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Marijuana is the Common Web Between So Many Mass Killers

A toxicology report on Devin Patrick Kelley, who shot and killed 26 at a church in Texas on November 5, revealed marijuana.

As Senator Chuck Schumer moves to decriminalize marijuana, he should scrutinize why marijuana plays a role in  so many mass killings.  The toxicology screen of mass killer Devin Patrick Kelley revealed marijuana in his system when he killed 26 people at a Texas church last November.  A week after the killings in Texas,  California “pot farmer” Kevin Neal murdered five people and injured eleven others.  Marijuana, or heavy use of marijuana at a young age, is a common web between many mass killers.

Diagnosed with cannabis-induced psychosis, Satoshi Uematsu killed 19 handicapped people in Japan and injured many others.

Although Devin Kelley had an anti-church bias, other marijuana-using killers express different ideological bents. Satoshi Uematsu, hated handicapped people whom he considered a burden on society.  The Japanese man who stabbed and killed 19 disabled people in 2016 frequently advocated for marijuana legalization.  Just weeks before his attack, Uematsu had been diagnosed with cannabis-induced psychosis and paranoia.  

In 2013, President Obama’s director of drug policy, Gil Kerlikowske released a study which cited marijuana as the drug most commonly linked to crimes.  The links between marijuana and violent behavior transcend national, religious and racial divides.  (Read the two most recent cases of religious violence.)

Jared Loughner, killed six and injured many  in Tucson, AZ, 2011.

Heavy or very heavy use of marijuana at a young age links several gunmen and terrorists with or without ideologies:  Planned Parenthood shooter Robert DearAurora shooter James Holmes; Tucson shooter Jared Loughner, and the Chattanooga shooter Mohammed Abdulazeez.

Marijuana was intricately tied to the Boston bombers, the Oklahoma City bomber and the Bastille Day terrorist in Nice. Brahim and Salah Abdeslem, who planned killing 130 at a Paris night club, and Cherif Kouachi, of the Charlie Hebdo killings, also belonged to the complicated web of heavy, chronic marijuana users.  The perpetrators of bombings in London and Manchester were known to be heavy marijuana users.

When Marijuana Use Leads to Acute or Chronic Psychosis

Robert Dear, Planned Parenthood shooter, November 27, 2015

While around 50% of American adults have tried marijuana, only 10-13 % of adults smoke pot on any regular basis.  Pot-using mass killers often stand out because of the chronic and obsessive nature  of their marijuana habit.   Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear appears to have moved from North Carolina to Colorado, fixated on his desire to be high.

A significant chunk of marijuana users experience psychotic symptoms.  Psychotic killers with mental illness may appear different from political and religious killers, but they often share the trait of persistent, early marijuana use.

Noah Harpham, was in mania when he shot three people in Colorado Springs  in 2015.

Noah Harpham, who shot three people in Colorado Springs weeks before the Planned Parenthood shootings,  experienced early pot addiction and tried to recover.    When he used marijuana again after Colorado legalized it, he immediately went into psychosis.   Shortly before the shooting rampage, he had been trying to get mental health treatment.  His toxicology report tested THC+, and no other drugs were found.

Aurora, Colorado theater shooter, James Holmes, was a heavy marijuana user.  A neighbor reported regularly seeing him smoking weed behind his apartment, but never talked to him.

James Holmes, Aurora shooter used to smoke weed behind the apartment.

The Chattanooga shooter suffered mainly from depression and/or bipolar disorder, and may not have been driven as much by  ideology as the other mass shooters.  Heavy marijuana use was an essential part of his life, and it had prevented him from getting a job.

The Teen Brain

The Boston bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  had been heavy, persistent teenage marijuana users.  A study from the University of Pittsburgh shows strong changes may affect the adolescent user years later, even after stopping the use of marijuana.

Nice terrorist Mohammed Bouhlel smoked very strong weed in high school, and had his first psychotic break at 19.

The Nice terrorist, Mohammed Bouhlel, plowed into the crowd with a truck on Bastille Day two years ago, killing 86 people.  Bouhlel had a history of smoking strong cannabis as a teen.  He had an early psychotic break at age 19, a few years before the move to France.  His psychosis predated his interest in jihad, which had begun only a few months before the Bastille Day attack. Bouhlel also took steroids and pharmaceutical drugs years later, but started his drug use with weed.

In 2014, Washington State high school student Jaylen Fryberg shot five friends whom he had invited to eat lunch with him.  On Twitter he revealed the need to smoke a ton of pot because of a breakup.  The girl who had broken up with him said on Twitter that smoking pot made him stupid.   He was only 15 at the time, but Washington State started selling commercialized pot about four months earlier.

Marijuana strongly alters the teen brain, and  a recent study from Montreal pinpointed that any user under age 25 can become of victim of psychotic symptoms.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh killed 168 in 1996

Another pair of high school shooters, the Columbine shooters, chose to do their rampage on 4/20, a symbolic date for junkies.  Timothy McVeigh also chose this day for the Oklahoma City bombing.

Were the DC Snipers, John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo,   pot users?  They fit into a pattern of an older man using marijuana to control a teenager.  Before ending up in the DC area, they moved between places  known for marijuana: Jamaica, Antigua, Bellingham,  Tacoma.

When Marijuana Psychosis Leads to Violence: Aurora, Arizona

Some the most notorious recent murderers who were marijuana users fell victim to psychosis and delusion: Aurora shooter Holmes, Tucson shooter Loughner, Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear and Eddie Routh.  Routh shot “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield because of his paranoia.  He smoked marijuana the day of the murders.  Suffering from PTSD, he thought the other men would hurt him.

Eddie Routh, veteran with PTSD, smoked pot the morning before he killed Chris Kyle Chad Littlefield.
The Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado Springs, Robert Dear,  appears to have been both ideologically fanatic and psychotic.  Eric Rudolph, another infamous anti-abortion terrorist, also had a marijuana history –the reason for his discharge from the Army.
The 15% or so of marijuana users who experience psychotic symptoms from marijuana or go into permanent psychosis (schizophrenia) are 9x more likely to become violent than schizophrenics whose illness has nothing to do with drugs. *

Marijuana often creates a cat-and-mouse chase with depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia, and it makes these conditions worse. 

Educating about the connection between drug use and violence with an eye on drug prevention could alleviate much violent crime.

Solution to Cutting Down Mass Violence

Americans argue over the most effective means to stop mass killers.

Discussions often leave out one of the most important components of violence……compulsive drug use, especially marijuana.  Let’s consider that the root of violence goes much deeper than a person’s religion, gun laws or innate mental illness.  Let’s stop legalizing drugs.
A Secret Service report on mass attacks in public places, 2017, connected 54% of attackers to illicit drugs or substance abuse.
Manchester terrorist Salmon Abedi

We acknowledge that not everyone who uses marijuana becomes mentally ill or psychotic.  However, cannabis use, especially in young users can cause extraordinary changes to the brain.   Read how Salman Abedi changed from a cannabis smoking teen to an Isis terrorist. 

Robert Durst, who allegedly murdered several people throughout the United States depended upon his “beloved marijuana.”
Readers should check out the many excellent sources describing links between marijuana, mental illness and violence, including:

*Fazel S, Långström N, Hjern A, Grann M, Lichtenstein P. Schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violent crime. JAMA. 2009 May 20;301(19):2016-23.

Miller, Norman S Miller and Thersilla Oberbarnscheidt.  Marijuana Violence and Law. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, January 17,  2017

Harris AW, Large MM, Redoblado-Hodge A, Nielssen O, Anderson J, Brennan J. Clinical and cognitive associations with aggression in the first episode of psychosis. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2010 Jan;44(1):85-93..……

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Father’s Testimony Explains the Weaponized Marijuana of Today

Ron Coppola’s testimony gives insight into how today’s marijuana changes brains and becomes a factor in the development of schizophrenia.   “It’s not what I smoked, ” he explained.

“Marijuana flipped a switch in his son. ”  he said.    Of this dilemma, he warned, “Anyone who deals with mental illness realizes it’s a black hole.”

(Editor’s Note: British journalist Patrick Cockburn shared the story of how his son’s son heavy pot use resulted in schizophrenia. Henry’s Demons opens offers insight into schizophrenia, from the view of both father and son.  We wrote another article exploring the possible genetic pathways marijuana-induced schizophrenia.)

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Marijuana and Other Drugs: A Link We Can’t Ignore

by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)   Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s 2017 publication references academic studies which suggest that marijuana primes the brain for other types of drug usage.  Here’s the summary on that subject from page 4, Marijuana and Other Drugs: A Link We Can’t Ignore :

MORE THAN FOUR in 10 people who ever use marijuana will go on to use other illicit drugs, per a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.(1) The CDC also says that marijuana users are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin.(2)

Although 92% of heroin users first used marijuana before going to heroin, less than half used painkillers before going to heroin.

And according to the seminal 2017 National Academy of Sciences report, “There is moderate evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of substance dependence and/or a substance abuse disorder for substances including alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.”(3)

RECENT STUDIES WITH animals also indicate that marijuana use is connected to use and abuse of other drugs. A 2007 Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology study found that rats given THC later self administered heroin as adults, and increased their heroin usage, while those rats that had not been treated with THC maintained a steady level of heroin intake.(4) Another 2014 study found that adolescent THC exposure in rats seemed to change the rodents’ brains, as they subsequently displayed “heroin-seeking” behavior. Youth marijuana use could thus lead to “increased vulnerability to drug relapse in adulthood.”(5)

National Institutes of Health Report

The National Institutes of Health says that research in this area is “consistent with animal experiments showing THC’s ability to ‘prime’ the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs. For example, rats previously administered THC show heightened behavioral response not only when further exposed to THC, but also when exposed to other drugs such as morphine—a phenomenon called cross-sensitization.”(6)

Suggestions that one addictive substance replaces another ignores the problem of polysubstance abuse, the common addiction of today.

ADDITIONALLY, THE MAJORITY of studies find that marijuana users are often polysubstance users, despite a few studies finding limited evidence that some people substitute marijuana for opiate medication. That is, people generally do not substitute marijuana for other drugs. Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences report found that “with regard to opioids, cannabis use predicted continued opioid prescriptions 1 year after injury.  Finally, cannabis use was associated with reduced odds of achieving abstinence from alcohol, cocaine, or polysubstance use after inpatient hospitalization and treatment for substance use disorders” [emphasis added].(7)

Moreover, a three-year 2016 study of adults also found that marijuana compounds problems with alcohol. Those who reported marijuana use during the first wave of the survey were more likely than adults who did not use marijuana to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years.(8) Similarly, alcohol consumption in Colorado has increased slightly since legalization. (9)

Data on Marijuana Policy for 2017

Here’s the complete Data on Marijuana Policy for 2017 in pdf form.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Secades-Villa R, Garcia-Rodríguez O, Jin CJ, Wang S, Blanco C Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: a national study. Int J Drug Policy. 2015;26(2):135-142

2. Centers for Disease Control. Today’s heroin epidemic Infographics more people at risk, multiple drugs abused. CDC, 7 July 2015.

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health andPublic Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda (“2017 NAS Report”).

4. Ellgren, Maria et al. “Adolescent Cannabis Exposure Alters Opiate Intake and Opioid Limbic Neuronal Populations in Adult Rats.”Neuropsychopharmacology 32.3 (2006): 607–615.

5. Stropponi, Serena et al. Chronic THC during adolescence increases the vulnerability to stress-induced relapse to heroin seeking in adult rats. European Neuropsychopharmacology Volume 24 , Issue 7 (2014), 1037 – 1045.

6. “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan. 2017. See also Panlilio LV, Zanettini C, Barnes C, Solinas M, Goldberg SR. Prior exposure to THC increases the addictive effects of nicotine in rats. Neuropsychopharmacol Off Publ Am Coll Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013;38(7):1198-1208; Cadoni C, Pisanu A, Solinas M, Acquas E, Di Chiara G. Behavioural sensitization after repeated exposure to Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cross-sensitization with morphine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001;158(3):259-266.

7.  2017 NAS report.

8.  Weinberger AH, Platt J, Goodwin RD. Is cannabis use associated with an increased risk of onset and persistence of alcohol use disorders? A three-year prospective study among adults in the United States. Drug Alcohol Depend. February 2016.

This is the second recent article on the gateway effects of marijuana use.   Since marijuana has already primed the brains of most people who get addicted to opioids, marijuana cannot replace pain pills.

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The Common Element in These Suicides: Marijuana

The common element in all these suicides or self-inflicted deaths was marijuana.   Marijuana was the factor, not alcohol or other drugs…………in all cases.  (Read Part 1 and Part 2)

Marc Bullard, 23      Colorado

Brant Clark, 17        Colorado

Tron Dohse, 26        Colorado

Luke Goodman, 23      Colorado, traveling from Oklahoma

Daniel Juarez, 18     Colorado

Shane Robinson, 25      California

Rashaan Salaam, 41      Colorado

Levy Thamba, 19         Colorado, traveling from Wyoming

Hamza Warsame, 16       Washington

Andy Zorn, 31          Arizona

marijuana-suicide-risk
These four young men died in marijuana-related suicides. Clockwise from left, Daniel Juarez, Colorado, (photo, CBS News), Shane Robinson, California, Hamza Warsame, Washington (photo, Seattle Times, from the family) and Andy Zorn, Arizona.

Four of these victims — Warsame, Thamba, Juarez, Clark — had experienced pot-induced psychosis during the period leading to their deaths.  Juarez was an outstanding soccer player who got very high with a friend the night he stabbed himself 20 times.   The suicide report showed he had 38.2 ng of marijuana in his blood, eight times the limit for Colorado drivers. Toxicologists tested him for methamphetamine and other substances, but the results turned out to be negative. Although the death occurred in 2012, CBS News obtained the police report in 2015 and made it public at that time.  Juarez´s sister claims he would not have killed himself had he not gotten stoned that night.

Suicidal thoughts can come on very quickly while under the influence in individuals who were not previously suicidal. The suddenness of suicidal ideation means that intervention may be impossible. 

Dohse’s death was determined to have been an accident. Unable to find his keys, Dohse climbed up the apartment building and fell.  The toxicology report 27.3 ng. of marijuana in his blood, but no other drugs or alcohol in his system.  As his sister told CBS, she believes marijuana impairment led her brother to make poor decisions the night of his death.  (Read Part 1 for more background on Warsame, Dohse, Juarez and Clark)

Levy Thamba, left, and Kristine Kirk, right. Both died shortly after marijuana edibles went on sale in Colorado.

The story of Levy Thamba is particularly tragic since he was on a student visa to this country.  He came from the Democratic Republic of Congo to study engineering in Wyoming.  While visiting Denver with friends, he tried a marijuana edible for the first time.  It was a pot-infused cookie, the effects of which don´t appear immediately. About two hours later, he became acutely psychotic, thinking pictures were jumping off the wall. The friends calmed him down before going to sleep, but his psychosis returned.   He ran from his room to the sixth floor balcony, jumping to his death.

Thamba’s death is often described along with the death of Kristine Kirk.  She called 911 because her husband, Richard Kirk, wanted her to shoot him, after he ate a marijuana candy.  By the time, help came, he shot Kristine, mother of their three children, instead.

Bullard, Salaam and Robinson appear to have been suffering from depression as a result of heavy and/or extended pot use.  Marc Bullard was “dabbing.”  Andy Zorn, a veteran who had been taking medical marijuana, knew he had to quit marijuana to survive.  But he couldn’t quit and so took his own life. (Many people begin smoking pot after being told “it’s not addictive.”)

Marijuana Withdrawal is a Risk, Too

Although Shane Robinson had experienced two periods of pot-induced psychosis, he was having marijuana withdrawal syndrome at the time of his death.   According to a program of Dr. Drew Pinsky back in 2003, there is “an extraordinarily high incident of suicide in the first six months of marijuana abstinence.”

Most striking about the youths we describe is that they did not begin pot use because of depression.  All of these deaths occurred in marijuana-friendly states where the social situation was an influence on their pot use.  Lori Robinson, Shane’s mother, warns that educating against drugs and modelling a healthy lifestyle without drug use doesn’t work today.  It is no match for current  cultural trends and government policy which normalizes pot use.

Most who die in marijuana-related suicides are male, but women and girls are still at risk.  One of our supporters attempted suicide in her 20s after years of daily pot use, failed relationships and domestic violence.  Her attempt was not successful.  Today she is 29 years sober and her survival is a blessing.   Not all people will be as lucky. Males are generally more successful in suicide attempts, because their methods are often more efficient.

Pot is the Common Element, not an Underlying Mental Health Issue

These youths banish the claim that mental health problems always come before the marijuana use.   (A strong misconception is that mental illness after using pot only affects those with previous mental health issues.)  The deaths described here include active psychotic reactions at the time of marijuana use, as well as depression from long-term use.

The lives of these young men need to be a warning to states trying to legalize marijuana.  Suicide rates in Colorado have reached all-time highs and each one of Colorado’s 21 health regions had a suicide rate higher than the national average, according to a February report by the Colorado Health Institute.

When the pot industry tells us that “no one ever died from marijuana,” they’re lying.   Maybe it is time for the CDC to start tracking marijuana-related deaths.

These 10 deaths are just a few of the many self-inflicted deaths related to marijuana use.  Lori Robinson has assembled more stories of marijuana-related deaths and psychosis on the website of Moms Strong.  Read these stories on momsstrong.org.

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