining the #metoo juggernaut, i wanted to write something about the wave of sexual assault revelations that continues to swell over the north american media landscape that wasn't about me. then i realised that that was a little more complicated than just writing "so, lotta sex rapes happenin' these days, ain't there?" or whatever it was that i was going to say.

so i tried writing something about just a part of it: the media coverage or the entertainment industry or the politicians or …