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
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)
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.
California’s Proposition 64 is called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or AUMA. Please tell your friends in California to vote NO ON 64 for good reasons.
1)It allows pot shops sell marijuana candy and soda, near where children live. According to the Latino Report the former mayor of Downey said, “These things look just like the candy that children love, and I’m not sure why the pot industry feels the need to market such kid-friendly stuff, unless it is taking a page from the tobacco industry’s handbook.”
2) It fails to properly protect from stoned drivers: Proposition 64’s proponents refused to include a DUI standard for marijuana. This has become a real problem in states that have legalized pot like Washington, where the percentage of traffic deaths involving stoned drivers doubled in just one year post-legalization.
4) It puts the pot industry in charge of safety standards: Proposition 64 allows the pot lobby to set the product safety and testing standard which will be based on voluntary codes. That’s like putting Philip Morris in charge of tobacco regulation.
In California, anyone who is 18 can get a medical marijuana card for the most dubious of reasons. Some may argue that the by legalizing marijuana for adults only, the state will control its out-of-control drug dealing in the form medical pot dispensaries. A state as big and diverse as California failed miserably with medical marijuana. What makes you think they can do any better. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom says California doesn’t want to make the same mistakes as Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Then don’t legalize pot at all.
Recovery was possible for my son, but we are lucky. He is now 23 and if you asked me three years ago, I wasn’t sure he could get to where he is today.
He spent one year at a CSU school. He came home after becoming engrossed in smoking a LOT of medical marijuana which was very easy to get on campus. He spent 6 months de-toxifying which also included many periods of psychosis including an evening at psychiatric hospital after a bad episode. This included hearing voices and laughing at seemingly nothing. When asked what he was laughing about he would say something stupid and not satisfying. He also did not sleep well and spent hours and hours alone in his room. I took him to see a psychologist and two psychiatrists all of whom thought he may be schizophrenic.
After six months of this I finally convinced him to undergo testing with a neuro-psychologist who indicated that he was neither depressed nor psychotic. He did indicate though that there was some significant decrease in his executive functioning capabilities. His advice to me was that there was no medical solution (also, many kids this age won’t take medication anyway on a regular basis). He would have to spend the next few years hoping to regain normal brain functioning. Sure enough, and slowly over the last two years, all of his psychoses dissipated. The laughing at nothing lasted the longest (over a year). He is now doing well. He is not back at school, and frankly I don’t want him back in that atmosphere. He is in a good job full-time and successfully living on his own and reconnecting with close friends.
My advice to all of you who have children going through this is to first of all do whatever you can to get them off the marijuana and all other drugs. I do not believe the symptoms will ease or go away until your child is clean and able to get it out of the system. The longer they smoke the worse the effects and the longer it will take he or she to recover. Getting evaluated is a great idea but make sure the person evaluating does a lot of testing. If there is either depression or psychosis, chances are that it is related to the marijuana.
Our story has many more episodes, but I won’t bore you. Now that it’s edibles that are common, I think it’s worse and I hear the kids are doing it even younger than high school age.
Please don’t write it off, give up, kick your child out of the house. And please don’t think it’s a life sentence for a mental illness.