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People in cults and substance misusers

Posted by Yvonne on July 29, 2005 at 03:39:46

In Reply to: Re: Questions for critical thinking posted by MG on July 29, 2005 at 01:50:31:

I can only talk about substance misusers who come to the attention of mental health services as this is my area of work. Those who are dependent on psychoactive substances that I have worked with, and the research I have read over the years tends to support this, usually are using these substances for 'self medication'. Sometimes this is because of trauma, mostly in childhood, but it can also be in adulthood too. [Often an individual has both]. They don't tend to continue to to use for the 'high'. It may well be that by the time they are dependent they need to use prevent withdrawal syndromes.

Another reason that people with mental health problems use is to control side effects of prescribed medications or to control mental health symnptoms; clients have described how they use to be able to cope with psychosis for example.

If people have had a maladaptive [abusive for example] childhood, they often do not have the chance to learn how to build healthy relationships, or many of the other social skills that we take for granted - this then leads to them being labelled as having a defective personality and addictive personality is just such a label. It has no scientific support and is perjorative and disempowering.

If we want to look at similiarities between those in cults and those who use substances what I would suggest as a good starting point is looking at what the cult experience is used for and why it is used. Possibly two very different questions.

What some research has shown is that some [notice the some] not all people in cults have abusive childhoods or traumatic adulthoods. It could be suggested that these people, like those dependent on substances, are using the cults to fulfill some of their psychological/relationship/existential needs.