Monday, August 26, 2013

Bipolar People Breaking Bad

As a bipolar-2 person addicted to the television show Breaking Bad, I've been wondering if some bipolar people use methamphetamine and other street drugs. Online research answered my question. Of course they do.

Bipolar people are among those who seek relief from stress in alcohol and prescription drugs and then move on to illegal substances such as meth, which they can buy on the street. Street-drug use sometimes starts in college and may come before or after a bipolar diagnosis, but meth probably cannot cause bipolar disorder.

Even more effective than cocaine, meth produces a potentially addictive spike of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which at first results in a sense of well being and increased energy. But meth addiction, while perhaps seeming beneficial, can eventually lead to a stroke or psychosis.

In a bipolar person, a meth high may become a manic state that incapacitates the sufferer and leads to hospitalization. When the highs are inevitably followed by lows, bipolar people may crash into such severe depression that they cannot function. Yet when they are in their late teens and early twenties, they are not likely to attribute their dark moods to their taking drugs that at first produced feelings of well being. Psychological counseling can make that connection for them, so early intervention is key.

Some of the symptoms meth users suffer may be similar to, but more intense than, those of bipolar disorder, making bipolarity difficult to diagnose in meth users. A specialist in helping bipolar people with meth addiction is best qualified to diagnose the problem and to oversee withdrawal.

Bipolar people are especially at risk for trying to self-medicate, using mood-altering substances without consulting a physician. In fact, Nicole Gregston, a case manager at the Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MHMR), Austin, Texas, has said that “Teens and adults with bipolar disorder are the most self-medicating emotional disorder group, often turning to drugs and alcohol to quell their mood swings.”

One risk for self-medicating with meth is that it may cancel the benefits of a prescribed drug the user also takes, or the two drugs may interact in a harmful way.

Ironically, the benefits that meth delivers in new users — a sense of self-confidence, desirability, and invulnerability — are the same ones that meth takes away with continued use. Only higher and higher doses deliver the desired results and alleviate the craving, until eventually, there are no desired results, the body deteriorates, but the craving intensifies. Add bipolar symptoms to all this, and a bipolar meth addict may wander beyond a point of no return.

Even without drug addiction, bipolar people have a higher than average suicide rate. With drug addiction, the danger of suicide increases.

An online search for meth and bipolar disorder led me to discussions by bipolar drug users. These forums are obviously not scientific samplings, but the combinations of drugs people said they use or had used in order to manage their bipolar mood swings is staggering. 

In the world of Breaking Bad, it seems safe to assume that some buyers of Walter and Jesse's Blue Sky crystals were bipolar. I wonder if their stories will show up in the planned spin-off, Call Saul. Saul might be just the lawyer to handle bipolar meth users' lawsuits.

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