Drugs and self-harm: Students choose to self-medicate

Many people believe that for college students, the hardest part of their day may be waking up in the morning. But for more students than expected, that is not their biggest issue.

Some students self-medicate for anxiety with marijuana. Panther archives

Some students self-medicate for anxiety with marijuana. Photo from Panther Archives

Self-Medicating with marijuana

Constant panic. Worrying. Stress. Sadness. This is what freshman philosophy major Malcolm Scott felt before he started smoking marijuana every day.

“Marijuana is the only thing that has ever calmed me down enough to not have constant high-energy stress,” Scott said.

Scott has had anxiety for about three years now, but he didn’t notice it was an issue until about two years ago, he said.

He attempted therapy treatments and ended them shortly after starting to smoke marijuana.

“I didn’t want to take normal anxiety medication because I had seen how badly it affected friends and people around me who took it,” Scott said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety medication is known to cause depression and other side effects, leading many people decide to stay away from it. Anxiety medication does its job of blocking the sadness and anxiety out, but also takes away feelings of pleasure and joy, Scott said.

Marijuana is said to be a more natural approach, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. However, it has its downsides as well. Marijuana, without the correct dosage, can cause some problems. Smoking the incorrect amount can cause irregular breathing and heart beat, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Though some use marijuana to self-medicate, its recreational use was legalized in California Nov. 8.

Smoking anywhere from two to six times a day, Scott says he is high virtually all day.

Scott has a medical marijuana card prescribed for his anxiety. He explained that smoking medically is not the same as smoking recreationally.

“You don’t just sit on the couch, eat and laugh when you are smoking medically,” Scott said. “You do homework, study and just be productive.”

Without smoking, Scott gets caught up in very small things, which makes him unmotivated. He said that his grades and happiness have improved since he started smoking marijuana instead of going to therapy.

“Without marijuana, I would not be able to study or just feel normal in my own skin,” Scott said.

Self-medicating with LSD, psychedelic mushrooms, and alcohol

The name in this story has been changed to protect the individual’s identity.

Seeing a cartoon in real life induced by psychedelic drugs is what Matt, a junior television writing and production major, prefers in his daily routine.

“Many people believe that marijuana is the only drug used to cure anything, but everyone is forgetting that there is LSD and psychedelic mushrooms,” Matt said. “In my opinion, they work better and take me to a place where I forget that I’m sad and help me relax.”

Experiencing depression for more than six years, Matt knows the hardships of living with this mental illness far too well. He had tried multiple times taking prescription medication and said it did not help him the way he had hoped.

“The drugs made me feel like I wasn’t myself. It was like I was in my body with someone else’s mind. The thoughts I was having were not my own,” Matt said.

Matt described the feeling as “out-of-body experience,” but in a negative way, while the drugs he takes now give him an “out-of-body experience,” in a positive way.

He takes LSD or psychedelic mushrooms at least once a day, but at most twice because the effects last him longer than marijuana. He said that his favorite drug is a psychedelic mushroom because it allows him forget all his worries and just focuses on the happy parts of life.

“Sometimes I hallucinate and my whole body feels high. I feel heavy in a good way, and I am always more creative so and I do my best work,” Matt said.

His parents do not agree with his use of these drugs, so he lies to them and says he goes to therapy even though he only went a couple times.

“When I spoke about all my issues, it made the problem worse,” Matt said. “When I constantly had to think about everything that caused me pain, it didn’t help at all, and I don’t understand how that was supposed to solve anything for anyone. I will continue to take these drugs because they make me feel better and they make me happy. I don’t care if people judge me or think I am doing the wrong thing.”

Self-harm by cutting

The name in this story has been changed to protect the individual’s identity.

Having her whole life fall apart and feeling out of control, Madison, a sophomore philosophy major, began cutting herself. She had been battling depression for years.

“I feel like a walking stereotype by saying that I just wanted to control something, but that’s all I wanted to do,” Madison said.

Madison started feeling depressed and anxious at the age of 13, and said she wanted to feel better. She felt as though there was nothing else she could do to feel empowered because everyone was “walking all over her.”

“My parents had gotten a divorce early in my eighth grade year, but this wasn’t my only problem. My father had started to beat me. I guess it was his way of taking his anger out, but it caused me pain for years to come,” Madison said.

This occurrence caused Madison to feel as though she did not belong to anyone, including her family and friends.

She began to push her mother and friends away. They all believed that she was upset about the divorce, but it was much more than that, she said.

Madison hid what she refers to as her battle scars from the people closest to her, making sure no one ever found out.

Even after she informed someone of her father’s behaviors and her problem was over – she did not need to see her father ever again – she could not shake the feelings of depression and anxiety. This is when her mother decided to put her in therapy.

“I went to therapy for four years. Four years of my life went down the drain along with my mother’s money. Therapy did nothing for me but drudge up old events that haunted me,” Madison said.

At the age of 17, Madison began to cut herself. She described the feeling of cutting herself as a mix of depressing and exhilarating.

“I never wanted to kill myself, I just wanted to feel alive again and feel as though the world around me was mine and that I controlled something about it,” Madison said.

After a couple of months of dealing with this alone, her friends started to notice weird behaviors, such as wearing long sleeves and long pants in the summer, and informed her mother.

Madison was then taken to a rehabilitation facility and this changed her life forever.

“Without the rehabilitation facility, I do not think I would feel as good as I do now. I feel alive without having to cut or feel sad or be in control,” Madison said. “Although I feel tendencies sometimes, I know that I can beat it because I have before and I know that I am a fighter.”


If you or someone you know is cutting themselves, contact 1-800-273-TALK, a 24-hour crisis hotline for people who self-harm or are in an emergency situation.

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