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Meth's Misery and Mental Illness: A Deadly Combination

This is a painfully personal blog post. I considered writing the sub-title as “Meth and Madness” to balance two one-word nouns, but “madness” is a stigmatizing word, in my opinion. This is a personal blog post because six members of my family (immediate and extended) fell under the spell of crystal meth (short for crystal methamphetamine). The common street name is simply “Meth”. It is a white crystalline drug that people take by inhaling through the nose, smoking it, or injecting it. Some even take it orally, but all develop a strong desire to continue using it because the drug creates a false sense of happiness and well-being—a rush of confidence, hyper-activeness, and energy. One also experiences a decrease in appetite. These drug effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last up to twenty-four hours.  

Crystal Meth use is associated with several serious physical and mental illnesses

1. Paranoia: suspicion, distrust or fear of other people. 

2. Cardiovascular: related to both the heart and blood vessels. 

3. Alzheimer’s disease: a disease affecting some older people that is accompanied by memory loss. 

As of this writing, four family members are in recovery. I pray every day for the others before this insidious drug causes permanent damage or even death. 

Substance abuse and mental illness is called a “dual diagnosis”. These are separate illnesses with different treatment plans. Treatment centers dot every community and meetings of Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are attended by millions of addicts and alcoholics each day all supporting one another to stay clean and sober. 

In the past, addiction was viewed as a moral failing or a sign of a weakness. Today, we realize that drug addiction is a devastating, chronic brain disease. The most commonly abused substance in America today is alcohol. Seventeen-point-six million Americans are dependent on or abusing Alcohol, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

I spoke recently with my friend Chris Thrall, a former Royal Marines Commando (an elite military group like our Navy Seals here in the U.S.). Chris lives in London. He is author of the memoir Eating Smoke, which tells the story of his experience with crystal meth addiction. Chris told me Americans are “20 years behind the British” in terms of addiction recovery.

“The whole jargon of Narcotics Anonymous,” he said, “branding people as 'addicts' and 'ill' by a “God” (or Higher Power) of your choosing' is wrong. It's offensive and it's inaccurate as it only relates to a single part of someone's whole lifetime, and thus is stigmatizing and bad for an individual's self- image. Addiction is a 'learned psychological condition' and thus can be 'unlearned' for many people, without joining a cult-like organization to do it. For some individuals, yes, NA and AA is just simply a good option as it provides a rigid framework when all else has fails,” Chris explained.

Why do people abuse meth and other drugs? Some do it out of curiosity or peer pressure while others stumble upon drugs as an escape from the uncomfortable feelings of sadness or anxiety they experience. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports about 20 percent of substance abusers have an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder, such as depression. When someone is struggling with mental illness, it often isn’t visible to the sufferer, who is in the thick of it. 

I self-medicated with alcohol abuse when I was a teenager as the first symptoms of bipolar disorder appeared after the sudden death of my mother. Alcohol is a depressant and is counter-productive when trying to escape from depression. My depression worsened the more often I was intoxicated. I never smoked marijuana or abused illegal or prescription drugs. Unfortunately, my late brother and step-sister fell into the trap of prescription narcotics which eventually resulted in overdoses of their drugs of choice. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration paints a picture of the associated risks through the following statistics:

• Over 100,000 emergency department visits related to methamphetamine.

• More than 3,200 poisoning exposures have been reported to poison control due to methamphetamine.

• At its peak in 2005, methamphetamine was responsible for almost 4,500 deaths in the US alone. 

The dangers of crystal meth are not outweighed by the limited therapeutic benefits such as weight loss and energy boost. This substance is cause for concern in the US and around the world.

I asked my friend Stanley Victor Paskavich to write a poem for this post. Stan is a wounded war veteran suffering from both PTSD and bipolar disorder.

“There’s a dance many take that leads them towards death. They waltz around for days on end from harmful chemicals someone did blend. Up for days in a distorted phase their reality often becomes a confusing maze. Many steal things to sell and dance with this drug, which can turn an innocent into a thug. If and when they make a conscious effort to get free, and reclaim some of their self-worth and sanity. Whether in rehab or a choice of their own it will be a life time battle to leave it alone.” 

-Victor Paskavich/Stantasyland

To see more of Tom's work, visit his website, read his posts on MVP seminarsTumblr and Stigma Fighters, or check out the rest of his posts for IBPF here

Comments

I'm a 61 year old female whose addicted to meth and psych meds I know I have a problem but I don't know how to quit I need help

If you are in the US you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline, a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 

If you are not in the US, call your country's drug abuse hotline to find out where you can get help. 

I too was addicted to many things for years including meth. Ive struggled with addiction my whole life. Starting at about 9 years old with alcohol. Prozac can be very helpful in the withdrawal symptoms of meth. For me i had to go to jail and almost lose my family for me to finally get off of everything. You could check yourself in at the hospital for a medical detox. The first step is admitting that you have a problem so you're already on the right track. Keep your head up and keep up the good work. You're worth it.

My oldest son is in serious trouble. My heart goes out to those he involved in his meth madness that just doesn’t mix well when you are bipolar. It’s a cycle with him. No one will help him. The last time he spent time in jail it was the biggest circus act I’ve ever seen. Those four months he should have spent in treatment for his addiction to pot and meth. And been under doctors care for bipolar disorder. But the courts clearly just wanted a conviction for the DA’s big record of convictions on every case brought before the judge in a certain southern calif court just on outskirts of the San Fernando valley. It’s disgusting what happened to my son. Our children get abused by cops and courts when they did nothing wrong. My son who’s bi polar started self medicating using pot about age 25. A series of tragic event then left him with severe PTSD. The last 8 yrs my son has been using meth to help him have energy to continue on in life. He is very suicidal. He had a melt down in 2014. He panicked and tried getting to my sisters house. She had just moved and he walked into the wrong house. The people home called police. I soon was asking for help. He ran away when he heard the cops were coming. He ran to a field three doors down and it was just around the corner from my sisters house. He laid down looking up into the night sky and saw police helicopter with spot light coming at him. He then hears skit of police cars pulling in the streets around where heveas. Cops let the police dogs loose and my son was attacked while he laying down trying to get up. The cops could care less about my son. They could have driven around block to my sisters house. Scared, my son lies about his name. He thought since he didn’t do anything they’d just let him go. Wrong! They took him into custody. Bad police arrest him for home invasion. The homeowner didn’t press charges but the DA KEPT HIM FOUR MONTHS IN LA COUNTY MENS JAIL BECAUSE HE FIRST TOLD COPS A DIFFERENT NAME. Once my son was at the jail he told him his real name. My son had to fight in jail and he was bullied everyday he there. It was like he in a never ending night mare. I could believe all this was happening. I tried to talk to the person representing him but my telling them my son has mental conditions he is not a criminal fell on deaf ears. I kept thinking he was going to be released at each hearing. But the DA only cares about keeping his job that he falsely provides to the public who votes for him on his conviction rate. My son was charged a felony for first saying he was someone else. The DA even tried to get the person he claimed he first was family to say that my son was guilty of identity theft and because the persons dead and his own mother used his credit to buy herself things. She now was going to pin it all on my son. The wife of the deceased though knew my son hadn’t done anything do she told DA my son had only used her late husbands name that one time. Which was true. People abuse those in such situations to cover their own butt at who’s expense? The innocent person with a mental condition is falsely accused of a bigger crime and it breaks my heart and makes me furious same time. Well the DA still sentenced my son to four months. It was the biggest injustice ever. My son is jaded now from that rightly so. He had no respect for cops or the system. He continued after he got out to abuse illegal street drugs. I’ve tried to get him help but no one will because he tests positive for meth.
Now three years later my son just killed someone when he ran his truck at 80mph while texting me suicide messages. He tried to hit a block wall and kill himself. He is devastated he killed someone else. He had major injuries from it. This time I paid for a good attorney to help bring the conditions he suffers from to surface so we can get him help so he never repeats the behaviors that put him in a crazy state to want to kill himself. Even when he not using meth he still has crazy thoughts. The bipolar came first. It’s just magnified with drug use and no mental heath help by our system that clearly is abused by power and my key has nary elected officials. I think they should do the time for the death in this accident.

It’s frustrating as a mother to know how to handle this. Please say prayers for victim n my family. My son is very upset at this.

My brother has been in and out of prison since age 13 he is now 34 and suffering tremendously from major phychotic depression. He hears voices telling him he's worthless and nobody wants him around very mean and abusive things that are not true. He is not a murderer, rapist, drug peddler, just a victim of the abusive justice system. He was released from prison about a year ago with no support in his mental health, financial options, education, or even a place to go. His parole dropped him at a homeless shelter and had no compassion at all. My brother of course turned to self medicating with alcohol and street drugs which makes his phychosis worse and thoughts of suicide and impending doom. Paranoid his parole officer would send him back to the cage he's spent most his life, he made an impulsive decision to cut his ankle monitor and go on run. It's so sad and I feel powerless to how to help him because he can't seek medical attention now because they'll turn him over to authorities. Prison is not where he needs to be. This is his 4 escape now and he just needs some healing and nurturing a little bit of hope anything but prison. I just don't understand how our government can be so inhumane and blind to what they are doing to our society and for what? Money of course it makes me sick. Im looking for solutions to this crippling system and reform for criminal justice alternative solutions. Something has got to be seriously changed about this topic.

Your brother with your help from outside can get evaluated in court that’s just for those in medical mental health crisis. If he had ever seen a doctor who has diagnosed your brother
As bipolar he can get help while doing time. It’s better if he turns himself in on his own. He can’t run forgever. And usually they will catch him when he is high and he will get more charges on top of skipping out charges. And he will never get OR’d ever again on anything. If you see your brother try to talk to him about turning himself in.

I agree with you on everything you said and it is a disgrace and it is about the DA showing what a hard ass he is on prosecuting crimes in his big city mrs DA loves her fancy lifestyle and Mr DA I’d afraid of Mrs DA so he must get re-elected after his first term. They make so much money and they are so corrupt. It’s all corrupt.

im so sorry to hear of the pain you and your son have gone through. I too have a bipolar daughter on meth, and i cant talk to anyone about it cause they would be in shock. lol ya know?

My son also have fallen a victim of meth. When he was 18 three years ago he went into a drug induced physcosis for 4 months for which doctors were unsure if he would ever come out of it for which he did. He has never fully been the same. He had a relapse in Jan. 2018 and spent 3 weeks in the state mental hospital for another drug induced physcosis. On May 16th 2018 my precious son jumped off and interstate bridge onto the lane of traffic and only my God did he survive. He thought he could fly because the brain damage that meth has given him. Now he lays in a hospital with serious mental and physical injuries. I just obtained guardianship of him. The problem is they want to send him home under 24 hour care from our family with no other options for him. As much as I love my son and want him home I know he needs serious help which I feel he should be in a facility where he is safe until he is mentally stable. There is not many options for mental and physical health for adults. My son don't even know that meth has brought this all upon him. He was fine until the meth. He has been diagnosed with bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, and several more. Please any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I am sorry to hear about your son. I know as a mother this is one of the most difficult issues to face.

Have you ever looked up what happens when a bipolar person just smokes pot? It has for many very devastating effect on them. Add meth to it and it’s just a matter of time til they are sitting in jail too for killing someone when they delusional and the voices tell them that a persons the devil and going to kill them. So they kill out of fear. It’s real to then. Bipolar people and drugs other than the ones doctor monitors them on... a bad mixture.

Smoking meth as a way to not feel my emotions and lose weight caused me to have serious bipolar symptoms. So much so that my psychologist suggested a mood stabilizer. It’s unfortunate that my 20’s were spent either drunk or high so recalling my normal behavior was almost impossible.

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