Brain & Mind

Psychiatrist: The new drug peddler in town 

Normally I am dead against discussing psychiatric conditions in public forum, as I firmly believe that, hypochondriacs that we all are, it has potential to cause more harm than good. But, with mental health “awareness” spreading fast, I am forced to break the rule and venture into what I am not at all qualified for, as the subject has serious social implications.

As I have often written on brain, I get approached by people, especially parents seeking help. As they mistakenly presume that I can understand psychiatric jargon, I end up with medical papers, and the set laying on my table right now has really disturbed me.

It belongs to a young individual undergoing serious psychiatric treatment for bipolar mood disorder since two years. Though bipolar mood disorder is now very much in vogue, I would like to point out to the uninitiated that it is a brain state that exhibits irregular and extreme swings of mood.

It is has mania at one end, depression at the other, and an out-of-control mind helplessly oscillating between the two. It is a serious malaise beyond the scope of psychological counselling and needs management through psychiatric medicinal treatment.

Unfortunately, as I try and understand the situation better, I see that the diagnosis continues beyond to “cannabis dependence disorder, opioid dependence disorder, nicotine dependence disorder, Benzodiazepine addiction and alcohol discrete use”.

If I translate this above list in simple terms, it describes a regular kid who has gone down the slippery path of recreational gratification through addictive substances commonly found in a hostel of a design or engineering school.

The problem is, life of a kid with addiction problem is a roller coaster ride, with highs of addiction and lows of withdrawal. His mental state would have mania of pleasure post-consumption followed by stupor and depression when the effect of the drug recedes.

If we look at how bipolar mood disorder expresses itself, it becomes really confusing because cyclic mood swings of a drug addict and a bipolar mood disorder case are extremely similar.

Both have oscillating mood swings, one due to arrival and departure of psycho-active drugs and other due to imbalance in brain chemistry.

This issue has been further confused by bipolar mood disorder increasing addiction susceptibility, as persons suffering from mood swings are often found to resort to drugs to find relief from symptoms.

So, bipolar mood disorder and drug addiction have a chicken and egg relationship, making it difficult to differentiate one from the other.

This means that there is a great possibility that simple drug addiction can get diagnosed and treated as bipolar mood disorder.

As I look at the completely ineffective treatment offered to the kid since two years, I see a whole range of psychoactive substances that deal with mania, seizers, convulsions, schizophrenia and other mood disorders, acetylcholine-blockers and some nicotine. The parents are worried as the long treatment of popping multiple drugs for couple of years have changed nothing but their son, reducing him to a person under constant drugged state.

And here is where my discomfort starts.

In case of drug addiction being misdiagnosed as bipolar mood disorder, what the patient ends up is replacing one set of psychoactive chemicals with another, both with side-effects that seriously alters quality of life; while, in a very crude way, life of a cannabis smoker may not be as bad as the one living under heavy burden of medicines that are equally inescapable.

This is not an argument in favour of recreational use of cannabis, but it is a question that needs answer.

With drugs becoming common on our campuses and a lot of psychiatrists offering de-addiction services, the picture I drew above is not at all rare. I strongly request psychiatrists to evaluate the situation, as it needs expert attention.

If not, in all likelihood, psychiatrists may end up becoming new psychoactive substance peddler in the town. We will just be replacing one set of drugs with other and ruining precious young lives.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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