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Confessions of A Pharmacophobe: Why I’m Afraid of Drugs

Confessions of A Pharmacophobe: Why I’m Afraid of Drugs

What is Pharmacophobia?

As you may have guessed, pharmacophobia is the fear of drugs, but it actually extends much farther than that. Many folks, that experience some type of fear in relation to drugs, also experience a more targeted fear regarding pharmaceutical drugs as well as developing an addiction to them.

Of course, every person is different and can experience varied versions of pharmacophobia. Some may be afraid of medication, or hallucinogenic drugs, intravenous drugs, or even the common vaccinations specifically. In any case, very little information exists about this fear, which is why it is so important to bring this issue, and adjoining issues, into the light.

Why is pharmacophobia a problem?

Right about now you might be thinking “being afraid of drugs isn’t a bad thing” and you’d be partially correct. However, if we examine this phobia from a psychological perspective, it could potentially be harmful to someone’s life.

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Untreated mental illnesses, including fears, can grow into incapacitating obstacles in a person’s life. Often times, the illness starts as one small problem then evolves into a gargantuan issue that is impeding the affected individual’s ability to live a healthy life.

For example, someone with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) may have a fear of germs. This may start as a handwashing obsession that eventually begins to creep into other areas of that person’s life. Maybe they start becoming obsessive about germs in their house, on their clothes or shoes, where their food is cooked, etc. You can see where something as harmless as washing your hands can possibly stop someone from living a fulfilled and healthy life.

This can also affect those with other mental health conditions aside from their phobias. Someone may be suffering from pharmacophobia as well as anxiety, depression, or other common mental health problems. It may be quite difficult for someone with pharmacophobia to receive medical treatment for such a condition when they happen to be terrified of developing a dependency on their medication.

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Of course, many may go through their lives never needing treatment. Some pharmacophobes may remain in control over their fear and it may never develop into a larger issue. Yet, as is the case with millions of untreated mental health cases each year, many can result in constant stress, anxiety, and seclusion from a world where drugs are a part of our everyday lives.

How does someone develop a fear of drugs?

When I was about 8 years old, my mother developed a debilitating addiction to meth. She was trapped by this sickness, unable to escape for roughly 6 years. Eventually, she was arrested, sent to prison, and it was there that she committed to getting clean and sober.

I cannot speak for her and what she went through during those years, but I can speak for myself. Seeing my mother wither away before my very eyes was shocking to say the least. Watching someone so close to you, that you love so much, destroy their life and their body is simply horrifying. What I do know is, my mother was actually quite lucky to receive help when she did. Naturally, drug addiction in any form is risky, but extended use for months and even years is akin to playing a game of russian roulette.

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Meth is particularly addictive and harshly degenerative on the body. You may have seen photos of those who have been using for only a few short months that look like tenured drug users on their last leg.

As a result, I have been afraid of drugs for as long as I can remember. For me, pharmacophobia mainly exists within “recreational” drugs instead of medicinal drugs. However, I do have a fear of medication, specifically addictive pain, anxiety, and depression meds. I definitely don’t have an issue with taking things like aspirin, allergy medication, cold medicine, etc. I recognize that if I ever saw myself in a situation where I was in need of medical attention, I might need to take the medication in order to restore my health, but of course I would prefer not to.

Fear of What A Prescription Means

Aside from the possibility of traumatic experiences with drugs, some pharmacophobes also develop their fear due to a perceived lack of control. Not being in control of the mind or body can be a seriously frightening scenario for some.

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It’s easy to see why someone could develop a fear of drugs or addiction, given the current state prescription addiction in the United States. In a study done by the American Society of Addiction Medication, they reported over 47,055 drug related deaths in 2014 alone. Although 60% of these deaths were due to overdose by heroin or painkillers, the remaining 40% were due to the abuse of prescription medications, like highly accessible antidepressants or antianxiety medication.

What’s more, many others are afraid of the side affects that come along with medications. Possible blood clots, heart problems, liver failure, and even cancer can result from extended use of many prescription medications. These are hard facts to live with in a world where just about everything, even aspirin, has possible side effects listed on the bottle.

Lastly, societal stigmas and misinformation lead to shame amongst sufferers of mental illnesses and fears. Millions of Americans are so ashamed to admit their dependency on medication to help them live a peaceful life and heal over time. So, many choose to avoid this situation altogether due to a fear of failure. They become afraid of seeking help via medication because they believe this means they have failed as a human being.

Everyone deserves to be safe, healthy, and happy.

Understanding and controlling my pharmacophobia has been a journey for me and I realize that I may carry this fear for the rest of my life. Although, I too try to remember that asking for help does not result in my failure, quite the contrary actually. Seeking counseling or therapy is nothing to be ashamed of and should be used as a constant resource for those who feel that their mental health is negatively affecting their quality of life or the lives of those around them.

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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