Last Wednesday, we covered rock & roll. And when we think about rock & roll, or any other loud, popular music genre, we inevitably think about drugs. Thus the cliché of sex & drugs & rock & roll. (I know, I know, I’ll get to that. Think of the first two installments as foreplay). But when it comes to drugs, if the majority of adults with ADHD are undiagnosed, obviously, they’re not taking medication.
Or are they?
Self-Medicating for ADHD
One of the most unfortunate aspects of untreated ADHD is that many adults end up self-medicating to cope with ADHD symptoms they don’t even know they have. Some of the most common choices are cigarettes, caffeine, marijuana, and alcohol, most of which are highly addictive. The loud guy with a cigarette and a beer listening to AC/DC might be AD/HD. He’s not the life of the party; he’s coping with his life.
Cocaine is a popular choice for self-medicating ADHDers
I remember being shocked when I learned that one of the most popular drugs for self-medication for ADHDers is cocaine. Before my diagnosis, I was practically obsessed with wanting to try coke. In first-year university, I had my chance. Through some innate wisdom, I resisted. Now, I’m incredibly grateful and relieved that I didn’t try it because I’m half-convinced that if I had, I might not be here today. Or at least I’d be addicted and living a much different life than the one I’m now blessed with. Little did I know then that the chemical structure (and effects on an ADHD brain) of both cocaine and the legal ADHD stimulant that I’m now taking is incredibly close.
I believe in the body’s wisdom, so the idea that before my diagnosis I craved a drug that would be similar in effect to the one that has, in my mind, saved me, is unsettling. And yet the wrong drug, the illegal one, would have hurt, not helped me, in the end.
ADHD medications usually more help than harm; with self-medicating, it’s the opposite
Although I prefer alternative treatments, including exercise, a healthy diet and lots of sleep, I was already doing all these and my life was falling apart. I chose a drug that came with a prescription, not a jail sentence. Because I was diagnosed, I had that choice. Some adult ADHDers are not so lucky.
Some frown on medication for ADHD. But think about it: how many adults do you know who aren’t self-medicating? Whether it’s nicotine or shopping; alcohol or gambling; TV or twinkies; most of us are hooked on something, whether we realize it or not.
Even food. Food has the power to quell anxiety, make you tired, make you energized, give you clarity, and so much more. We are altering our emotional, mental and physical states all the time, in ways we don’t even realize.
So even if you’re not on ADHD medication, have a close look at what else you’re taking into your body that may be a stand-in for ADHD treatment.
Side effects of self-medicating for ADHD
Weigh your choices carefully. I don’t get a massive headache when I stop taking my meds, but I do when I stop drinking coffee. I won’t get lung cancer from my medication, but I might if I smoke; compared to illicit drugs, my prescription is affordable, and I won’t end up in jail for taking it.
It comes down to this: are you choosing the drugs you use to treat your ADHD, or are they choosing you?
You can make your choices in life consciously, or unconsciously. It’s the unconscious ones that usually get us into trouble.