Former rugby Newcastle Knights player, Andrew Johns has admitted his drug habit on national television. A few days later, the psychiatrist treating Andrew Johns stated that Johns has Bipolar disorder and that “he is not to blame” for his condition. However, I am not certain that the psychiatrist is seeing what is obvious to most people – that there appears to be a connection between the Bipolar Disorder of Andrew Johns and his drug taking habit.
Today I saw this article which is a report on a conference that is dealing with the twin problem of substance abuse and depression. There are at least 500,000 Australians who suffer from depression and at the same time they have a drug problem. One woman at the conference spoke about the problems of getting treatment for her son because the “system” has not been able to cope with treating both conditions at the same time:
The Anex Illegal Drugs and Mental Health Conference in Melbourne was told that separating drug use and mental health treatment put lives at risk.
Jo Buchanan, whose son Miles had depression and substance abuse problems, said that for more than 15 years Miles was shunted from psychiatric wards to drug rehabilitation units, never able to be treated for both problems at once.
“One after another, one they would deal with depression, the next one would deal with the drugs, but never at the same time,” Ms Buchanan told the opening day of the conference which is being conducted by Anex – the Association for Prevention and Harm Reduction Program.
“Usually he was released prematurely from the hospital psychiatric wards before the effects of the anti-depressants had taken place, so he would come out and as soon as he succumbed to the depression, he turned to the drugs again, so next thing he’d be in rehab.
“But you could not go into any rehab place if you were on anti-depressants. They would not accept you, so he had to go off the anti-depressants to be treated for his drug problems.”
She said that during this period, Miles attempted to kill himself several times.
Mental Health Council of Australia chief executive David Crosbie said 500,000 people were facing mental illness and drug problems together.”
I suspect that this is an extremely common problem and it has not been taken seriously for many years. One of the difficulties in getting the right treatment stems from the propaganda of the pro-marijuana crowd who refuse to acknowledge and accept that smoking pot can in fact cause mental illness in some patients. As a result of that propaganda pot was portrayed as a harmless social drug. The truth that was avoided for so long is that for some people with a highly addictive personality any drug of addiction is harmful. The person craves a high, and he or she might start with pot, but inevitably that person ends up on something harder, including heroin and ecstasy.
Andrew Johns was caught with one ecstasy tablet. He has admitted that he intended to take the tablet. This does not make sense because ecstasy is known to be harmful, and it can kill, and yet Andrew Johns was prepared to ignore the fact that ecstasy is a killer drug. After the psychiatrist came out with details of Andrew Johns having Bipolar Disorder, Matthew Johns admitted that his mother had been concerned about her son’s behaviour when he was still a teenager. In hindsight, the behaviour could have been a clue that Andrew Johns was taking drugs since his teen years.
Without doing the necessary research on Bipolar Disorder, I cannot be 100 per cent certain that I am on the right track but I certainly think that there is possibly a real link between the taking of recreational drugs and this form of mental illness. Not all people who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder have been on recreational drugs, but I would like to see the statistics on what percentage of patients affected have a history of drug taking. This would open up further questions as to what came first: Bipolar Disorder or drug taking. I suspect that the drug taking came first.
There are many causes for depression and most of the causes are traceable to personality traits and attitudes towards daily life. People who have unrealistic expectations are more likely to end up being depressed. The stressors of life can cause mental illness, especially if the person does not have a fully developed coping mechanism, i.e. a positive mental attitude. Bipolar Disorder is the more serious form of depression because the individual suffers highs and lows. It is not difficult to see that a rugby player of the stature of Andrew Johns had difficulties with the highs and lows of the rugby game. Without a doubt, his drug taking habit has contributed to his mental illness. From this point of view, I do believe that Andrew Johns is responsible for his current condition.
Without a doubt, people with these problems need a treatment that takes both factors into account, and that includes not going soft on the drug taking habit. Nothing is achieved by telling the patient that his mental condition is not his fault. It is for this reason that I believe that the incorporation of a 12 step program in the rehabilitiation process is very necessary. The mentally ill patient needs to admit responsibility for past actions and without the admitting of responsibility the patient is not capable of moving forward or being cured. Perhaps Mr. Johns has taken that first step, by going on TV and admitting that he has a drug habit and that he was taking drugs over the period of his rugby career. However, this is only the first step on the road to recovery. If Andrew Johns can move forward to the point that he can prove that he has been cured, then perhaps he really will become a good example to others who are struggling with Bipolar Disorder and a drug habit.
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