Bipolar Disorder Support Group

Bipolar disorder is not just a single disorder, but a category of mood disorders marked by periods of abnormally high energy and euphoria, often accompanied by bouts of clinical depression. This is the place to talk about your experience with bipolar disorder, learn from others' experiences, and find support.

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do illegal street drugs cause mental illness?

This is a question I've been asking for a long time now.

I know that I didn't have 1/10 of the problems I have now after using street drugs.

I've heard in rehab, (rehab that's a joke) that illegal drugs can not cause mental illness such as schizophrenia and so on. unless the person already had some kind of genetic marker for it in the first place.

But I beg to differ, I know tons of addicts who came out of addiction receiving a dx of bi polar or other mental illnesses. Especially heroin users which I was one.

So do you think street drugs can cause mental illness or that the addict already had a mental illness and the drugs just made it more apparent that they have it?

Street drugs always make things worse! Whether it's mental illness or dealing with life.



um..I would say can induce mental illness in someone genetically predisposed.

But- long term heavy drug use ...can cause brain damage which is much of a much muchness, I guess? Like, how if someone has a bad head injury that can lead to life long mood swings, instability...I think?

many people 'diagnosed' in rehab may well be misdiagnosed, also- as that would be a big US tendency..not a world wide one. It's trendy is what I mean. Some would be mentally ill but not all..if that makes sense

but yeah, things like acid, amphetamines can trigger bipolar, schizophrenia x

that's why people are screened for other biological causes of bipolar, y'know..head injuries, tumors etc

I guess it makes sense that ppl with mental illness are more likely to self medicate, take refuge in substances though. I remember hearing, years ago, that something like 60%? More? of bipolar people were alcoholics or heavy drug users? have others heard that?

I know in my family tree there are lot of heavy drinking, at the very least ppl with bp1

My experience with street drugs was that they cause problems. Others may not see it that way. I have a friend who used a lot of LSD back when with no apparent problems and again that was his experience. Meanwhile, many people who tried LSD wound up in a catatonic coma so it seems like more of an individual response, for instance, just like with meds we get from our docs.

And rehab is one person's joke but another person's salvation. Just saying.

I agree that the street drugs, pot and alcohol always make things worse but I'm not sure what comes first, BP or problems with street drugs. For me I can see that I was BP from an early age that showed in the depression I had at 7-8 years old. The BP was manageable for quite a few years when it went out of control in my 20s, coincidentally after I did a lot of street drugs. Learn your own lesson and learn wisely.

yeah- I know someone who took acid & never came down again= instant severe schizophrenia.

It might depend on the rehab tommy. I've heard that other rehabs were not as abusive as mine was. Nor as misinformed.

To clarify many people were not dxed in rehab it was after they got out of rehab that they were dxed. Rehabs are finicky and frown upon diagnosing people. They usually are also against medicating in the beginning stages of sobriety.

As for myself while mental illness does run in my family however, I can say that before the street drugs I definitely had no symptoms of bi polar. The only thing I had was ADD which if medicated I might have made more sound decisions as I think much sharper while medicated. Like not using drugs! After all Ritalin is like cocaine right? (that's what I read on the internet any way) WRONG! I found out the hard way ADD meds are nothing like street drugs!

Well not to tell the whole long story but I also needed antidepressants at the time as my friend had just killed her self and I was also feeling suicidal because of it. Once again if I had been properly medicated perhaps I could have avoided the whole drug addiction thing, and not having the problems I now have.

Well there was more to the story than just that but my point is that I did not have bi polar before street drugs and now I do.

Was it a combo of bad genes and brain damage from illicit drugs? Or was it purely the drugs? I don't really know and it's hard to say since mental illness can cause a person to self medicate which I believe. So chicken or the egg? Or a little of both?
Community LeaderSunCloudJD

There's a type of Schizophrenia that's caused by drugs.. specifically LSD.. I think (my memory may be a little flawed) there's 11 types of Schizophrenia....
There is definitely a correlation but it's usually that people become addicts due to mental illness often not diagnosed or even if it has been as a way to try and self medicate..
Heavy use of street drugs are playing with brain chemicals so I have no doubt they can do damage.. I just don't know to what extent..x

anyone can suffer from a drug induced psychosis, but if you have a predisposition to mental illness then this can be a trigger for it.

I had a drug problem when I was a teenager (many years ago) and I just thought is was part of my youth. It wasn't until I was diagnosed in 2001 and went through my past and the behavior that we realized that I've been bipolar almost my whole life. The psychiatrist told me that past behavior can tell him alot and help him make the diagnosis that even in my teens, although I seemed fine to myself, certain behaviors say BP all the way.

I self-medicated every chance I got through drugs and alcohol. I had alot of bad behavior before I finally just stopped with my transition into my 20's. I am diagnosed now and I can see where my behavior was indicative of BP.

Whether or not street drugs cause mental illness is a question that I can answer "I dont think so." I think there is some kind of mental illness behind the drugs and that's why most people self-medicate. This is just my opinion. Don't most people do drugs to escape their lives? I know I did. Didn't think about it at the time but looking back I can see that's exactly why I do them. Just my opinion.

I'd offer it is a complex picture.

One explanation for addicts that come out of rehab with a bipolar is not that the street drugs caused the bipolar but that it was there and the drugs were part of reckless behaviour or self medication.

I could imagine that this jolly sea dog could easily have gone down that route. Indeed I was warned of that by a down and out in a peculiar encounter with a down and out at Bristol docks when I was but a young pup. For some reason he singled me out of a group of people to give the warning to telling me "you know what I am talking about"...

anyway when the addict gets treatment for the addiction remaining behaviours can then be looked at in a different light.

Many of the diagnostics I have read add at the end "and this behaviour could not be due to alcohol or use of street drugs". I get the feeling that doctors don't even bother with diagnosis when they know someone is an addict.

Plus as others have said there are a number of drugs that can apparently cause semi-permenant psychosis

I think it's almost impossible to prove one way or the other. I don't see why they couldn't, though. I just saw on a neurologist's site that chronic alcoholism rewires the brain and increases anxiety, which probably makes it extra difficult to quit. So I can't imagine why acid, speed, pcp, coke, etc on a regular basis wouldn't also cause long term illness. A great resource on this is Dr. Daniel Amen-- he studies this kind of thing, via brain scans of head injuries vs. long-term users.

Also, there is supposedly a 'new' category of BP, I believe BP, that is called something like "SSRI-induced BP", and it's not necessarily people who were genetically predisposed. So I really don't see why uppers of any kind woudn't have similar effects.

I think that maybe the repercussions may not be exactly the same as an organically-based condition, but I'll bet theyre pretty damn similar. Only Syd Barret knows (in heaven RIP) for sure.

Yes, Pirate Jack brings up the whole chicken-or-the-egg question of was the drug use a symptom or a cause of mental illness.

Here's Dr. Amen's take:
Short and long term substance abuse* affects blood flow and metabolism, which negatively affect the way your central nervous system works. This seems to be especially true in the frontal lobes of the brain, which control executive functioning (skills like planning, attention span, and impulse control) and in the temporal lobes, which are involved in memory, mood, and understanding speech. Fortunately, some researchers report that the damage associated with chronic use of alcohol, nicotine, inhalants, and solvents is at least partially reversible with addiction treatment.

He might seem a bit Ophrah-ish as I think he's been in the media a lot, but it looks like some solid science is there.

In some instances, I believe that drug use kicks in with a predisposing familial gene and causes someone to slip over into the abyss. I believe this happened with me. Then again, there is a history of symptomology all the way back into my teens. Only God knows for sure I guess.

exacerbate or might trigger epigentics to acknowlege dormant genes that preclude possiblity of mental illness.
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