Needs Help for Bipolar Son Who Used Meth
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Q:  Needs Help for Bipolar Son Who Used Meth

Hi, my son is BiPolar, and has struggled with this (at least I think) since the age of 3.  Originally they diagnosed him with ADHD, but I always knew there was more to it.  When he was born he would scream bloody murder 24/7, and there was nothing that we could do for him, and the doctors could not find a reason either.  At the age of 3 he started banging his head on the wall, and after that he's gone from one institute to another.  He was finally diagnosed with BP at the age of 13.   

He's now 19 years old, and about 3 years ago, things started getting really rough.  He started shooting up Crystal Meth, and was in trouble with the law, and tried to commit suicide.  Which he has tried twice in the last year and a half.  About a year ago I got him into a great rehab program, but he was kicked out of there, which isn't uncommon for him.  He will not listen to authority.  He is very defiant, and can be aggressive, and many other things that he struggles with, but yet he is a sweetheart, and has a HUGE heart. 

He lived with us last year, and for a while it went well, and then everything fell apart, and he started using again here and there.  I found him an  apartment finally, and he had a good job, and he was taking Lamictal, and things were (what I thought) going well.  For the last month now he has been smoking Meth night and day.  For the last 14 days, he's had no sleep, and for the last 8 days he's only eaten a candy bar here and there.  Last Friday he finally crumbled, and called me crying, and said that he can't do this anymore or he will kill himself.  (oh yeah the doc at the hospital mentioned that he's surprised that he didn't already have a heart attack, because his heart is in bad shape from doing the Meth (they did an EKG))

He was very close to a hospital (about 8 blocks away) and I suggested for him to go and check himself into the emergency room there. He did that, and they sent him to a Neuropsychological center (where he has now been a total of 6 times, starting at the age of 6).  He is now detoxing, and looking very skinny.  It absolutely breaks my heart, and I'm having a tough time coping, but am strong, and as usual will go on, because I have other kids, and I always want to be there for him.  I am trying to get him on Medicaid Disability, but from what the social worker at the hospital tells me, they will most likely not accept him, and look at this as the drugs is what started all his problems.

Well duh!  The bipolar came first, and I know that it is very common for people with BP to start using drugs to self-medicate.  My insurance (which he will covered under until he is 25) will only pay for 7 days inpatient, and then after that he's up a creek without a paddle unless he gets qualified for Medicaid.  I know that if he doesn't go to rehab after detox, that he probably won't have a chance.  He has burned through all the family, and cannot  come back to live with me, because I have other children at home that I need to take care of, and I won't have drugs in my house, or like last time when he lived with us, and everyone had to tip toe around him, because their scared of him when he's coming down of Meth.

I am completely out of ideas, and scared, and don't know how to help anymore?  What do you do when you absolutely need treatment, but cannot afford it?  I know that there is a rehab through the county that's free, but there is a huge waiting list.  My son said that if there is nowhere to go, then he will kill himself.  Please advise, or give me ideas.  I love him with all my heart.


Dear Annette -- 
Is there a chapter of Al-Anon (a branch of Alcoholics Anonymous, which also has a branch called Narcotics Anonymous) in your area? You need some good help for you, as you'll need to be at your best to help him when/if the right channels open.  You might also look for a local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, who have a lot of experience with people falling through cracks in the system. And there's always the Depression and Manic Depression Support Alliance ( You see, you'll need help knowing when to help him (and how, if there is a way) and when to let him struggle -- as if you always help him, no matter what, then he will not have to face the consequences of his actions and not be able to learn from them.  That old message: bet you've heard that one plenty. It must be very difficult to have to tell him he's not coming back to the house, for example.  But that's an important starting place. Meth is a huge problem, and if there is anything you can do to help him get away from it (including refusing to shelter him when he's using it; watch out for your valuables and cash and such), that's an important start for his problem. The NAMI folks might know who to turn to in your mental health care system to help get someone working on his bipolar disorder aggressively in the hopes that if it is better controlled, his meth' use might go down. Good luck to you. 

Dr. Phelps

Published August, 2005 


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