Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Let's talk about self medication

I'm still responding to Henry Rollins. Here is a thought he expresses in passing while discussing depression and suicide:
Everyone handles their emotional vicissitudes in their own ways. I am no doctor, but I think the brain is always looking for a sense of balance and normal function so the body can operate efficiently. Some people medicate accordingly, in an attempt to stay somewhat even. That pursuit can lead one down some dark paths. Someone who is an addict might not be an “addict” in the pejorative sense but merely trying to medicate and balance themselves.
Before going on there is some important background information  you should know and that is that there is a worrisome correlation between recreational drug use and some forms of mental illness, most notably schizophrenia and bipolar syndrome.

Okay, I know what you are thinking: correlation does not imply causation. That's true enough but a correlation like this invites further investigation just in case there is a causation. Correlation does not imply causation but mindlessly repeating "correlation does not imply causation" every time there is a worrisome correlation is a sure sign of a closed mind.

But the more troubling thing here is the way a counter-hypothesis with no more basis tends to become fact for some. The counter-hypothesis is that these people have already mental illnesses and they are simply using the recreational drugs to self medicate. And that might be the case. It's important to remember here that "might" is just another way of saying "might not". No one has a clue.

It's a little scary then to see the way "might" morphs into "probably is the case". Rollins is far from the only person to do this. Bona fide scientists who ought to know better do the same thing all the time. It is not unusual to see some go a step further and equivocate their way right to "definitely is the case". That's incredibly irresponsible given that recreational drugs might be causing these mental illnesses.

But it's even crazier than that. Imagine you discover a friend of yours is taking some drug on their own initiative and, when you ask what is going on they told you they were self-medicating for their cancer? Or heart disease? Or Ebola? That would be crazy. Any serious disease, requires serious medical attention not self medication! To know you suffer from depression and to take recreational drugs to deal with it is crazy.

And this is where the whole argument that depression is a serious disease and therefore we should treat it as a mitigating factor when someone suffering from it commits suicide starts to make the Queen of Hearts look calmly rational by comparison. For as stupid as self-medication for a serious disease is,  self-medication with recreational drugs is right off the charts.

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