According to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, over 40 percent of people with a substance use disorder also have a mental health condition, yet fewer than half (48.0 percent) receive treatment for either disorder.
This “over 40 percent” number is averaged for all substances, alcohol to heroin. In my experience, the percentage of meth users who use to self-medicate mental health issues is closer to 75. According to epidemiological data, 40 percent of adults using amphetamines have a lifetime history of depression. And that’s just depression. What about anxiety disorder, attention deficit hypersensitivity disorder, impulse control disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. But it’s important to note my evidence for the “75% of meth users are in some way self-medicating” claim is purely anecdotal, not scientific. Still, it’s a lot of us.
The user who self-medicates will have a rougher time in quitting.
Many people assume that, because you quit using crystal meth and are feeling physically better, your mental health issues will likewise get better too. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The overwhelming experience of every meth user who quits cold turkey is that mental health issues get worse—not better. Here’s some chilling numbers:
Anxiety. 40 percent of meth users seeking treatment reported a history of anxiety disorders. More than 75 percent of meth users reported symptoms of anxiety. 25 percent of meth addicts still met criteria for a current anxiety disorder up to three years following outpatient drug treatment. And the odds of having attempted suicide once or more during their lifetime was three times higher in those with a dual diagnosis of meth dependence and anxiety compared to those with meth dependence alone.
The experience of a self-medicating meth user who quits cold turkey is that his or her mental health issues get worse—not better—the longer you are meth free. We need to get real and appropriate medical help.
Depression. Depression and feeling like you’re in a dark void of despair is a common reaction to quitting crystal. What you don’t want to have is any additional depression on top of what you’re already experiencing during those early months of recovery. If you take anti-depression meds, don’t stop. Speak honestly to your doctor about your plan to quit crystal meth. During this time, your serotonin and dopamine levels could use all the help they can get.
If you have been diagnosed clinically depressed or suspect that you are, it’s smart to get guidance from a doctor before, during, and after you quit meth. There are several good antidepressants a doctor might prescribe that will help, to some degree, in keeping your depression in check as you quit.
Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder. Those users who self-medicate their ADHD with crystal meth do so not to tweak out, but to feel… normal. A doctor might prescribe Adderall for the same effect. A user once told me he preferred meth to Adderall because the sex was better on meth. Still, it’s not sustainable—that meth lifestyle. There are other ADHD treatments that are considered safe for our kind: Vyvanse, for example. Talk to your doctor about alternative non-addictive medications.
And if you are in CMA, NA, AA or any of the “A” programs and your sponsor says that taking psych meds means you’re not “clean and sober,” I advise you to get another sponsor. The Big Book is clear that AA doesn’t dispense medical advice, though many a modern-day sponsor seems to think that doesn’t apply to mental health meds.