In the last decade or so, anxiety seems to have taken over as the new ADHD. By that, I mean it’s the newest mental disorder that doctors are quick to diagnose and individuals (particularly young ones) are even quicker to self-diagnose. Before I delve into this post too much, let me be clear: I am not claiming that no one in the world, under any circumstances, ever needs to be on mind-altering prescription medications. What I am saying is that, from my own personal experience and observation, 9 out of 10 people who were using one or more of these prescriptions were also regularly using marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, or other drugs… and as a general rule, it’s nearly impossible to accurately diagnose someone with any mental disorder if they are regularly using mind-altering drugs. This is not just an opinion; it’s a medically agreed-upon fact. So this post is specifically directed at people who fit this description. This is not an attempt to preach at you or condemn you. Because, as a drug addict and an alcoholic, I am the last person qualified to do so. This post is a desperate attempt to communicate to you a message of hope.
Let’s start with anxiety. Nearly all of the people I know who say they suffer from chronic/severe anxiety are… wait for it… stoners. And if you think about it, this makes rather perfect sense. Assuming you smoke weed on a regular basis, it’s pretty difficult to be anxious when you’re stoned. That’s kinda the whole point; you feel relaxed, subdued, chill. Your problems don’t seem so big, and laughter comes easier. It’s true that weed can effectively reduce anxiety. The problem that people (including myself) face is that, after a short time, it quickly becomes one’s preferred method of relieving anxiety. And eventually, almost inevitably, it will become one’s only effective coping mechanism. When people who use weed to cope with their stress (and believe me, I have fit into that category neatly at many points in my life) are feeling anxious, they are very likely not suffering from an anxiety disorder; they are suffering from marijuana withdrawals.
Likewise, I had never suffered from depression throughout my entire childhood. It was only until I started drinking that it began to rear its ugly head. And so I drank more to cope with it. And my depression got worse. The only thing that felt still worse was not drinking at all. Go figure.
When I was using cocaine quite heavily, I never got enough sleep. Again, go figure. And so, since I was always tired, I used more coke to counterbalance the exhaustion.
Seeing a pattern here?
I wasn’t suffering from an anxiety disorder; I was simply stoned so often that I became anxious anytime I hadn’t smoked in a while.
I wasn’t suffering from depression; I was drinking so much that I was consistently miserable.
I wasn’t an insomniac; I was a fucking cokehead.
My story is not unique. Most of the folks I was choosing to spend time with also complained of the exact same mental health problems; we were just too stupid (or willfully ignorant) to see what was right in front of us.
Listen, if you have a problem with anger or a short temper, the proper solution is not to take sedatives until your temper is dormant and frustration can never manifest itself on your emotional spectrum. The solution is to learn how to deal with this anger in a healthy way when it arises. Anger and frustration are normal emotions, but psychologists don’t prescribe drugs to make people less frustrated. They recommend counseling, or anger management, or fucking yoga. They attempt to help people develop healthy coping mechanisms for their feelings.
Anxiety and sadness are completely normal emotions as well. Of course you’re anxious; you live in a terrifying world. A world of violence, uncertainty, unfulfilled dreams, poverty, discrimination, and Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un bickering like two schoolchildren who happen to have goddamn nukes. You’d be a moron if you went through life on planet Earth without ever having felt anxiety or worry. And you’d be even more bizarre if you never felt sad, depressed, lonely, or lost. Our objective ought not be to extinguish these emotions from our collective psyche through prescription medications, but that seems, all too often, to be the goal.
As I said before, I fully acknowledge that there are many people who have chemical imbalances in their brains that cannot simply be remedied by doing yoga and find a hobby. This is not directed at them. But so many people, particularly in my generation, were raised by the baby boomers to believe that our lives are supposed to be mind-blowingly wonderful all the goddamn time. And when our state of existence follows a completely natural course and, thus, does not line up with these expectations, we immediately assume something is wrong with us, and seek a solution, something which can provide us with the euphoria we were promised. All too frequently, we find this relief in chemicals – legal ones like alcohol and (increasingly) marijuana, and illegal ones like cocaine, ecstasy and heroin. Their legality isn’t really what matters though; what matters is they are all chemicals designed to make us feel better about our particular situations without actually altering them. And as long as we keep putting them into our bodies, we wholly obliterate any chance of an accurate medical diagnosis for any number of grave mental disorders. How are we to stand any chance of living our best lives if this is our situation?