Drunk Bipolar Kids – Throwback Thursday

underage drinking

This weeks Throwback is from June 2008.

I Became a Juvenile Delinquent

It began on a warm summer day in a field in Pennsylvania. It was 1974 and I was 10 years old. Dana, who lived across the street, was around 17. (No, there will be no Mrs. Robinson story here. Remember, I am gay). She and her friends were exciting to me with their cool long hair, and singing and art. On this day Dana introduced me to my first indulgence of the wicked lifestyle. We shared a Budweiser and smoked a joint. Man, now I made it in the world. I hated the joint but I didn’t want to look uncool so I pretended I liked it between all the coughing and hacking. I can’t imagine how I thought that she didn’t know it was killing me. She would also share her experiences of the cool acid trips she had, but dammit, was too selfish to share.

I think of Dana as one the last of the hippies. After graduating high school, she moved to California and joined a commune in Ojai. We exchanged postcards for awhile. The last one told me it was her week to take care of the goats. Wow, I thought, and so wanted to join a cool commune too. We lost touch after that and I always wonder where she is today. She’s probably a high level executive somewhere making a six figure income annually.

After Dana left, I continued my journey. When I tell Maurice about my wild and woolly youth he always looks at me with complete disbelief. What a nerd he was, I always think. Didn’t he do anything fun in school? I mean, come on, other teens regularly drank ‘til they blacked out, didn’t they? My other friends would also shake their heads when I described my crazy youth. Didn’t other kids keep beer on a snowy roof outside their window, or orange juice in cold stream behind their house for Vodka and orange juice before school? Ok, Ok, I’m really embarrassed to admit, but until the past couple of years I truly thought those were normal things that every teenager did. Wow, can you imagine if that was true? I’d hate to think of that world.

The Study

Last week, this I saw an article from Healthday News which begins with this:

THURSDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) — Teens with bipolar disorder are at greater risk of smoking and substance abuse, says a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) study that supports previous research.

The study used just over 200 students. About half of those were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the others with no mood disorder. They watched the kids from the age of 14 into adulthood. The results? The rate of substance abuse was 34% in the bipolar group compared to 4% in the control group

I admit I’m selfish, but I find some relief in the study. I wasn’t so weird after all. I was pretty normal for a kid who is bipolar. The numbers are staggering to me.

The study asks does having a mood disorder put children at risk of self medication, or is there a genetic switch activated in adolescence. If there is a switch, it would turn on both bipolar disorder and substance abuse. It is currently being studied in genetic and neuro-imaging studies of the group.

If it is the mood disorder that puts kids at risk (mood disorder first, substance abuse later), it would suggest that the youth are unknowingly trying to mask the symptoms of their bipolar disorder. Determining whether bipolar disorder begins before the start of substance abuse would prove of major importance. It may then be possible that intervention could be in place when children are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

My feelings on all this are a big DUH! It has been my theory since being diagnosed that there is a close connection between substance abuse and bipolar disorder. Alcoholism is a disease and bipolar disorder is a disease. Maybe what we’re finding is that they are really the same or at least very similar diseases. When I go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I hear virtually the exact things being said as bipolar support groups.

I’m interested in hearing from you regarding what you think of this study and my beliefs.

12 comments on Drunk Bipolar Kids – Throwback Thursday

  1. I partied a lot as a later teen and made some poor choices. I wasn’t diagnosed with depression (officially) until I was 23 and started taking medication. As for substance abuse, somehow I have managed to steer clear of it, unless you count smoking…and my love of marijuana.

    1. Pot was something I never got into, All it ever did was put me to sleep. I could use a joint right now, lol

    1. Yeah, things were pretty much a mess in my household too. I didn’t get clean and sober until December 2003, so I think it was more than that, though.

  2. bradley, i was also a ‘wild’ kid in high school. partied all the time, did everything there was to do, but those behaviors stopped as i grew into adulthood.

    1. I wish mine had stopped. I continued to party off and on until I was 40. Glad yours stopped

      1. i got diagnosed when i was 25, and was stable for a long time. but then i had a severe manic episode and lost it all. i am still trying to piece my life back together 8 yrs later.

  3. This brings great comfort knowing I wasn’t the only one acting out. (Why would I believe I was the only one?) When the behaviors stopped the depression, bipolar, PTSD diagnoses followed. Which came first, the chicken or the egg…? They’ve just legalized pot in my state . . .

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