Monday, July 26, 2010

Cannabis and self medication.

Four types of drug use are commonly cited.

Experimental use

Recreational use

Symptomatic use

Dependent use

Symptomatic use is when the person uses the licit or illicit drug so as to solve a problem or treat a painful symptom. They discover that by using a certain drug they feel better because it treats a symptom. For instance heroin is an opiate. It is a pain killer. What better way to deal with your pain than to ‘kill’ it.

A person may have grown up in an abusive home and as a consequence they suffer pervasive depression and anxiety through their life. One day they try heroin and discover that that it makes them feel better because it gets rid of their depression and anxiety. So they try it again and obtain the same result. Thus they become a regular user of heroin because it alleviates their pain. This is sometimes called self medication. That is the person uses the drug to self medicate so as to ‘treat’ the symptom.

There is one type of self medicating that I have noticed over the years. These people use marijuana to self medicate. I would not say that it is a large group but you do come across them from time to time. This has recently been highlighted for me because I am working with a man where this type of drug use is quite obvious.

Marijuana for some people is effective in dealing with adulthood ADD or ADHD. I can’t say if it is for children as most people don’t start using cannabis until well into their teens. These people report that when they stop using they start to display the classic symptoms of ADD. The lack of focus, disorganisation, hyperactivity, insomnia and so forth. When they use marijuana the symptoms can subside significantly.

As a result of this they develop a particular pattern of use. It is different from the recreational user where the goal is to get stoned and experience the euphoria of the marijuana. This persons use is very intermittent. The cannabis user to self medicate for ADD uses much more consistently throughout the day and day after day.

The first use often occurs early in the day and then there is semi regular use throughout the day. This person does not get really stoned because they are continually half stoned all the time. Being continually stoned becomes their normality and they can function better due to the reduction of ADD symptoms. This is quite a different pattern of use compared to the recreational cannabis user.

Now one would usually say that the solution is obvious. This person needs to go to a psychiatrist, have a correct diagnosis of ADD made and then prescribed the appropriate ADD medication. Unfortunately it is not that simple.

Some have even done this but found that medications like dexamphetamines are not as effective. From what I have heard reported, marijuana can be a very effective treatment for the ADD symptoms. Just because its illegal is not a reason to stop in many a users mind.

Secondly, this type of marijuana user must have good connections in the drug scene. They have established a consistent supply over a long period of time. Now one thing you do not want to do when working with a drug user is introduce them to yet another drug, whether it is legal or not. Especially a drug like dexamphetamine which is very saleable in the drug subculture and can be used to make some good money.

The solution to this type of cannabis user is a difficult one indeed. I have yet to find a good one really. Maybe some other management skills for their ADD symptoms could help and just learning to live with it.



  1. This post describes me fairly well. I've been diagnosed with adult ADD and tried a rx for it (which worked fine, but was expensive). Weed does the same thing and more.
    I would much rather my husband smoke weed than drink alcohol. Fewer side effects and more positive benefits, for us.

  2. Thanks for your comment Anon. Interesting comparison about alcohol and marijuana.

    Politicians here are always banging on about zero tolerance towards violence against women. How they take such a tough stand on it. Easy to say when you don't actually have to do all that much.

    I have always suggested that one could reduce domestic violence over night by perhaps 50%. Simply make alcohol illegal and marijuana legal. I would imagine if this were to be considered all of a sudden politicians zero tolerance is not so zero.


  3. Wow, glad I found this. I've been using cannabis to self-medicate mainly for anxiety, and also partially for depression and SSRI-related sexual dysfunction. Your description of cannabis use matches mine. It just sounds so bad when you try to explain to others how getting high all the time actually makes you more functional and aware. Most dismiss it as a rationalization for unhealthy substance abuse. But I've been self-medicating for almost 8 months, and I have continually gotten better since. I see a psychologist who knows about my cannabis usage and while he'll neither condemn nor condone it, he hasn't seen any signs of it hurting me in any manner.

  4. hello anon,
    I empathzise with your predicament.
    In my view cannabis can be of considerable medicaL use as i have said here.

    You make the very good point that most will simply dismiss its uses in this way as fiction.


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