Reflections on losing my brother to marijuana suicide

By BC, University of Texas   If you told me five years ago that my brother would end his life in such a degrading state following marijuana-induced psychosis, I would have called you crazy. Unfortunately, I have lived with this reality every day for the past 5 months.

I am a business and pre-medical student at The University of Texas in Austin.  David was my little brother, my confidant, and my workout partner. I always thought David would become an architect; he was exceptionally gifted at math and art. His life spiraled down a dark path when he started smoking weed and, on December 5th, 2018, at the age of nineteen, he became the first member of my immediate family to die. He shot himself in the head while in the restroom; he did not leave a note or give any warning.  It happened four days after he left the hospital and started smoking weed, again.

Last summer, I studied for my medical school admissions exam and took a psychology class. Consequently, I learned a great deal about neurotransmitters and how they are modulated by drugs, which David and I discussed frequently. He told me that he wanted to find happiness outside of drugs, but could not imagine how. He told me that he felt incapable of giving up the high. He told me that the relapse was too hard. He told me his brain was different– since using drugs, he felt utterly low and despondent when he was sober. Ultimately, this helplessness prompted him to end his life altogether.

A whole family suffers, too

Weed not only ruined David’s life; my entire family is suffering. I cannot convey how difficult it is to see my parents’ sleep-deprived faces and increasingly frail frames. I cannot express how heartbroken I feel for my two 17-year-old brothers, who whole-heartedly looked up to their older brother. My 23-year-old sister struggles financially as she has taken off work for depression-related fatigue. Each member of my family is experiencing trauma similar to my own.

Now, when I sit in class, I constantly fight images of David’s brain exploding. I dread falling asleep each and every night because of the graphic, horrifying nightmares. It has been almost five months since David died, but the visions continue to haunt me. I wish I could say that my experience is unique; I wish I could say thousands of others have not experienced similar trauma. Unfortunately, marijuana-related suicides are on the rise.

I spent my spring break in California, where marijuana is already legal. I saw and smelled it everywhere. My friend took me to a Sacramento Kings game, and the entire row sitting behind us looked stoned and reeked of weed while a six- or seven-year old boy sat in front of us. Throughout the entire game, I could not stop thinking about what open marijuana consumption might do to the child and all of the children placed in harm’s way.

Texas must not allow this

I do not want weed to become the new normal in my state. Unless we master the science behind a substance and ensure that it has NO psychotic effects (as we have observed with marijuana), we should NOT signal that it is acceptable in any way, shape, or form by legalizing or decriminalizing it.  

From a business standpoint, I used to sympathize with economic benefits of taxing marijuana and the safety benefits from its legal regulation. Now that my family has been traumatized by its effects, I can say confidently that the financial incentives and regulatory benefits are not worth the tragedies associated with making this drug any more accessible than it already is.

I am not trying to claim that my story is always the outcome of consuming weed. Rather, I am saying that it is sometimes, and arguably not infrequently the outcome. I would do anything to go back in time and plead on my knees for David to give up his marijuana addiction. Since I can no longer do that, advocating for higher barriers to use seems a next-best option.

With that, I implore you not to decriminalize or legalize weed; I beg you to stay mindful of the individuals, families, and communities that might be demolished by its psychotic and traumatic effects. 

(In a few days, we will publish David’s story from another family member’s perspective, his father.  Subscribe by email to read the father’s testimony:  )