Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

Time to Recognize Pot as Part of Mental Health Problem

H.R. 2646 Calls for Mental Health Care Reform

Eddie Bernice Johnson
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas

Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds held a press hearing on June 16, 2015, to announce a comprehensive new mental health bill, H.R. 2646.   Patrick Kennedy, son of Senator Ted Kennedy, is a co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), with Kevin Sabet.

Our criminal justice system is under fire.  The lack of adequate mental health care is in the news.  The mistreatment of the mentally ill who are incarcerated is also coming under scrutiny. Prevention through a comprehensive school drug education program in the United States could greatly diminish all three of these problems. Continue reading Time to Recognize Pot as Part of Mental Health Problem

Mental Health Care Fails at Addiction Treatment

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. Continue reading Mental Health Care Fails at Addiction Treatment

The Medical Marijuana Hoax, Part 2: Mental Health

Medical marijuana tries to bypass discussion of the mental health risks.  Marijuana is linked to long-term psychiatric problems such as schizophrenia, anxiety and psychosis.  There is mounting research to suggest that youth usage of marijuana greatly increases the chance for both depression and suicide, as recently reported in the The Lancet Psychiatry Journal.

The PTSD Marketing Strategy

It was a good publicity stunt, but a cruel trick.  The marijuana industry recently staged an event in Denver to attract veterans. They gave out free marijuana for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is very real, and it’s a condition to be taken seriously.

The medical community should find solutions that would bring veterans back to their previous state of functioning before combat.  Louis Zamperini, the hero of a book by Laura Hillenbrand and movie directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken, had severe PTSD from World War II.  He had been beaten in a Japanese prison camp and lost at sea 46 days on a raft. It’s unlikely he would have healed and charged forward so well if marijuana had been offered as the solution.  The movie will be in theaters on December 25.

Marijuana numbs certain emotions.  It also effects memory.  PTSD symptoms are different for different people, but it can include numbness, too.  If fear, numbness and depression are present with PTSD, there should be a means that re-build connection to everyday life, rather than avoid the reality of life.  Dogs and Yoga are amongst the best treatments for rebuilding connection.  Time is a great healer, too.

Handing out free so-called “marijuana medicine” makes a mockery of recovery.  It’s hoped our veterans could get back to work and not face long-term disability.   Keeping “patients” addicted and under the thumb of medical marijuana industry may do the opposite.  The best book on the subject, Judith Lewis Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, doesn’t suggest masking memoryOur first choice should always be therapies that go to the root of the problem, rather than masking the symptoms.  Medical marijuana has the potential for masking symptoms.  It also risks making a person apathetic and numb.  It could give the illusion of getting better without deep healing.

Why does marijuana cause dependency?  As explained in a testimony, marijuana usage interferes with the natural processes and messes with brain chemistry.   After stopping marijuana use, irritability, anxiety, depression, nervousness, restlessness, insomnia and and suicide can be part of marijuana withdrawal.   As time can heal marijuana withdrawal symptoms, time can heal PTSD.  If we want veterans to not be permanently disabled, Congress should not allow marijuana for veterans suffering from PTSD.

A Cruel Attempt to Treat Psychiatric Disorders

Marijuana may increase the burden of mental illness.  It is well-known in medical circles that marijuana makes the course of mental illness worse and successful treatment less likely.  In fact, marijuana is the most common illicit drug to trigger a psychiatric disorder.   For this reason, extreme caution should be taken before recommending marijuana to anyone, for any reason.

There’s strong evidence that mental illness is increasing in America. According to Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic, an increase in bi-polar disorder is driven in part by the expansion of diagnostic boundaries, but it is also being fueled by the widespread use of illicit drugs.

Whitaker explains that studies of first episode bipolar patients, roughly 1/3 suffered their first bout of mania or mood instability after they had abused illicit drugs — amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and hallucinogens.  Marijuana, as the most widespread of the illicit drugs, poses the most risk.  (See 10 Marijuana Myths Advocates want you to Believe)

A culture of medication teaches our children to look for easy solutions; it may be influencing the widespread desire to self-medicate with marijuana and other drugs. Psychiatric medications are over-prescribed — anti-depressants, as well as anti-psychotics and ADHD medications.  Whitaker also believes that the use of psychiatric stimulants and anti-depressants increases the risk of getting the bipolar diagnosis.

Does-weed-kill-brain-cells2
The cannabinoid neurotransmitter, anandamide, may be displaced with marijuana use over time, giving users withdrawal symptoms when they quit, including anxiety, depression.

Leafly, a cannabis company in Seattle run Privateer Holdings, solicits users by advertising  88 strains of marijuana to cure bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and ADHD.  This type of advertising should be censored due to the lack of evidence and high risk for psychosis that comes with marijuana.  Any psychiatric treatment demands strict oversight by a qualified medical practitioner, and is often done on a test basis. Medical marijuana “providers” often don’t have to meet standards or qualifications, other than being at least 21 years old.

Prevention over Substituting Addictions

Those who disagree with medical marijuana do not necessarily advocate for the alcohol or pharmaceutical industry.

Some of us notice that people who become addicted to any drug usually began their drug usage with marijuana, which is another reason we wish to prevent youth from using it at all costs.   In fact, when it comes to teens and young adults, addicts almost always begin their drug usage as a marijuana user.   The marijuana industry gives lip service to wanting to keep it from those under age 21, while using the social media and other tactics try to get young people to support them.

Opiate Addiction Solved by Marijuana ????

Recently an article suggested that marijuana can be a tool to beating opiate addiction,  because of a study which opined that states with medical marijuana have fewer opiate overdose deaths. The study shouldn’t be interpreted as proof that medical marijuana brought a drop in opiate use or death.

States with the highest marijuana usage, including use by ages 12-17,  tend to also have the highest opiate pill, cocaine and heroin usage.   Oregon, Colorado and Vermont will need to limit youth marijuana usage, if they truly want to bring down other problems.  To  a certain extent the current heroin problem has arisen because people addicted to the opiate pills have been unable to get the pills.

The logical way to avoid death by opiate overdose is to keep it in the hands of only those who need it, teach responsible use, and avoid over-prescribing.  Not everyone who uses opiate pills needs to get addicted.  Many people use vicodin, percocet and oxycontin only for the limited duration until the pain is gone.   Twisted, illogical thinking is suggesting that we must substitute one addiction with a drug that can also work on the mind and cause psychosis.

If we are to solve the problem of addiction in a lasting way, we need to help children and teens not begin to use.  We emphasize proper usage, not substituting one addiction for another, or “lilypadding” from drug to drug.  Prevention before abuse starts has the BEST chance of success.

The Unraveling, Part 2: Denial, Denial, Even as Dog has Seizure

(Part 2 of 4, an anonymous testimony submitted by a reader.  Part 1)   For a person who had never shown the slightest mental instability and then goes into an altered reality—literally overnight–disregarding a drug classified as “hallucinogenic” as a trigger is outrageous. Mental health treatments fail when the root cause(s) are ignored. The culprit was the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, THC, which today’s pot has been genetically modified to produce in outrageously high amounts.

Psychiatry has morphed over the last 30 years, placing medical management (prescribing pharmaceutical drugs), ahead of getting to the bottom of things. The best way to minimize an encounter with the psychiatric system is to never use mind-altering substances including marijuana, and all its derivatives, as well as brain stimulants like Adderall, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics.

When I kept questioning the rush to diagnosis my son and the failure to recognize the THC connection, even my work colleagues (pharmacists, physicians, and nurses) would say: “This is about the right age when they break.” Or “Just accept what your son has — a mental illness.”

The out-patient psychiatrist was even worse.  He charged $250/session and took no insurance. At the only family session after Ryan was released, I questioned why would they diagnose him with bipolar depression since it has a high familial link? This doctor refused to answer me but eventually mumbled in response, “environmental,” which may mean he knew that THC can alter young brains.  (Bipolar 1 is the term used today, distinguished from Bipolar 2, if the mania is longer or more severe and/or the person has a manic episode before having depression.)

Nothing made any sense to me, and the nightmare continued. My daughter-in-law’s family was immersed in the belief of mental illness. “My whole family has bipolar problems,” her mother stated. No big deal, his wife said, though Ryan came back to normal after 10 weeks. My husband and I went to several psychiatric doctors trying to find a more reasonable physician who would look at the whole picture, but all followed the same philosophy. I even challenged them with the American Psychiatric Association’s classification system which qualified a bipolar I diagnosis as inaccurate when illicit substances are in evidence. (At the time, the DSM IV manual was the classification guide for psychiatry.) Mothers like me read everything and know when a diagnosis doesn’t hold. Denial was going on, but I don’t think the “experts” understood who was in denial.

No one ever suggested Ryan had addiction or dependence on pot or any drugs. I asked several times, as my thinking was that anyone who had basically had a brain break should go for rehab/counseling. These ‘experts’ reassured us,” Ryan is just a recreational user.” I kept researching and showed my son and his wife the volumes of research about the marijuana-psychosis link. I told them, “If Ryan ever goes near any mind-altering substance again, it could trigger schizophrenia.” At the time, I was unfamiliar with the “skunk” strains of pot, and didn’t know most of their friends were using it.

In mental health programs, if there is presence of THC or other drugs in the toxicology report, please give the patient the education to help them understand addiction and how the brain works. The attending physician should be certified for Addictions Treatment.  I’ve read there should be at least a six-month wait to fully evaluate a person’s mental health function after stopping the substance, but it didn’t happen for Ryan.

Back to Normal? How Long?

My son’s wife dutifully gave Ryan his medicine — not that I believe any of them helped him come out of psychosis faster). Ryan gained 55 lbs. in 5 months, leaving stretch marks all over his statuesque physique. Our son had gained so much weight, complained of “brain fog” and once out of psychosis weaned himself off the meds. In total, he spent five months on the anti-psychotics.

I never believed my own kid would ever go near another mind-altering substance again. Neither my husband nor I had ever touched an illicit substance in our lives. Sadly, parents who think they raised their kids sensibly, spent quality time with them and modeled a healthy lifestyle, can be woefully unaware of “today’s culture.” The drug is everywhere; one in six teens who use marijuana become addicted to it.

We found out later that some close friends were using pot so Ryan was persuaded to start using “recreationally” at age 19.  About that time, he began dating the girl he married, also a user, but not someone I’d expect to be into pot.

Sad for me, when I met individually with Ryan’s five close friends, each called him “best friend,” because he gave everything of himself to his friends. Some “fessed up” to using marijuana with Ryan. One said, “But he never did the really bad drugs like I’ve done.”

Ryan’s dog had seizures about a month before our son’s second “episode” of psychosis.  Long story short–I helped my daughter-in-law get their dog to the family vet. She told the veterinarian their dog had eaten snail bait, but he disagreed. I had no knowledge my son had returned to pot, and his wife didn’t share that fact. Indeed, now I realize that their dog had found their bag of pot. The vet told us it was not epilepsy, as I thought. He was unsure if he would be able to save this dog. Following an expensive intravenous (IV) hydration, the dog survived.

After Ryan experienced his next breakdown, he confessed, “Jodie had eaten pot before his seizures began.” Later, the vet assured me “Pot doesn’t cause seizure, but makes dogs lethargic, sleepy.” Several months ago, a Colorado veterinarian wrote an article in the LA Times about the escalating number of dogs having seizures from contact with pot edibles. I marched the article to our vet, grabbed his arm and implored him to educate himself and spread this information to his colleagues.

If our family vet had recognized the symptoms of today’s pot which causes seizures, and if I had been sharp enough to have asked the vet to do a drug screen, we could have made a difference.  But, we didn’t realize that Ryan had gone back to using pot, thinking he had beaten the addiction.  (Parts 3 and Parts 4 will follow.  Part 5, to be published in December, will explain how the author has helped others with her knowledge.)