Substance use and mental health problems often go hand-in-hand. People who feel depressed or anxious may depend on marijuana, alcohol, or other substances to feel at better or at ease. Although not everyone who experience mental health problems abuse substances, it is more common than imagined with people abusing prescription medication as well from Adderall to Vicodin (Montvilo, 2013). Although my immediate family has not experienced substance abuse problems, some within my family have gone through depression and anxiety issues. Other more distant relatives have experienced problems with marijuana and prescription medication. While their reasons differ, it amazing how family dynamics play a role in the creation of substance abuse and mental health problems.
The first person to look at is my father. He experienced a bout of depression when he had to deal with a potential loss of work a few years ago. He is the main provider of the family and felt stressed at work, thinking he would lose his job. He began to eat more out of stress, feel more anxious, and worked longer hours at his job. Soon he became disinterested in his work and neglected to maintain conversation with us or my mom. Eventually this dissipated as he regained his job security. After talking to a therapist, he felt better and was able to take part in daily family dialog again. He even hung out with his friends.
Depression tends to come from increased stress where a person feels utterly hopeless about a situation. My father felt he could not burden himself on others and so kept things bottled up inside. Because he did not talk to anyone in the family, he had no outlet for his emotions. With no outlet, he felt increased frustration and no longer felt the joy that came from interaction and partaking in his hobbies. These are classic signs of depression that fortunately stopped when he lost that hopeless feeling regarding his financial future.
Another member of my family, my cousin is a young woman, aged 32. She has a bad relationship with her mother, my aunt on my mother's side. Although she was a good student in school, she was always high strung and relied on Adderall to keep her going and focused. Her mother always told her she needed to look her best and to look her best, she needed to maintain a certain weight. As she got older, she developed an eating disorder bordering on anorexia. She would also up her dosage of Adderall in order to eat less and maintain her svelte figure.
When the doctor started to decrease her dosage of Adderall, she started gaining weight. From there she became depressed and socially withdrawn. Her mother wanted to support her, but also did not like her daughter's weight gain, trying to get to her to diet and exercise frequently. Eventually she became anorexic and lost a lot of weight. Her lowest weight was 92 lbs. At 5'7" she was very thin, barely sleeping and sometimes not eating for 6 days straight. Eventually she was hospitalized and she managed to recoup. Her father began to step in and she expressed to her mother how the constant pressure to be thin made her feel.
She regained some weight and started feeling better. She had the support of both of her parents and her friends. Although she suffers from some anxiety, she is no longer dependent on prescription drugs and eats a healthy amount of food each day. Her weight has stabilized and she has made a full recovery.
Here the mother, my aunt, served as the antagonist to my cousin. She made her feel shame for gaining weight and introduced additional stress and pressure to maintain a certain physique. So many women in the United States suffer from eating disorders because of the lack of positive body images in society. Women are encouraged by family members to lose weight and stay in shape, not realizing the strain it puts on these individuals.
The last person interviewed was a cousin from my father's side. He is 18 and suffers from depression, having attempted suicide when he was 16. He takes antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. He also smokes marijuana. He remains heavily reliant on marijuana and smokes every day. He stated his mother, my father's sister, suffered from depression in her youth that lasted for years. He does not have much support in regards to his parents as they work all the time and he is left in the house by himself.
When he tried to commit suicide, he was sent to the hospital for inpatient treatment and continues to attend on a weekly basis outpatient treatment....
He will start college soon and has stated his desire to get off medication in the future. Although his reliance on marijuana is heavy, he states it helps him stay calm and relieve some of the sad feelings he gets when he is by himself.
The family themes appear as depression, anxiety, lack of communication, and lack of familial bonding. My father became depressed because he did not communicate his fears and stresses to those closes to him. He cut his family off and as a result, fell into depression. Depression tends to appear in many families and sometimes depression can appear because of a genetic factor although as much as 60% of depression develops due to an environmental factor. My dad has other relatives on his side of the family that suffered from depression from his sister, to his mother, and his nephew (my cousin).
Anxiety is also another common mental health issue. My cousin from my mother's side experienced anxiety because of the pressure her mother placed on her. Instead of discussing her problems with her mother, she kept her concerns to herself, eventually resorting to anorexia and Adderall to help temporarily fix her problems. When people try to look for quick fixes like Adderall to suppress appetite and help improve academic performance, that can quickly turn to reliance. When she finally talked to her mother and her mother saw how severe the problem had become, they were both able to communicate and help her end her battle with food.
My other cousin uses prescription medication and marijuana to ease the depression and anxiety he feels. The reason he feels this anxiety is because he says he is alone. With no one to talk to, he cannot relay the feelings bottled up inside. Isolation tends to worsen a mental health issue. It is up to him and his parents to improve their communication and engage in family bonding.
The points of intervention were noted with both of my cousins receiving inpatient treatment for their respective mental health problems. My cousin who experienced anorexia also received a medical intervention that helped her regain weight and enabled her to start a healthier lifestyle. The other cousin was given prescription medication and allowed the use of marijuana (he lives in Colorado). Although he says it has helped him, he is far too reliant on both and still experiences anxiety and depression so his intervention point was not successful. My father had no intervention and simply became better once he experienced job security.
Medical intervention for my cousin that suffered from anorexia first came with addition of Adderall. That made her worse as she relied on the drug for weight management. When she got off of it, she gained weight, and then developed anorexia. After she reached an all-time low weight, she received medical intervention and was admitted to the hospital for a few months to help her gain back weight. Since then she has communicated with her mother and is leading a healthy life, eating normally. My father received no intervention or treatment and was able to go back to normal behavior with the external pressure resolved (having job security).
My other cousin tried to commit suicide, then was referred to an inpatient psychiatric facility where he was later released and given antidepressants and antianxiety medication. He has maintained the medication regime for 2 years and has added marijuana. He is heavily reliant on marijuana, smoking it every day. He has not improved in regards to his social skills and remains withdrawn and isolated.
My father's job insecurity led to his stress and subsequent bout with depression. My cousin's mother and her unhealthy relation to body image led to her desire to maintain a thin figure. My other cousin's lack of socialization led to isolation, increase depression and anxiety and finally a desire to commit suicide. These events took place over months, even years and were neglected for a while, causing a bottling and buildup of emotions that led to harsh actions, negative reactions, and negative coping mechanisms.
While drug addiction and alcohol is a common problem and has been for centuries, prescription drug addiction is a new addiction that has taken over the United States in number of cases reported. People have become addicted to prescription drugs like Adderall and Vicodin to either suppress appetite and improve focus or numb pain/get high. This is a trend in substance…
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