I am a person in long term recovery. I have been in recovery from alcohol and other drugs, by the grace of God, for 17 years. When I was using, I am positive that I used to self-medicate because I had not been diagnosed yet. I probably went 20 years with out being properly diagnosed. Mostly, my diagnosis was either Major Depression or Situational Depression. I would be put on antidepressants for as long as I could tolerate them and then come off of them. (of course I wouldn't go to the doctor when I was feeling "too" good.... who ever told the doctor they felt "too" good??)
I used alcohol and other depressants (illegal drugs and misused rx medications) to bring down my highs during my late teens and twenties. I was a very high functioning bipolar addict, still an honor graduate from both college and grad school, and holding down a job. But... I probably have my hypomania to thank for the energy... lol. I got clean/sober at the age of 30. I'm surprised I made it alive.
Why do people choose street drugs over rx medication? Why do they choose the street life over another life? That is such a complicated question. First of all, many people with Bipolar truly feel that the Rx blunt their drive and their creativity. They have a sense that the medication that is supposed to make them healthy "robs" them of WHO they are. With street drugs, a person at least has the choice as to when they can medicate the high, when they can "chill out." They just don't realize that the drug has robbed their choice in another way (through addiction).
It is very common for people with a mental health diagnosis to also have an addiction (60% of us do). Mood disorders and addictions impact the very same area of the brain and impact the very same neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine). So it serves to reason that a majority of us would have that creep into our lives as well.
Once again.... my 2 and a half cents!!
The data geek