Drug abuse is OFTEN a “Chemical Crap Shoot”!
by Ned Wicker
A young man left home for college full of hopes and aspirations. He had been a model son and the pride of his parents’ lives, but during his first year at college, this promising young man’s life went seriously wrong.
His behavior changed dramatically, and one day he had a psychotic episode. A bright and full of life young man was suddenly suicidal, incapable of continuing his college studies and had to be removed from school. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but other problems often can appear at the same time.
Parents don’t know what to do?
The parents were at their wits ends. The mother’s protective instinct kicked in and she hovered over her sick child, while dad, devastated over his son’s sudden and crippling condition, withdrew and became distant. Both have feared losing their son since he first became ill and they continue to look for answers.
The son, now 22, lives at home and holds a part-time, minimum wage job. He has tried a couple of times to go back to college and continue taking courses, but the task is overwhelming for him and he has yet to figure out a way of moving forward and completing a degree program. He is an intelligent, engaging young man, but he is stuck and cannot seem to move forward.
Adding to the parents’ frustration is his rebellious streak, as at 22 he feels he deserves more freedom to come and go as he pleases. This is a problem because he totaled his car and has no money to replace it. He also has issues that can’t be ignored.
He also makes poor choices. Most of the people he likes to “hang” with are drug users and he tends to gravitate toward the shadows, although he steadfastly claims a Christian worldview and fails to understand the in-congruence.
He has arguments with his parents over freedom issues, the same arguments a 16 year-old might have. His mother says he is good about calling her when he has been using, and she says she often drives to his friends’ houses to pick him up.
No call causes major concern
However, one day he didn’t call. Someone who knew him called his mother to tell her that he was wandering around the parking lot of his place of employment early one morning. She feared the worst.
Medication can effect the central nervous system.
The bi-polar medication effects the central nervous system, and when he is on his normal dosage, it is not uncommon for him to appear slightly slower, muffled. In combination with marijuana, or other illegal street drugs, he runs the risk of serious consequences.
The parents don’t know what they are going to do. On the one hand, they do not want to enable his drug behavior and have confronted him about his habits. His mother wants him to go into treatment and has done research on finding the right situation for him. Many treatment centers will not accept patients who are taking medication.
In his case, the anti-psychotics have been effective in keeping him on an even keel. His mother says that without the medication, his behavior will become bazaar and suicidal. She says not taking his meds is not a choice.
He is fearful of treatment because he was hospitalized for his bipolar, and the experience of being “locked up” has left him apprehensive and suspicious of any kind of intervention. He is in denial about his drug use, but he tends to agree with his parents to keep them, off his back.
There is a chicken and eggs issue at play in this man’s life:
What came first, his drug use or the mental illness?
What happened when he went off to college?
Did he take something that triggered the bipolar?
Both drug addiction and bipolar are mental diseases, so it’s a matter of treating both of them, regardless of which came first. The drug use would explain some of the changes in normal behavior, and his weakened ability to control impulses, even though he seems to recognize the negative consequences, is typical of so many mental disorders.
People who use drugs are more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, for example. It seems to go back and forth between the drugs and the disorder. Marijuana users may have increased risk of psychosis. Then again, a mental disorder can lead to drug use as a means of self-medicating.
In cases of co-morbid conditions, meaning more than one condition going on at the same time, a comprehensive intervention is called for and any condition needs to be properly identified and dealt with.
The problem that arises is that while there are medications, for example, that can help in the treatment of heroin addiction, or alcoholism, there has not been extensive research in just how these drugs affect patients with co-morbidity, and therefore there is no proven path to take.
Behavioral Therapies May Help with Treatment
There are, however, behavioral therapies that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse show some promise. The key to parents and family members being successful with the one they love is to do their homework, research the conditions and select the proper treatment program. Ask questions.
The young man’s mother is asking questions, questioning answers and doing her homework. Her patience with his struggle is wearing thin and she is no longer willing to be an enabler, but wants to do the right thing to help her son overcome his conditions.