Upon reading so many blogs about people “medicating” with marijuana or other illegal psychoactive drugs, I decided to see what research has to say on the issue. This page from the World Health Organization was a good resource to start with, indicating that 3.5% to 5.7% of the world’s population, aged 15 to 64, used illegal psychoactive substances.
On the other hand, people with mental disorders, other those that show psychotic episodes, showed unexpectedly low prevalence of substance abuse as show by this research. In numbers: abuse was normal in bipolar disorder patients with a meager 3.5% (the least in the WHO range of 3.5% to 5.7%). The list of substance abuse in other mental disorders are actually below the low, and it looks like this:
2.6% schizoaffective disorder
1.5% depressive disorder
1.2% anxiety disorder
Now let’s play with numbers a bit. A normal person’s chances of substance abuse is 4.6% (average of 3.5% and 5.7%), while a depressed persons chances are 1.5%. So if we take 4.6% divided by 1.5%, we get a whopping 3, or 300%. That means that a depressed individual is 3 times as unlikely to be a substance abuser as a normal person. I think you did not expect that to be the case. I sure didn’t.
It sure is amazing that substance abuse is actually less prevalent in people with mental disorders.
What is even more astonishing, is if we look at the prevalence of suicide among both, the normal and the depressed, we will see this:
15% of depressed patients commit suicide.
Do you believe this?
You shouldn’t. It’s a myth. This is why:
“A 15 percent suicide rate means that of six patients diagnosed with depression, one will commit suicide during his or her lifetime. That’s simply not true.” says John Michael Bostwick, M.D. referenced here.
Dr. Bostwick with actual numbers debunks the 1970 study that claims that 1 out of 6 depressed individuals commit suicide, a number which is still believed and quoted in text books. You’d think they would check their facts. The actual number lies between 2% and 9% he says.
So let’s say 5.5% average of depressed patients commit suicide.
Let’s verify numbers some more:
The prevalence of suicide worldwide:
The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population. Or so claims suicide.org. Yes! There’s a site for that!
This means 0.00016% of people commit suicide.
But how many of the population is depressed? 7% as claimed here by whatever this is.
I will leave you out of the calculation coz it’s more complicated this time. But if 7% of the world is depressed, and 5.5% of the depressed commit suicide, shouldn’t that mean that 0.385 %, or about 4 of every 1000 individuals in the world, commit suicide because of depression alone? So what on Earth is the claim of 16 per 100,000? Which one is truthful?
I would say that the smaller figure from suicide.org is far more credible and realistic.
To find out the truth behind the statistics of suicide, and who is lying and who is telling the truth, it will require more time and an article dedicated to worldwide suicide statistics. For now, let’s go with the lesson learned:
Substance abuse, unlike common opinion, is not more in patients with mental disorders. It is actually the same, and more frequently, less!
(PS. sorry I didn’t do a better job on this article. I got like a 100 people calling me left and right to congratulate me on my engagement. This article will be revised ASAP.)