http://dionysus.psych.wisc.edu/lit/articles/SwendsenJ2000a.pdf

The link above is to a study on self-medication.  Like most studies it has its limits; primarily caucasian, higher male sample than female, etc.  This means that we need to be careful not to overgeneralize the findings (something many in this field tend to do).

The interesting thing about the article is that it shows how the concept of “self-medicating” as a motive for alcohol use is less likely among those with chemical dependency.  This is contrary to pop psychology and pharmaceutical company advertising campaigns.

The inherent lesson to take from this is that most dependent drug use is due to addiction, not due to another disorder.  Other disorders may increase the risk of dependency, but the fact is that anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions are actually relatively rare according to research.  Why is it then that as a culture we are consistently hearing otherwise?  Why does it seem that everyone we know is on an anti-depressant or taking Xanax?

What I would note here, is that there is almost never an increase in the diagnosis of  mental health conditions that do not require medication.  That speaks volumes about the situation.  The next time you are looking for help, if there is a suspected or known problem with addiction-it may well be worth attempting to get help through a psychotherapist who understands these conditions first.  Medication will always have it’s place in mental health undoubtedly, but addiction can masquerade as almost any mental disorder.  In the DSM IV, the psychiatric diagnostic manual, there are rarely given diagnosis such as Substance Induced Psychosis.  There are comparable diagnosis for depression and anxiety disorders.  These disorders are not diagnosed as often because they require abstinence and proper therapy to treat, not just the new pill whose marketing representative took a physician out for a round of golf.