Can You Be Addicted to NOT Taking Drugs?
The short answer is yes.
Consider these statements:
- “I don’t know. My mind feels more clear.”
- “Honestly, I just feel more alive.”
- “This is my body, and I can do what I want with it.”
These could be the words of a cocaine addict, but they could also be of someone who refuses to take their prescribed anti-depressant or anti-psychotic.
What exactly is an addiction? The UK’s National Health Service defines it as:
… not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.
Since drug avoidance causes harm, shouldn’t such behavior be considered addictive? But even without playing with semantics, we can see that the on- and off-ramps from prescribed psychoactives, like Lexapro, are similar to the withdrawal symptoms you get from taking ilicit drugs. Taking the wrong drugs is just as bad as not taking the right ones.
“Medication nonadherence” is the formal term for what is apparently already an epidemic. Around 25% of all prescribed drugs are never filled, and around 50% of drugs prescribed for chronic conditions are not taken. A common statistic is that 125,000 lives per year in the U.S. could be saved if people took the drugs they were supposed to.
But again, is this still all semantics? To what extent is medical nonadherence an addiction? Would you, for example, go so far as to structure a twelve-step program, like Alcoholics Anonymous, around not taking drugs?
Here are 26 addiction groups that Wikipedia considers notable:
AA — Alcoholics Anonymous
CA — Cocaine Anonymous
CLA — Clutterers Anonymous
CMA — Crystal Meth Anonymous
CoDA — Co-Dependents Anonymous
DA — Debtors Anonymous
EA — Emotions Anonymous
FA — Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
FAA — Food Addicts Anonymous
GA — Gamblers Anonymous
HA — Heroin Anonymous
LAA — Love Addicts Anonymous
MA — Marijuana Anonymous
NA — Narcotics Anonymous
N/A — Neurotics Anonymous
NicA — Nicotine Anonymous
OA — Overeaters Anonymous
PA — Pills Anonymous
RA — Racists Anonymous
SA — Sexaholics Anonymous
SAA — Sex Addicts Anonymous
SCA — Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
SLAA — Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
SRA — Sexual Recovery Anonymous
UA — Underearners Anonymous
WA — Workaholics Anonymous
There might already be a Medical Nonadherence Anonymous (MNA), but we don’t know about it. It may be just a matter of time. Since the FDA approves around 38 drugs per year, that’s 38 new ways per year that someone could become a medical nonadherent. If our society can no longer function without prescription drugs, abstinence becomes just as dangerous as adherence.