Scott Stapp, bipolar and drug use

My Google Alerts have been flooded by articles about Scott Stapp, the singer of Creed, getting a bipolar diagnosis. Most of them, surprisingly, got it right, but the article published at Chinatopix raised my eyebrows.

Ms. Soledad Mayo informs us:

Creed lead singer Scott Stapp revealed to the People magazine that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder due to drug use and that he is now undergoing therapy.

The former Creed frontman said that he had been hallucinating because of drug abuse. Scott Stapp recalled how he drove around the country for a month following an angel who was sitting on the hood of his car.

Apart from the fact that this is, in fact, not what Stapp has said, it shows a dangerous lapse in understanding what bipolar disorder is, and what it is not.

Drug use does not cause bipolar disorder. You do not get diagnosed with bipolar due to drug use. Substance abuse goes hand in hand with bipolar – this much is true. Nevertheless, substance abuse is not a symptom of bipolar. Substance abuse is a symptom of substance abuse. Drug abuse can trigger an episode; this much is true. When you are suffering from bipolar disorder, and using drugs – in particular marijuana and psychotropic drugs – they may trigger an episode that wouldn’t happen otherwise, or would happen later. Alcohol is a depressant,. and so can turn a mild depression into a deep one.

What actually happened to Mr Stapp is a psychotic episode which he believes has been triggered by alcohol and drug abuse. It is most probably true, although there is no way to actually prove the episode has been caused solely by substance abuse (since we do not have another, sober Mr Stapp at hand to see how this one would do). It took three months, during which his mind has unraveled, until he was placed at an unnamed dual diagnosis facility (dual diagnosis means addiction coupled with mental disorder), where he received a bipolar diagnose. He is now clean, sober and under medical care, helping him recover from the damage done by those three months.

I have hallucinated without use of drugs and had periods when I believed a song dating to 9th century has been written about me, and that I was a son of god. When I got diagnosed with bipolar, I have actually quit using drugs months earlier. I am in a 12-step program that helps me stay away from drugs and alcohol, because I know that substance abuse in my situation can worsen my condition. But the condition has not been caused by drugs. I can trace my bipolar symptoms back to my teenage years, way before I even had a beer or coffee, not to mention using other substances. Mr Stapp’s wife, Jaclyn, says “I definitely knew there was something going on for years, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is bipolar disorder: something that starts manifesting at some point, then slowly grows out of control, and makes us self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Not the other way round.

Photo: Scott Stapp by Jim Wright, People

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