Thursday, September 25, 2014

Addiction and Psychosis

What came first? The chicken or the egg? I know this may seem like an odd question. Sometimes I don't think the answer to that question is very important as what matters in the end is that we have chickens laying eggs... (Sorry that was a lame attempt at being funny) Does it really matter which came first?

My son has addiction and psychosis or schizophrenia. Science cannot say for sure what causes schizophrenia BUT it does know that certain things make it worse. We know that a lot of people with mental illness also have addiction problems. For some it is a way of coping with symptoms. For other's like my son, I'm not so sure. Since his schizophrenia symptoms are usually under control when he is not using marijuana and stable then I don't see someone who is self-medicating his schizophrenia but someone who is feeding his addiction. I do know that marijuana triggered his first psychotic break and caused him to be catatonic (immobile, unresponsive or not moving) for somewhere between 24-36 hours. He has spoken himself of how high he was when this happened. Of being aware of what was happening around him but unable to respond. He couldn't because schizophrenia had a hold of his brain. It took over until there was no room for anything else. It did what schizophrenia or psychosis does and caused him to break with reality.

First I will speak about addiction. This was taken from The Alcoholics Anonymous book:
"Men and women drink essentially because they like the affect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, the alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks - drinks which they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stage of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless the person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery."

"At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail. The tragic situation has already arrived in practically every case long before it is suspected. The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink."

Abstinence is a solution that recovering addicts have to make. Whether it's alcohol, marijuana or cocaine. Without first abstaining how can the person see past the addiction to experience the change required for recovery?

Now lets look at psychosis. A sever mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. It is a break with reality. The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown however we do know that schizophrenia occurs with changes in brain chemistry, specifically dopamine. I have long believed that my son's brain produces too much dopamine.

Using marijuana causes the brain to release more dopamine. That is why it feels good to be high. Dopamine is also called the 'feel good' chemical because it is directly responsible for feelings of pleasure, motivation and reward. At the same time, abusing marijuana blunts the brain's ability to respond to dopamine. So even though the brain is producing more of it, the brain's ability to respond is blunted, dulled down or has less of an affect. The brain doesn't know what to do with all of this dopamine. Unfortunately schizophrenia, in my opinion, does.

What do you think happens when you flood a brain already producing too much dopamine with even more dopamine? Other then feeding the addiction we are now feeding schizophrenia too by triggering psychosis. Anti-psychotics that block dopamine can only do so much when outside sources continue to flood the brain with even more dopamine which contradict or go against what the medication is trying to do. If anything this combination is, in my opinion, even more damaging as by limiting the dopamine in the brain the medication is also limiting dopamine in other parts of the body which is why some develop movement disorders among other serious complications. More marijuana... more medications... more risks. Less marijuana... less medications... less risks. Self-medicating to feel better which triggers or worsens psychosis symptoms. More anti-psychotics that don't work as they should because of self-medicating. It's a vicious cycle. 10% commit suicide. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel just a cycle of unhealthy choices...

Back to my original question. Whether my son developed addiction or psychosis first is a mood point. He is now suffering from both. How can we help him to recovery, be stable and to have the future that he deserves? Certainly not by feeding his addiction and schizophrenia!


No comments:

Post a Comment