Straight Talk Advice

Apr 07, 2010

Is boy messed up from drugs or mental illness?

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: My brother is 25. He’s always been moody and used to have a bad temper. Now he’s sometimes manic, sometimes drowsy. He started smoking pot at 12. Later came Oxycotin, Xanax, Vicodin, Methadone, anything pharmaceutical to get high. As far as I know he doesn’t do drugs anymore (save his prescriptions), but he’s still whacked-out. I don’t understand if his behavior is from leftover effects of long-term drug use, or he is lying to us and still abusing? Or was he simply born with a mental disorder? His psychiatrist just gives him more drugs which seem to make things worse. My parents can’t bear to turn him out and see him fail. What do you think is wrong with him and how can we help? — Concerned brother, Sacramento

Katelyn 15, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

It’s probably everything. Depression could’ve led to drug abuse which could’ve led to schizophrenia (or something), which could lead who-knows-where. If his psychiatrist isn’t helping, try a new one.

Ashley 23, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

My fiancé‘s brother was a perfectly normal kid until he started doing drugs and one day snapped. It’s sad because his friends kept giving him drugs. He hasn’t been the same since. He lives with his parents and is off drugs now. He’s a little better but it has taken a long time and lots of medications.

Brie 18, Ashland, Ore. Ask me a question

I read that long-term marijuana smokers are more prone to developing psychotic disorders such as manic depression and hallucinations — and the younger they start, the more prone they are.

Gabriel 19, Ashland, Ore. Ask me a question

One kid can drink massive amounts of alcohol with no hangover, another wakes up puking from three beers. We all respond differently to drugs.

Scot 23, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Ask me a question

You could help by being his medical advocate. This means keeping his medical records, charting how he feels day to day, and attending appointments with him.

Vanessa 22, Galt, Calif. Ask me a question

It’s good that you care. In high school I constantly abused cold medicine, aspirin, friends’ antidepressants, anything to get high. No family members ever questioned why I was all hyper when I got home, then passed out an hour later. Snoop while he’s out, see what you find. What would have changed me sooner was someone constantly proud of me for being clean.

Maureen 18, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

He needs a 30-day detox followed by a psych evaluation. If he refuses, there’s tough love: get help or get out. Some drug-users return to themselves, others do not. It depends on the drugs taken, at what age and for how long.

Lennon 23, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

Optimal cure: take him out in the woods for six months.

Liva 20, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

A friend’s younger brother abused pot and prescription drugs for a long time. He was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s hard to tell where the mental disorder ends and the drug use begins. I suggest your parents regularly drug-test him as a condition of living there.

DEAR CONCERNED: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? With drug use, especially starting young, things get scrambled. Scientists now know that environment plays a huge role in determining which genetic traits “show up.” Take the environment of the developing brain for instance. Feed it today’s strong pot — or pills. Presto chango. Negative traits that otherwise would have lain dormant can become active. Not a pretty outcome.

Each panelist hit a bull’s eye. Tell your parents I recommend every suggested thing. I would snoop. I would randomly drug test him, become his medical advocate, and require him to attend outpatient rehab, all as a condition of my support. I would change psychiatrists. With more money, I would send him to a wilderness rehab program.

Editor’s Note: Like Gabe says below, some kids can drink like fish with no hangover, others are puking from three beers. By the same token, some kids can smoke pot and be high-functioning between stones, while others are affected mentally in a very negative way — which can spiral downward. The younger the user, the more likely this scenario. For any middle school or high school kid who seems weird all of a sudden, “not right” behind the eyes, displaying odd behaviors, changing friends, or worsening in school, I would immediately suspect pot and/or pills. Rapid intervention is important via drug testing and help from outpatient rehab. Even though marijuana today is 10 to 25 percent stronger than the stuff from the ’70s and ’80s, some rehab counselors will tell you pot is okay — even when you can see that your kid is NOT okay. If that happens, trust yourself and go elsewhere. — Lauren Forcella

  1. By Stepsister, age , from Lincoln, CA on 04/07/2010

    My sister and I sure know what it’s like to live with someone like this.  We have a 19 year old stepsister who’s been through drug rehab 3 times now.  After the last time, her mom refused to put up with her anymore and had the right to kick her out since she’s legally an adult, so our stepdad agreed to take her in.  The worst part is that we have no extra space, so my sister and I have to share our room with her, and it isn’t a very big room for 2 to share much less 3. She’s supposedly “cured” this time, but it doesn’t look like it to us. Sometimes she seems fine, but other times she exhibits totally bizarro behavior, and sometimes she’ll wake us up in the middle of the night screaming and yelling in her sleep at someone named “Ethan” even though she claims that she doesn’t know anyone by that name.  Our stepdad says that she just needs time to completely recover and believes that she’s drug free now, but it sure doesn’t look like it to us, and he doesn’t have to share a room with her.  If we dare to act anything but overjoyed at having to share our room with her, he gets furious and says we can complain and call it “our room” the day we start paying the rent.  We really think it’s time for what they call “tough love” but he has blinders on when it comes to her.


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