Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fred "The Crank" Phelps?

I just read Running from Hell, Growing Up in America’s Most Hated Family, by Trevor Melanson. It’s an interview with Nate Phelps, Fred Phelps’ son.

The article speaks for itself, but one particular thing caught my attention.

“I know that very early on [my father] was under the influence of those drugs,” Nate said. Pastor Phelps was attending law school and would take amphetamines to stay awake and barbiturates to come down. “It spiralled out of control [and he] was prone toward violence….He just wasn’t tolerant toward the presence of all of us kids running around—and the accompanying noise….He would beat the kids with his fists and kick them and knee them in the stomach.”


"Long term effects of amphetamine abuse are as follows: Restlessness, “amphetamine psychosis”, hallucinations, violent and aggressive or anti-social behavior, weight loss, tremors, gastrointestinal damage such as ulcers, and heart disease such as enlarged or weakened heart, disturbing thoughts, memory loss and brain damage, liver damage, and impotence

Drugs damage the brain and it may take a considerable amount of time for that damage to be repaired. Once the user begins rehab treatment, it is important to understand some of the symptoms of withdrawal. Those symptoms can include some or all of the following effects: Severe craving, deep depression, fatigue, restlessness, and extreme anxiety, insomnia, deep uneasy sleep for as long as 48 hours, inertia, paranoia, mental confusion, psychosis and intense hunger.

It will take a while in a drug rehab facility to help a person recover from an acute amphetamine reaction or over dose. Body temperature must be kept stable and the patient will suffer psychological effects and need constant emotional support. It may be necessary to use tranquilizers in the event that a drug rehab patient becomes violent. Rehab patients will want to start using again in an attempt to cope with the fatigue they feel once the drug is out of their system. They may also need treatment for depression that comes as a side effect of the addiction. A long term rehab program for maintaining abstinence must be strictly followed. Recovering from amphetamine addiction is not unlike recovery from alcoholism and other forms of drug abuse.

Recovering addicts will profit from joining a support group. After the initial rehab period there is another 5 year period of sobriety before the rate of relapse drops to zero."

Mania is listed as one of the symptoms of amphetamine overdose/abuse.


"Mania is more than just feeling good or even euphoric. With true mania, people can be described by words like "frantic", "hyperactive" or over-excited. Often a person's thoughts and speech is so "fast" that it tumbles over itself and becomes fragmented by following tangents of thoughts and ideas. Cycling between mania and depression is the hallmark of bipolar disorder (previously called manic-depression) but there are other possible causes of mania.

Sometimes, other symptoms may be present and may help your doctor analyse your condition. The symptoms your doctor may ask about (in association with Mania) may include:

Psychotic symptoms? - If manic phase of bipolar affective disorder is severe the person may suffer from psychotic symptoms e.g. delusions such as the belief that one has supernatural or special powers, or that one knows a famous person; hallucinations including "seeing" famous people or "hearing" their voices."

Psychotic symptoms are also listed separately as a symptom of excessive amphetamine dose.

I know three people who abused amphetamines in their college years. The one who did it the least is mostly normal, and only manifests a strange semi-paranoid personality disorder when he is very drunk. He will suddenly say something like, “I don’t have to take this!” and go storming off. I’ve seen this on three separate occasions and I don’t know if some playful insult triggers it, or if he just assumes that laughter at the far side of the room is about him. Possibly he is remembering something that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

The second person was a long-time user. He uses caffeine like an ex-herion junkie uses methadone. He will drink about 2 liters of Pepsi a day to maintain a baseline energy state. See the withdrawal symptoms on the citation above for his reasons. He has been doing this for decades. He’s a brilliant fellow, but he’s a lot better at talking than listening.

The third person used MDA as a recreational drug along with LSD and other street drugs like speed-laced cocaine, etc. This person will be taking serotonin uptake inhibitors for the rest of her life, and has been institutionalized every time she goes off her meds. I really believe that the medical/psychiatric profession is in denial over the long-term effects of amphetamine abuse. The treatment protocols remain the same regardless of the causes.

Which brings us back to Fred Phelps. In my somewhat-informed opinion, regarding him as a brain-damaged speed freak would explain a lot. He is abusive, violent, and paranoid. He believes he is special, and in communication with a higher power. He exhibits anti-social behavior, and has obsessive, recurring, disturbing thoughts about gays and homosexuality. When viewed in this light, when his own particular idiosyncrasies and obsessions are known, his behavior is predictable. Sad as this state of affairs is, to me, the fact that there are people out there who would look up to him for leadership rather than urging him to seek medical attention is the more tragic aspect.

Kudos to Aaron Kinney for bringing this story to my attention.