‘Head Meds’

13th January 2019
29th March 2019
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‘Head Meds’


“ Mental health and substance use go hand in hand. It’s probably rare, if ever, that someone will come into drug services and say straight away that they use because they “love it”.  I suppose those few that do will be asked in counselling and groups to go “deeper”. Surely there must be some REASON why? …Other than drugs feel nice. Something we can work with. Maybe issues like past traumas? Bereavements? Problems with relationships? Childhood experiences? Some catastrophic event? Something identifiable and understandable……. Mental health?

Is it possible to medicate away these issues?

Dual diagnosis is a term that’s been more commonly used over the last 10 years or so. I don’t know when it was coined. It’s not a term “users” would come up with themselves, but it’s a great label to use because mental health conditions seem to me to be pretty prevalent now. Yet those in treatment that have a diagnosis of, say, Bipolar, or Unstable Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, or Depression, we see that these diagnoses rarely pre-date the service user’s problematic substance use.

I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but this is the very tip, of a very large wedge. These people like all the others have root issues, and root problems that need addressing therapeutically. I’m not sure and I might be wrong, but I don’t think mind altering chemicals solve problems and issues.

Also, few and far between in services are people who have genuine untreatable Schizo-affective disorders, or are actually mentally unstable, erratic, and aggressive. I’ve met a few in treatment with this diagnosis and most, you’d never know it, unless they told you. The majority I do know are from outside drug services and have never had a narcotic problem. They do not like illicit substances, because these substances adversely affect them. These people need medication for the rest of their lives and do not abuse their psychiatric drugs even…

That’s strange isn’t it?

Personally, and again, this is just my opinion, I think most service users who have diagnosed mental health conditions and the psychiatric medication to “help them cope“ (drugs like anti-depressants,  anti-psychotic mood stabilizers, anxiety drugs, amongst others) actually have mental and emotional well-being problems stemming from their using. To what extent was their using BEHAVIOURS, and the effect of them on their own well-being and those around them, the root cause of their mental distress? I feel that maybe the psychiatric meds might interfere with a much needed real process the service user must feel. The fact that someone has entered treatment may imply automatically that they are having emotional and mental problems. Newly detoxed or after coming back from a short stay in rehab, to now look at their lives, homes, fractured relationships. To cope with the complications they left 3 months before, without their coping “crutch“.  Of course they’d feel stressed and anxious! Losing the thing they loved the most, the thing that was always there for decades in some cases, is a bereavement in and of itself and the “ex-user” will grieve hard. Go through all the recognised clinical stages…..

Isn’t it to be expected that they will feel depressed?

Also after detox, the body’s natural hormones start to fluctuate, as natural endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline levels, recalibrate. Floods of feelings and emotions. clear thoughts, realisations, understandings, and awareness’s happen, and an erraticism in mind and body is inevitable. Those on “headmeds“  will find they start working in a different way.  And may want their medication reviewed …… when I say reviewed I mean “upped“.

Who can blame them?… whatever keeps them safe from using, right?

Yet I personally think that these thoughts, and feelings, and emotions, are essential for the user to feel, uninterrupted by yet more drugs. These feelings of stress and anxiety are our natural alarm systems……  Discomfort is there for a reason.. no? Is talking and finding a solution to the cause of the discomfort better than medicating, or dulling down, or quieting, the sirens going off in the service users head.  Smothering, the turmoil, turbulence and struggle. Headmeds induce an artificial state of being….. ya know…. Like real drugs. And drugs don’t solve internal problems. But mask and hide them really well.

Off drugs, and fully connected with feelings memory and emotions. The service user can really bring themselves to their therapeutic healing process of talking through the historic issues they used ON. Like, bereavements, traumas, relationships, childhoods. Differently. With actual mindful support. Not pharmaceutical bandaids.

But I may be wrong. This is just my point of view.

In recovery, those who use no medication at all, RADIATE what’s going on inside. They FLARE, lighthouse style, where they are at. Their states of mind, mood, and emotions are not being altered artificially, a false state of being. It’s much easier for workers to see their behaviour, language, and demeaner. Which will scream …DANGER … beacon… TROUBLE … indicate…


In time for us to hopefully interrupt someone at risk …”



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