Help me with my 18 year old brother
August 23, 2006 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Mental health/Drug Abuse/Family Relations: My 18 year old brother seems to be slowly slipping into serious drug use and my parents are clueless.

My little brother, 18, was diagnosed as bi-polar a year and a half ago. I have been for 8 years now. While at first I was a helpful influence for him, our relationship has grown strained. I got into drugs in a bad way for three years starting at around age 18 and messed myself up a bit. My brother was first institutionalized a year ago and had been found to be smoking a lot of pot. The pot smoking causes nasty mood swings and hallucinations for him. His “self medicating” was in fact worsening his situation. After being hospitalized for a second time because of the bipolar and substance abuse he promised to clean up and appeared to be for a while.

Now here is where I screwed up… One night I hear my brother come in and I go up to say hi. He seemed out of it but I didn’t press the issue. Thirty minutes later I went to the car we share to retrieve something only to discover it reeked of weed. An important note at this point is I’m a miserable drunk and was plenty wasted at the time. I have to admit I lost it. Stormed into his room waking him and my parents up, yelling about how could he do this. The fact that he was probably smoking weed (I’m 60% sure he was) was lost in my inappropriate reaction. I was asked to go to my parents with future concerns and not him.

Four months ago (a few months after the last incident) he came home high on cocaine. I knew it immediately after talking with him for thirty seconds. I asked him right out how much blow he had done. He responded just a little and I informed my parents. Appropriate actions followed.

This Monday night he came home way too energetic. I immediately thought he was high. I had him come down to talk with my other brother and my fiancée to confirm my suspicion. Note once again, I was drunk and wanted to be careful before jumping to conclusions. Eyes twitching, constant hand rubbing, double feet bouncing and incoherent stories about a new business plan seemed to convince all three of us quickly. I asked him to step outside with me and asked him how he was. He figured out pretty quickly I thought he was on drugs and I confirmed that I had my suspicions. He flipped, drama ensued. My parents had him drug tested in the morning. My parents told me today they want me to begin the healing process and apologize to my brother.

Sorry for the long explanation but I thought the storyline was necessary. I have a few questions.

A. I am pretty sure he wasn’t on coke this time but rather Ritalin or Adderall. Would these necessarily come up on a standard piss test?
B. Any thoughts on whether or not I should apologize? I probably should have gone to my parents but he is also an adult and my brother. Do I have no place on calling him out? I don’t feel like I need to and more importantly don’t feel like I should apologize.
C. He is going away to school nearby in two weeks so it is almost a moot point but any advice to what I can do as an older brother to be watching out for him without endangering our relationship?
posted by meta x zen to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'm going to only answer B:

Are you living in this house? How old are you? If it's your parents house, then they have final authority on addressing this problem.

You sound like you get drunk frequently, and I'm concerned that you seem to try and address your brother's problems while you, yourself, are intoxicated. There is no excuse to do this - confronting someone high while you yourself are not in a clear state of mind is totally the wrong way to go about it.

I don't think you need to apologize (except perhaps to your parents about handling this badly) but I don't see anything you've done so far as constructive in the least. If you want to help your brother, you should have a calm and frank discussion with your parents first before anything else.
posted by agregoli at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2006


A. I am pretty sure any uppers appear as the same thing on a piss test. Your brother is bipolar... maybe he was having a manic Monday? Seems like you would have told us if the results came back positive..
B. I don't think you really have a right to call him out even though he is your brother and you are only concerned for his well-being. Your self medication doesn't seem to be going so hot either and most studies point to alcohol being more damaging than weed (I am NOT conding mixing weed with the drugs he must be on for bipolar, I just think booze is arguably the poorer choice here, and he's probably adult enough to realize this).
C. Try not to take this so personally. This is his life, not your life, and it seems like you could be working on your own life right now. Tell him that you think you're in a bad place and you're afraid he's going to end up somewhere similar. You can't make him follow another path .. you can just try to get him help, and make sure he goes to his therapy sessions or whatever has seemed helpful in the past (or try to get him to work out.. very helpful for many, many people).
posted by shownomercy at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2006


Good points agregoli thank you. shownomercy... I think that is a whole other debate. I love weed it is good for me but for my brother and his mental state it effects him very poorly.

In terms of the manic question... I mention again I'm also bi-polar and this was clearly not a Manic condition.
posted by meta x zen at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2006


I think that considering your alcohol use, anything that you say to your brother or your parents will look like the "kettle calling the pot black."

It is your brother's life, not yours. If he comes home on something, ignore it.

If you don't like seeing your brother like that, leave the house.
posted by k8t at 11:31 AM on August 23, 2006


a: yes. it'll all show up.

b: yes. when this is all done, years from now, he'll still be a brother. it's clear that you love him, but it also looks like you are a raging asshole when you're drunk.

c: no, it is not moot. every little bit helps. the biggest thing you can offer is your love for your brother. keep it up.

unasked question: stop seeking fault in your brother's condition and dwelling on his mistakes until you are in a better position to help him. calling him out when you are drunk is a pretty disrespectful thing to do to him.
posted by lester at 11:54 AM on August 23, 2006


So you both like weed, but it's OK for you and does him harm? That's gotta be a hard thing for him to come to terms with. Sounds like you've both been dealt a fairly difficult hand. But at least you can smoke J.

Can't answer A. But for B and C, yeah, apologise. It doesn't cost anything and he needs your support right now - be a big brother and suck it up. Go visit him in college and buy some beers. I'm guessing that's not legal where you are but hey, it's legal where I am so I can chuck the advice out there and you can choose what to do with it. Try sharing a few beers and having a conversation like brothers. I think you should get on as equals before you start trying to influence his behaviour again. Partly because, well, you should. And partly because he'll take more notice.
posted by handee at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2006


a) amphetamines (such as adderall) show up on a standard amphetamine piss tist.

b) apologize. You've got absolutely no place giving your brother shit because he smokes up when you've clearly got substance abuse problems of your own. You're getting drunk a ton and smoking up yourself, but any time he seems high you throw a fit! Dude, that's just not right.
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on August 23, 2006


a: If it's Adderall, it will definitely show up. Adderall is amphetamine, and that's included in a standard NIDA 5 urine screen/confirmation.

If it's Ritalin, I don't think it necessarily will. Ritalin is related, close enough structurally (like amphetamine, it has a phenyl group, a three-carbon chain, then an amine) that I suspect it will give a positive screen, but different enough (unlike amphetamine, it's a tertiary amine, and it has a carboxylic acid) that the confirmation test will be negative.

I worked at a drug testing lab a few years ago, and I know we never intentionally tested for Ritalin, even when we were looking for more than the NIDA 5.
posted by solotoro at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2006


How would you feel if someone called you out on your drinking the way you're called him out for his drug use? Though he's chosing to use methods of self-medication that aren't legal, it's not really any different from your more legal means.

Your brother sounds like he's going through a tough time, and while he may need some outside assistance, he also needs the love and support of his family. You'll be able to influence him more if he feels comfortable being honest with you than if he knows you'll automatically have angry reaction.
posted by Orrorin at 1:41 PM on August 23, 2006


Yeahhhh, no idea why you think I said "let your brother smoke weed."

"(I am NOT conding mixing weed with the drugs he must be on for bipolar, I just think booze is arguably the poorer choice here, and he's probably adult enough to realize this)."

Just stating that your brother is no blinder to your actions than you to his, and that the argument could be put forth, with credible studies to boot, that what you are doing is worse, were you to confront your brother about his drug use while intoxicated yourself. Energetic, twitching, flights of fancy and new business plans are actually signs of manic episodes. You think I'd suggest this if I had no experience here? You ever think your closeness to the disease makes you less partial than other observers?
posted by shownomercy at 1:54 PM on August 23, 2006


Apologize and get help for yourself. You can't help him while you are dealing with the same issues.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:51 PM on August 23, 2006


I don't recommend pot but as a bipolar, when I was smoking it didn't make me worse. Just mellower.

And you do realize that mania can present in different ways, right?

Let your folks handle it. And you might want to check on your own selfmedicating. On my meds at least I am not supposed to drink AT ALL.
posted by konolia at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2006


If you want to help your brother, give him an example of someone with similar issues who is actually dealing with them rather than 'self medicating'.
What Ironmouth said.
posted by yetanother at 3:54 PM on August 23, 2006


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