We’re facing a national tragedy of mental health misdiagnoses because American psychiatry is failing to treat root causes. Too often young people with mental health symptoms are lumped into categories and given potent anti-depressants, benzodiazapines and/or neuroleptics, while the doctors or mental health treatment centers ignore symptoms of marijuana addiction and fail to treat the addiction. In some cases, a psychotic episode is treated as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia rather than drug-induced psychosis.*
It may be time for widespread re-education of psychiatrists and emergency room physicians.
To avoid these tragedies, the patients need to be treated for substance abuse/addiction and get clean with drugs before a psychiatric assessment.** It is disastrous when young minds — already modified by drug usage — are immediately altered by other drugs, drugs not at all designed to counteract the effects of marijuana, cocaine, etc.
On a recent radio show, Dr. Drew Pinsky said “Addiction has to be treated before anything else can be assessed, let alone managed. Somewhere about 75-80% of the psychiatric symptoms you present with will remit just by treating your addiction.” He added, “Make no mistake, there is a withdrawal from cannabis, and it’s quite unpleasant.” Dr. Drew likened it to opiate withdrawal–heavy users get much desperation, sleep disturbances and paranoia.
Many parents are unaware of their child’s drug usage, and some youth fear being honest about drug use/abuse/addiction. It may feel safer to be treated for depression, bipolar etc., than give up the addiction. The high percentage of THC in today’s pot and “dabbing” are causing young people to experience psychosis more than ever, and many psychiatrists and emergency rooms remain in the dark. Many practitioners in the psychiatric field are not following the DSM Manual,*** or keeping up with the studies on marijuana-psychosis.
Psychosis can affect 12-15% of marijuana users, and one in six who begin using marijuana before age 18 become addicted. For the addicted, approximately 50% can have marijuana-induced psychotic symptoms.**** Addiction is indicated when the overuse of a substance results in negative consequences and the patient continues to use despite the consequences. Having a marijuana-induced psychosis does not necessarily mean addiction, but marijuana is clearly an issue if your child resumes use after that incident.
Social pressure may be extreme where you live, so please consider how this problem will affect him/her in the social environment. It would be wise to consider overall drug usage as a factor in choosing a college, or letting your child return to the college.
Read more advice in Part 2.
* See Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, 2010. On p. 180, he references studies to show that 33% to 66% of new bipolar cases resulted from marijuana and other drug usage. See pp. 222-252 for the risks of medicating ADHD.
** We are not dismissing the fact that a child may start abusing drugs because of an underlying mental health issue, but we warn that cannabis will worsen symptoms. About 25% of American teens describe themselves as being depressed.
*** Both the DSM IV and DSM V (released in 2014) guide the psychiatric field in making diagnoses.
****a constellation of psychotic symptoms and a high degree of severity need to occur before a diagnosis of full psychosis occurs.