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Dont give up hope!

answered 02:52 PM EST, Mon August 13, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
Hello Ms. O'Neill,

I apologize that this message is so long. But I will try to summarize the best I can.
I have a 24 yr old son, who we've been trying to help for the last 10 years with his mental health issues and addiction problem.

My husband and I have never had drug/alcohol addiction, however my dad and my grandfather have been alcoholics.

My son's problem started when his older brother (who had an opiate addiction) relapsed and tragically died of an overdose at the young age of 20. Our remaining son who at the time was 14 spiraled into a deep depression and debilitating anxiety kicked in shortly after (prior to this, we did notice that he had anxiety issues, but exaserbated). He isolated himself and threw himself into an online game that he used to cope. He would stay up all through the night playing and would have little communication with anyone. Despite our efforts of counseling, drug therapy prescribed by a psychiatrist, SPECT scan by the Amen Clinic, (which showed that he had anxiety disorder and mood disorder) etc. nothing seemed to work. He would have out of control rage and take it out on my husband and I.

After a 1 1/2 years of this he went back to school, but when he did he started using alcohol first and then it turned into other drugs. He eventually was arrested at the age of 18 for posession of ecstasy and stolen property. He was ordered to a 6 month program, which he did and seemed to be doing better once he was out. Unfortunately, he soon got back into the drug scene and started using opiates.

He has been on suboxone, which he has weaned himself off of just recently. He is sober now, but his addictive behavior goes into other areas of his life. Prior to giving notice, he worked in Las Vegas for a well known magician. After 8 months he decided to leave because of addiction to gambling and anxiety issues. He's now home with us (in California) and needs help to get his life on track. My husband and I have depleted all our savings, retirement, etc. to try to help our boys. My husband left his lucrative position when Aaron was 16 because we felt that we were losing him, too. Now we are at a point where we both are without work and financial means to help him. If you have any suggestions of low cost group home for young men who have mental health issues along with addiction issues to get some life coaching and possibly medication to help with debilitating anxiety would be so much appreciated. Or if you have any other suggestions? We are at a point where we know there's not more we can do, but want to try to reach out to other experts in this matter. Thank you so much - CC

Dr. Patricia O'Neill Says...

Dr. Patricia O'Neill P. O'Neill
(Ph.D., Clinical Psychology)

Thank you for your question. The length of your post was necessary to provide so much useful information. I commend your obvious efforts and devotion to your children.

From what you have privovided, it seems to me that your son would be most likely to benefit from a therapeutic alliance with an experienced psychotherapist. This is not to say that psychotherapy alone would be enough, but I note that other interventions have provided some relief and this is a hopeful sign.

Relevant literature strongly suggests that talk therapy and pharmacology work better together than either does alone, for individuals who respond to medication. In your son's case this is likely to be true. 

Thus you should look for someone who is skilled in long term therapy with a background in addiction. The interaction of addiction and mental disorders is more than the sum of the parts. Dually diagnosed people have special needs in therapy. You will also need to be sure that the therapist is someone your son feels good about. Trust must always be earned and the therapist must be both patient and skilled. Success in cases like your son's is measured in small increments over long periods of time. It would appear that both genetics and environment are affecting your son. 

Another thing that will be important is for you and your husband to get help and support. It would be difficult to exaggerate the critical nature of the need for caring others to learn how to take care of themselves and provide effective support for their loved ones. 

I wish you and your son well in your quest to restore and maintain a quality of life worth celebrating. Professional help will be key. 

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