Mental illness and substance-use disorder often co-occur


My son is Harlan Metcalf. He is held 24/7. He’s just — he’s wonderful. He loves, he loves life. Every day, like, I regret everything and I feel guilty about everything but I just like pray everyday that he’s OK. I was pregnant with him and I was using from the time I was pregnant until I was about five months pregnant. When he was born, he was born addicted. I went to Sheetz to use in the bathroom and I came out and I overdosed while I was pregnant. And the cops were called and I got arrested and put in jail for a probation violation for using. And that’s when I was like, I could have killed myself, my baby. Some may look at Julia Chapman’s story and leave it at opioid addiction, but it goes deeper. Before Julia was addicted to opioids, she was mentally ill. She was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, generalized anxiety, night terrors and ADHD. And before Julia was mentally ill, she was abused as a child. I was sexually abused from the time I was really young ’til I was — I moved out. So it was very hard. And I have a lot of problems because of it, PTSD and depression and stuff. When Julia tried heroin for the first time and couldn’t walk away, she became one of the over 7 million Americans with a mental health disorder and substance use disorder. At first Julia liked the effect the heroin had on her mental health. I used for the first time and I loved it. And I couldn’t stop after that. I was just, like, calm and stress-free. I felt at the time it made it just so much easier and better, like it made me feel alive actually. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder, and vice versa. Julia struggled an active opioid addiction for about four years. After she overdosed while pregnant, she began a buprenorphine program. Everyone has that end story. If you go to meetings and everything, everyone has that end story that they’re like “This was the end. This is where I had to.” So I feel like that guy at the gas station and being in jail was my end story. Julia has been clean for about eight months. She recently completed a 16-week intensive outpatient program for co-occurring disorders. Soon she’ll begin training to become a certified family recovery specialist. While Julia is doing well now, experts would say her son is statistically at risk. These babies are at risk. Now, why are they at risk? We’re not 100% sure. Is it because mom used methadone throughout her entire pregnancy? Or is it because she was using heroin during that first trimester, and using a lot of heroin, and that caused damage to the brain? Is it because the babies were given morphine after birth? Maybe they have some mental health issues because maybe they inherited some mental health issues from their parents. They’re going to be more likely to get out, not have a job, maybe be depressed, maybe start using drugs themselves. And then the whole cycle starts over again. I hope that through my experiences I can raise them to have a better life. Be able to tell them about my experiences so that they know not to walk in my footsteps. And hopefully they will learn how to handle certain situations without turning to using.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *