Is it genetics, or is sociopathy somehow connected to drug use

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Scent of Cedar *, Nov 30, 2014.

  1. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    As I read through the threads this morning, I was struck by how many of us feel betrayed by the change in our children. How can it be that, though the child we birthed is still living, so many of us feel that the person he or she would grow to be is gone? The rages, the stealing, the lost potential ~ all the things we associate with drug use...maybe this is not genetics, at all. Maybe, just as marijuana is ten thousand times more potent now than it was 40 years ago, today's street drugs are destroying whatever part of the brain is responsible for empathy?

    It would make sense that this could be so. If we could take something to erase shame, if we therefore seldom felt shame, it would make sense that we would lose our sense of empathy. It would make sense that we would lie, steal, do anything at all, to get that thing that kept us from feeling badly about ourselves.

    Could sociopathy be so prevalent, or is it that drug use is creating sociopathy? And could it be the negation of shame that is at the root of the addictive nature of all this stuff?

  2. SeekingStrength

    SeekingStrength Well-Known Member

    hmmmmm.....thinking about this.

    I remember a police officer asking once if we thought difficult child was using drugs. difficult child was about 17 at the time and husband and i were adamantly certain he was not. When he finally moved out, there were several empty whiskey bottles in his room. His sister, much later, told of a time he smoked pot with a toilet paper roll in the house and threatened her if she told us.

    And, then a year ago, he was using spice.

    His very first job was at a grocery store when he was 16. He stayed there about a year to earn money to buy a used car. I don't think he ever worked anywhere that long again. He was too apathetic to get up for work....or to get up for anything, really.

    So, I wonder.
  3. 2much2recover

    2much2recover Well-Known Member

    What I read about sociopath statistics one out of every 20 people is a sociopath. So look around you and out of 20 that you either know or are related to, one of them is going to be a sociopath. I think true sociopathy can be either DNA or upbringing in extreme cases of abuse/neglect. As far as the drug thing goes I do think some things such as spice, synthetic marijuana and obviously the a harder drugs like meth, crack and heroin do change the brain chemistry to a degree.
    I hesitate to give my opinion on some of the members difficult children that are in the under 25 group because there is now what they called delayed adolescence and only time will tell if a difficult child will stay a difficult child over a longer period of time. Having said that I still believe as parents of ADULT CHILDREN we should be protecting ourselves over them. Also I think we should also plan for our own future financial needs for our own futures before giving money to difficult children no matter the diagnosis. One never knows how long one will live in retirement, what can happen if a family goes from a 1 earner family from a 2 earner ect. In regular life financial experts say "Plan for your own retirement first". So whether you have a sociopath difficult child or some other difficult child problem this new way of thinking still applies.
    I only mention it because through reading the posts here I see that a lot of people are spending gobs of money trying to help their adult child when that child doesn't seem to be doing anything to help themselves.
    Something to think about!
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  4. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    That's a great question. I don't have a theory, Cedar, but it's certainly something to ponder. The part about taking something to erase shame rings true in my family's case.
  5. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    It was the same with our children. Both were (and still are, when they are not using, bright, empathic, pleased to be where they are people with that special "something on the ball" feel to them. When they are using, they become...I suppose cynical would be one word to describe it. They become entitled and, hand in hand with that feeling of entitlement, they seem to become resentful, manipulative people for whom nothing is ever quite enough.

    Generosity and empathy seem to be replaced with a cutting humor, with a kind of sarcastic world view.

    I think back to Christmas presents received from my kids. Some of the most beautiful, thoughtful gifts I have ever received have come from my children. That kind of thing, that ability to know and take pleasure in giving that special thing that will be cherished for years ~ those kinds of gifts would be impossible for them to choose, now.

    I'm not sure what I am trying to describe, but that feeling is part of what is missing these days.

    There is no honor, of course. What does that do to us, to lose the sense of honoring our parents because we have stolen from them, because we have abused trust to make fools and victims of people who love us. There again, is it that drug use erases the shame response that keeps us empathic, that keeps us human?

    It must be a whole other level of Hell, to face that, once the kids stop using.

    There is manipulation, and entitlement, and really, a deep and abiding resentment, a feeling of having been cheated, of having gone into a world very different than the one they were taught existed when they were little.

    difficult child son especially will say things like: "Welcome to my life, Cedar." He calls both husband and I by our first names. He has said, many times, that we were terrible parents and that the only relationship he wants with us now is as "friends."

    That is why he says he calls us by our first names.

    At the same time, he resents that we never give him enough money. (We have stopped giving him money. As many of you know, now he wants us to sell him our house ~ but he cannot afford it, because if he moved there, he would have no job except for the one that pays zillions and that he is sure to get.) He blames us for where he is in life because we haven't done enough to prepare him for life as it is. He is so certain of this that we come to believe it, too. Every so often, I need to go back and tick off the things we have done, or I would fall into that trap simply because he is so certain.

    difficult child daughter was different than difficult child son.

    I think she may always have struggled with "normal."

    Maybe that accounts for the depth of her downward spiral when drug use is involved. She loses everything, every time. Then, some miraculous somehow, she seems able to pull everything together again...but never while she is using either drugs or alcohol.

  6. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I think my mom may be a sociopath. There is an almost insectile quality to the way she sees people. Like they are interchangeable pieces on a chessboard. So, it could be genetic.

    Would I know if I were a sociopath, I wonder?

    That is a scary thought.

    Here is an interesting thing, though: husband's mother had changed so much over the years as to be almost unrecognizable. From a most giving, empathic woman to someone self-centered, accusatory, suspicious, entitled, rageful. We all thought it must be her pain, or her age. Toward the end of summer, we learned that what it was was addiction to pain medicine. More and more medicine prescribed over the years until there was no pain relief, until her body no longer worked the way it should...and still, she was in unremitting pain.

    She was doctor seeking and demanding emergency room visits, always complaining of intractable pain.

    She is in her eighties.

    When the pain medications were stopped? She became her old, empathic, generous, caring self.
    (After the withdrawal, which was terrible, but which she approached with great courage.)

    This experience too has me wondering about just what it is drugs, legal or street drugs (maybe especially street drugs) are really doing to our children's brains.

    The kids all seem mean in the same way. It could be my son saying some of the horrible things I see other moms post about their children.

    Again, difficult child daughter, who may always have had to struggle harder for normal, does not say or expect or resent things the way difficult child son does. I am trying to think about how she is when she is using. She certainly becomes self centered.... I think the difference may be that difficult child daughter crashes so fast that the legal system steps in and then, she stops using. difficult child son has actually used longer, and has probably used without stopping.

    Maybe that is the difference?


  7. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    My difficult child was an extremely thoughtful child, and he was very loved by family and friends for those qualities. When he started using (cough syrup at age 13, escalating to anything he can get his hands on now) it was pretty much instant jerk.

    I have often wondered if he didn't start using because there was part of him that was tired of being the thoughtful one, the one you call to help, etc. Being high and being a jerk as a result allowed him to take that load off.

    Then, as you said, the shame for the jerkiness became its own reason for getting high. And now I think the high itself is the reason.

    I think it's a hellish existence, whether it's looking for the next high or coming off of the high and facing what his life has become.
  8. 2much2recover

    2much2recover Well-Known Member

    I think key issues of is a sociopath needs to follow the guidelines or scale:
    Psychopathy Checklist-Revised: Factors, Facets, and Items[10]
    Factor 1 Factor 2 Other items
    Facet 1: Interpersonal

    Facet 2: Affective

    • Lack of remorse or guilt
    • Emotionally shallow
    • Callous/lack of empathy
    • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
    Facet 3: Lifestyle

    • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
    • Parasitic lifestyle
    • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
    • Impulsivity
    • Irresponsibility
    Facet 4: Antisocial

    • Many short-term marital relationships
    • Promiscuous sexual behavior
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  9. 2much2recover

    2much2recover Well-Known Member

    From WIKI:
    The two factors have been found by those following this theory to display different correlates. Factor 1 has been correlated with narcissistic personality disorder,[11] low anxiety,[11] low empathy,[12] low stress reaction[13] and low suicide risk[13] but high scores on scales of achievement[13] and social potency.[13] In addition, the use of item response theory analysis of female offender PCL-R scores indicates factor 1 items are more important in measuring and generalizing the construct of psychopathy in women than factor-2 items.[14]

    In contrast, factor 2 was found to be related to antisocial personality disorder,[11] social deviance,[11] sensation seeking,[11] low socioeconomic status[11] and high risk of suicide.[13] The two factors are nonetheless highly correlated[11] and there are strong indications they do result from a single underlying disorder.[15] Research, however, has failed to replicate the two-factor model in female samples.[16]
  10. Tanya M

    Tanya M Living with an attitude of gratitude Staff Member

    I think drug use can exacerbate their behaviors but for many their tendencies for these behaviors are already there. My difficult child was in jail for two years during which time he had no access to drugs or alcohol. During this time he was still manipulative and calculating. He continued to blame everyone but himself for the trouble he was in. He actually would complain to me in letters at how poorly run the prison was and if he were in charge it would be so much better. His grandiose attitude never dimmed.

    I also agree with 2M2R.

    I know I will not be able to count on my one and only difficult child to help take care of me when I'm older so I need to plan and prepare.
  11. tishthedish

    tishthedish Active Member

    Cedar, I think you are on to something. My sons were both empathetic, kind, gregarious, giving and then once they hit late high school/college all errant behaviors escalated and continue to. The stealing, lies, delusions of grandeur, looking with contempt at the commonality of their father and me, wondering why they couldn't be GIVEN a car, insurance, fully paid for education etc like some of their peers as we busted our butts to keep a roof over their heads in a good school district. It's been a real roller coaster ride. My sibs and I were children of the 60's/70's. My poison of choice was cheap beer which I quickly outgrew, but another of my siblings had a marijuana jones. It has had life long physical and mental ramifications for him. I understand the increase in potency of what's available now. I shudder to think what lies ahead for these young users. It may be beyond what we can or they can even imagine.
  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think it depends on the person. My daughter was never emotionless or callous, even when she was using drugs. That made all that much harder to make her leave. Drugs did not make her a mean person, however her need of them did change her behavior and she lied and stole. Still, even high, she could never bring herself to call us names or abuse us.

    37 does that while sober. Drugs haven't really been his problem. He just has the personality disorders that permeate through my DNA collection's inherited traits. And he is not as bad as they are, maybe because he was kept from them. They didn't want to see him much and I sure didn't argue...didn't need their influence on an already difficult child.
  13. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    We were very sure difficult child son was not using drugs. As noted in my signature, we were positive we had done some serious messing up as parents, because something seemed to have gone very wrong with both our children. As the years passed, and we knew difficult child son was using something, we were very sure he was not using anything stronger than marijuana. And that, only recreationally.

    We found out, years later, that he started using cocaine at 16.

    He got a job at this great supper club in our town, where he could have moved up the ranks from busboy to waiter to bartender, and where he would have had work right through college. It was...he had to be someone already, to get that job, right?

    And that is where he began using cocaine.

    Our son didn't, either. In fact, I don't think he worked anywhere, at all. Could it be that he was selling drugs. (No question mark, though one was originally intended. Denial, one of my favorite things.)

    He always seemed to have plenty of money.

    I agree.

    This is very important.

    difficult child son will actually roar on about how we never give him quite enough to make it. How we only give him just enough to be sure we look good, but never enough for him to actually recover his life.

    Like, one time, after thousands of dollars, after driving to a city three hours away twice a week to bring food and manage his affairs, we heard, years later, how the reason he had not been able to make it then was because, though we had paid fines and to have license reinstated, we had not given difficult child the money to take the bus to wherever he had to go to sign papers or something.

    He is still really mad about that.

    It has been a lot of money, and so much, so very much, irreplaceable time, devoted to trying to change the course for difficult child.

    I don't know what the answer could be. We literally could not turn away, in that time.

    The kids were the focus of our lives.

    OK then, I must not be a sociopath.

    I am automatically guilty of everything.

    What is the opposite of sociopath?

    That sounds like difficult child son.

    husband and I shiver in our Depends at the thought of either one of our children taking us in ~ or, having any access at all to our finances.

    husband is especially adamant about what I need to do if he goes first and I am the one left.

    And he is right.

    There was drug use when difficult child daughter was beat over those three days, and when she was left for dead. I think they no longer know what is real. That is what I mean when I posted that the male who did what he did...I mean, can you imagine coming back to reality and being unable to change what happened?


    difficult child daughter is extraordinarily nice until things go wrong. She has friendships that have lasted since high school ~ some of her friends are on my Facebook, today.

    difficult child son was a nice, nice boy. I mean, I know I'm his mom ~ but he was so strong and funny and like...his heart was right there. He is still very kind to animals. (Says every mother, ever. He cannot be all bad. He is still kind to animals. Oh, for Heaven's sake.)

    He is like an animal himself, now.

    That is a hard thing to admit, even here, even to all of you.

    I am happy to be seeing this. I always think the problem is me. That I must say things that enrage him, or that I just don't know how to interact with people.

    husband is right, of course. I do need to toughen up.

    And whichever of us posted that it doesn't matter whether it is a shame thing or a drug thing was absolutely right. We do need to protect ourselves ~ both our hearts and our money and even, our time. Those things that should be pleasures ~ anticipating our children's calls and visits, imagining the holidays together, watching our well-parented grandchildren grow ~ these things are all beautiful traps, for us.

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  14. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Why is it that there are always these kinds of evidence left in their rooms? And their rooms are always filthy ~ unbelievably filthy. Every time one of my kids moved out, I would find the weirdest things in their rooms.

    I still remember that.

    difficult child son would have all these BIC pens without the ink part laying around everywhere.

    And toilet paper rolls too, now that I think about it.

    What were they doing with the toilet paper rolls?
    And what exactly do they do with the BIC pen exteriors? I know it's something to do with drugs.

    Do they somehow smoke through them?

  15. 2much2recover

    2much2recover Well-Known Member

    I think to snort a straw or how in the movies you see people using rolled up dollar bills.
  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Well... JMO, based on experience with extended family...

    Being raised by someone with sociopathic tendencies is one of the risk factors for becoming a sociopath. Therefore, the number of people who are sociopaths would tend to increase over time, if this were the only factor. (nothing exists in isolation)

    The degradation of society as a whole tends to support narcissism and sociopathy. The strength of extended family, community, etc. that used to help provide some balance and external resources for young people growing up... is mostly gone. As a result, tendencies that might have been mitigated a generation or two back, go unchecked now - not necessarily unrecognized, but no resources to deal with.

    And THEN you add in addictions and their impact and... yes, I do believe that if one has sociopathic tendencies at all, the use of addictive substances will make it worse.
  17. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    I agree.

    You know, I was thinking about the Catholic practice of confession, yesterday. To be aware that you would be required to confess even the things you thought that were not right, and then, to receive forgiveness and be given a way to recover self respect and to stand in a good light to yourself, in your secret self....

    Those were excellent guidelines for all of us, and such things are now disparaged.

    I was thinking too, about the practice of journeying or of making a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime. This would be a time to unlearn all the things we chased after in our day to day lives, and to see who we really are without all that.

    We don't do that anymore, either. Nor do we know persons who have done such things and come back changed.

    These are terrible losses to all of us.

    It truly does take a village to live a fully human life. But it seems our "villages" no longer support us in the ways that really matter. Narcissism and sociopathy...those do seem to be the primary values promoted these days.

    It comes back to empathy. It comes back to understanding that who we are, alone, is who everyone else is, alone, and having compassion for one another, wherever we are on that journey life seems to be about.

    While it is a simple thing to televise narcissistic values, and to glorify the self or to market fear, it is not so easy to create and display loyalty, or to capture the feel of real love between people (or between people and their pets, or the delight animals take in one another) over time, or humor that is not cheap and flashy and sarcastic.

    Maybe that is why I like Dog TV.

    I'm serious. There was a free trial of Dog TV over Thanksgiving. I put it on for the dog and fell in love with it, myself. Peaceful and happy and quiet and joyful and loving.

    I read somewhere that the most important thing we can do for ourselves and each other is touch. Touching a hand in meeting, touching gently in passing. Nothing so showy as a hug or so fakey as those "hale fellow well met" people who make a living being real, but just a simple touch, for the real, non-verbal communication in it.