Tag Archives: psychosis

The Unraveling, Part 3: Temporary Mental Instability vs Bipolar I

(Read Part 1 and Part 2.  Permission required for reprinting) After Ryan’s death, I remembered reading many years ago in a magazine  about Margaret Trudeau, then wife of the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. She was in her 20s, partied with socialites, and also suffered psychotic breaks.  Each time she referenced her use of marijuana as the trigger for those episodes.  I’ve since read current articles, and she continues to share. For her, marijuana led her into “madness.”  It was much later that she was diagnosed with  bipolar disorder.  It’s hard for me to accept her son, Justin Trudeau, wanting to have the same position his father held.  He’s a proponent of pot, despite knowing his mother’s mental health was so affected by marijuana. It speaks volumes on how great the opposition to promoting the truth about this drug!

Ryan was not helped to understand why his brain lost touch with reality under the influence of THC–this is the “elephant in the room.” The fact that hospitals don’t consider marijuana a factor in the picture of mental health is a tragedy. We need every researcher, past and present, across the globe, who understands the truth about what pot does to young brains to stand up in solidarity.

The experience of Great Britain was that it decriminalized marijuana, saw a spike in mental illness as a result of loosening the law, and then tightened their laws again. Canada has website on the cannabis-psychosis-schizophrenia link. The US, on the other hand, is not noticing its problem, or influenced by the marijuana financiers, is refusing to see that so many young people who are addicted to it are also  having psychiatric problems. I believe the psychiatry community has failed to connect the dots, ignoring the facts of today’s cannabis – so much stronger than when they were in school, or even 10 years ago.

The Lancet Journal of Psychiatry’s recent article points to a sevenfold risk of suicide for teens who use marijuana.

The second break happened 18 months after the first one, but this time I pre-arranged for Ryan to receive drug rehabilitation at a different hospital. The hospital in Pasadena gave the ‘green light’ for rehab. We paid $12,500 up front and Ryan’s PPO would insure the rest. His uncle and grandfather came, too, for support. Less than 24 hours after admittance, the staff coerced Ryan to their locked unit, where he was warehoused for 13 days with anti-psychotics exceeding the FDA limits.

The staff asked us several times: “Could Ryan have dropped acid? He doesn’t seem like our bipolar patients.” Once again his toxicology report came up positive (+) for THC. Again, in 2011, just like 2009, no one believed marijuana could cause this effect.
By now, we realized that our son’s drug problem was with weed and that he had relapsed with weed, but he never got a shot at the drug rehab for which we had already paid.

Ryan was “dumped” from their unit on the 13th day. The insurance refused to pay for it, perhaps after reading the notes of how much worse Ryan had become inside the hospital unit.  Why are insurance companies allowed to have so much influence on a patient’s treatment when they don’t have expertise?  He was drugged mercilessly into just a state of stupor. It was an endless nightmare for our son and for his family.

Ryan was taken off the last anti-psychotic at the first follow-up visit with the same psychiatrist because he appeared normal, compared to his state during hospitalization. However, he was still actively psychotic at that one week follow up. (I had stopped Haldol when he came home, as I was horrified my son had been receiving Haldol round-the-clock. Of course, at 6’4”, Ryan was intimidating. He had never become violent, but he tried to escape several times, realizing he had been tricked from the open unit into the locked unit.)

Coming Home Again

Ryan was hit with a personal betrayal at the same time–which just leveled him. Yet, with love and support of our family, he emerged once again from psychosis 10 weeks later. It came within the same time frame as the first episode, probably not a coincidence. This time it happened without medications, and I am suspicious that the medicines didn’t really affect his state of mind coming off psychosis after the first episode.

Ryan stayed with the Ivy League psychiatrist after coming out of psychosis for several visits. He drove all the way to his office in Pasadena, then had to wait up to 1 1/2 hours, as he piled in patients for the 15-minute check-in. I always hoped Ryan would invite me to go with him, but he didn’t. On the last visit, Ryan came home and announced “Mom, I’m not going back to see him because he never takes his head out of the computer, and doesn’t even look at me.”

After my son died, I subpoenaed his records only to find many days of nursing notes documenting: “Please call my mom she’ll know how to help me.” “I can’t stay in here like the last time, you don’t know what happened to me there.” But no one called me or told me despite my calling twice a day and visits every night.

During the 2nd hospitalization, I believe the massive anti-psychotics administered threw him into full-blown psychosis, as compared to the mild state of psychosis at the time he entered to get drug rehab. Drugging a young person into such a state of stupor, and then stopping medication upon discharge, surely that plays havoc on the young brain – already under siege from the effects of THC.

There are families whose kids died from drug overdoses, but began their drug usage with pot. There are those who have children hopelessly addicted to marijuana and there are those of us whose children die from the consequences of marijuana usage. All of us are stymied by a cover-up of the marijuana-mental illness link, and the fact that mental health treatment doesn’t adequately connect with substance abuse and addiction treatment.  Follow our posts by email to receive part 4 and part 5, to be published in December.

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The Unraveling of Ryan, Part 1: First Episode

(Here’s the first of a 5-part series. Names are changed, but details are true. Permission required for reprinting)  No family should lose a child because of this ubiquitous falsehood that pot is benign. It’s not a level playing field for us, because of the marijuana financiers and the pot “evangelists” who try to silence us.

I’m no longer intimidated by anyone who dares to tell me marijuana is a “soft” drug. Kids today comment that it’s not even a “drug.” Recently a pot user told my younger son, “Your brother must have had a weak brain if pot made him go crazy.” When talking of drug policy, we need to consider that this drug has irreversible, insidious mental health challenges and changes for some young people.

On a single night our first-born son went from his normal self — a gregarious, accomplished young man with a healthy mind, so loved by friends and family—to someone me and my husband of 30 years couldn’t comprehend. Ryan had just turned 23, and had been married for two months. I blame the strong strains of marijuana around in 2009 and 2011 when he suffered two psychotic ”episodes,” 18 months apart. He tested positive for THC – the part which produces the high of marijuana — on his toxicology reports.

“That young man in there is an alien. Please find my Ryan, the real Ryan, not that imposter,” I told the psych hospital we finally got our son to, early in the morning. I have worked in health care for more than 30 years, but to see my own flesh and blood sounding and thinking like someone whose brain is unraveling, is way too much pain. The consequences for a young man whose mind spins out of orbit only gets worse inside locked walls of a hospital.

Truly, someone should be following a young person in his/her first episode of psychosis. I swear it would scare some kids into never touching weed again. Despite me, his mom, waving the science research about the “cannabis-psychosis” link to the staff at the locked psych unit, they denied the association. Heavy doses of psychiatric drugs were administered to my bright star–a 6’4″ handsome kid.

The First Episode: a Long Night

“I know you don’t think I use drugs but I’ve been using marijuana but it’s harmless, just an herb,” Ryan said to me and his dad from the back of our car, as he was losing reality.  Ed and I were so frightened, so overwhelmed, so helpless and clueless about how and where to get help.

To backtrack, the police took our son to another hospital in the middle of the night, as his bride called 911 and was so frightened at his strange, bizarre behavior.  But my son was a law-abiding citizen, had never been in trouble with the law and went peacefully with the police. The police took him to a central processing center in Ventura, CA, only to find there were no psychiatric doctors on duty. The young psych technician didn’t feel he was a danger to self or others and so was calling a taxi when we, Ryan’s parents, appeared in the middle of the night to find our son.

Ryan agreed to go with us, but he was hallucinating and tried to jump out of our car as we traveled on the 101 freeway at 2:00 a.m. Our son kept asking us if we saw the same bombed out buildings (in the middle of the night).  He said that he had to save Obama. I swear it was like my son was having a nervous breakdown, a more accurate description than the psychiatric label he was assigned once we found a psychiatric hospital several hours later to “help” our son.  We hadn’t even had our son two minutes inside the door when this woman already had diagnosed our son with a severe mental illness. She didn’t know a thing about him or our family lineage, which has no history of any severe mental illness.

I assumed she was just an obnoxious hospital aide, but sadly this locked psychiatric unit was close to the old movie, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ryan was instantly labeled, warehoused with massive anti-psychotics (powerful drugs, supposedly to clear up disordered thinking) for 10 days. He got so much worse the longer he was kept locked away. The side effects of the drugs included muscle rigidity, drooling and slurred speech with a cotton mouth.

My son had his “band of brothers,” the five groomsmen who stood beside him just two months earlier. They came to visit along with countless friends and family. The toughest one of them, walked outside after seeing Ryan, kicked a trash can with such force that it flew in the air, and broke down crying.

On the 10th day he went home to his wife, who was overwhelmed, understandably. I would like to say this story has a happy ending, but it does not. One of the pastors who presided over Ryan’s memorial 33 months ago recently said he was proud of my “missionary work.” But, really, any parent who loses their adult “child” to the consequences of cannabis “skunk” would vow to end the cover-up of marijuana’s true harm.  Read Part 2. Part 3 explores temporary psychosis vs. bipolar 1.  Part 4.  For information on skunk and today’s stronger marijuana, read Antonio Maria Costa’s article.

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10 Myths Marijuana Advocates want you to Believe

by Dr. Christine Miller, Ph.D.
Myth #1. It is rare for marijuana users to experience psychotic symptoms like paranoia.
In fact, about 15% of all users and a much higher percentage of heavy users will experience psychotic symptoms.1 Half of those individuals will become chronically schizophrenic if they don’t stop using.2 Fortunately, some do stop using because psychosis is not pleasant and they wisely recognize that pot caused their problems.
Myth #2. Marijuana-induced psychosis must be due to other contaminating drugs.
Clinical studies under controlled laboratory conditions have shown that administering the pure, active ingredient of pot, ∆9-THC, elicits psychotic symptoms in normal volunteers.3  In addition, epidemiological research of nearly 19,000 drug abusing Finnish subjects showed that it was not LSD, amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP or opiates that most consistently led to a diagnosis of long term schizophrenia, it was marijuana.4 Thus, if you lace your LSD with marijuana, you are more likely to go psychotic.
Myth #3. If marijuana is associated with the development of chronic psychosis (schizophrenia), it is only because the patients are self-medicating. Correlation does not equal causation.
Actually, four studies have been carried out in Europe to ask the question which comes first, the marijuana use or the schizophrenia. The research was designed to follow thousands of young teen subjects through a course of several years of their lives, and to ask if those who were showing symptoms of psychosis at study onset were more likely to begin smoking pot, or were those who were normal but began smoking pot during the course of the study more likely to become psychotic. Three of the studies5 convincingly showed that the evidence for marijuana triggering schizophrenia was strong, whereas the evidence for self-medication was weak. The fourth concluded that both were happening — marijuana was triggering psychosis and psychotic individuals were self-medicating.6
Myth #4. Those who become schizophrenic from marijuana use were destined to become so anyway because of their genes.
The truth of the matter is that no one is destined to become schizophrenic. Even in the case where one member of an identical pair of twins has schizophrenia, only about half the time does the other twin become schizophrenic as well.7  Thus, there is ample room for environmental factors like marijuana to make a difference between leading a normal life and not.
Myth #5. Studies showing links between marijuana and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia are “cherry picked” to exclude negative studies.
A very large review of all relevant published papers was conducted by a group of researchers from around the world and published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet. No attempt was made to exclude results that were negative. The results they obtained by merging all the studies was that marijuana use approximately doubles the risk for schizophrenia.8 Later research has shown that the risk goes up to 6-fold if the use is heavy or if the pot is strong 9 (similar to the strength of marijuana that is coming out of Colorado now).
Myth #6. Marijuana makes you mellow and less aggressive.
This is certainly not the case for the 15% who experience psychotic symptoms and the subgroup who then go on to develop a chronic psychosis. These individuals are up to 9-times more likely to commit serious acts of violence than people whose schizophrenia has nothing to do with drug use.10 Just a few of the very recent high profile cases here on the East Coast include January’s Columbia Mall shooter Darion Aguilar and “multiverse”-ranting Vladimir Baptiste, who drove a truck through a Towson, MD TV station in May. Somewhat less violent cases include White House episodes: Oscar Ortega, charged with shooting at the White House, ex-Navy Seal employee David Gil Wilkerson charged with threatening the life of the President and most recently, fence jumper Dominic Adesanya who is charged with attacking the White House guard dogs this October. In the Rocky Mountain region, soccer dad Richard Kirk became psychotic after his first use of marijuana edibles for his back pain, and while hallucinating that the world was going to end, shot his wife to death as his children listened through a closed door.On the West Coast, the mentally ill marijuana user Aaron Ybarra shot one student dead and wounded two others on the campus of Seattle Pacific University. In Ottawa this past week, rifleman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was originally thought to have terrorist ties after he killed a young guard at the Capitol, but instead his friends paint a picture of psychosis and law enforcement records reveal more than one arrest for marijuana possession. All of these individuals exhibited psychotic symptoms prior to their acts and their mental illness could be traced to their marijuana habit in my opinion.
Myth #7. Marijuana is good for the symptoms of PTSD and by keeping this drug from our veterans, we are depriving them of an important alternative treatment.
Veterans Affairs Administration studies have shown that those with PTSD who smoke marijuana make significantly less progress in overcoming their condition.11  PTSD victims are already more vulnerable to psychosis and it comes as no surprise that clinicians have witnessed psychotic breaks in PTSD patients who begin marijuana12 because of the abundant literature showing an association between marijuana use and the subsequent development of psychosis. While the symptoms that afflict PTSD patients (anxiety, depression, panic) may be temporarily relieved while the subjects are “high”, these very same symptoms are exacerbated in the long run.13  Even in the context of polydrug use, it is the degree of marijuana use that correlates most significantly with anxiety and depression.14
Myth #8. Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and will reduce alcohol consumption, so we’ll end up with safer roadways.
In terms of mental health, marijuana is more dangerous on all counts (depression, anxiety, panic, psychosis, mania). As far as our roadways go, marijuana all by itself impairs driving. Whether it is better or the same as alcohol in that regard is still a matter of debate. What is known is that users all too frequently do both, and this combination is particularly hazardous. The interaction between the two drugs is synergistic,15 not additive.  So you end up with someone who is wildly impaired.
Myth #9. Laws don’t make a difference to rates of marijuana use
Some of the best data available on youth use in regards to laws comes from Europe, where they have a wide range of marijuana laws between the countries. The European organization ESPAD has studied youth use (15 to 16 year olds) across different countries every four years. The two most recent ESPAD reports (2007 and 2011) show that countries with legalization or defacto legalization (The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain) have on average a 3-fold higher rate of youth use than countries in which it has remained illegal. In our country, differences in decriminalization laws have existed between states for several years. If you break out the states with lenient decriminalization laws that also submit data to the CDC to track youth use (CO, AK, MA, ME), their rate of youth use (9-12th grade) is significantly higher (~25% higher) than states that have strict decriminalization codes and report to the CDC. Lenient codes include a low civil fine with no increase in penalties for repeat offenders, no requirement for drug education, no requirement for drug treatment, and no community service. Outright legalization and dedicated recreational pot shops in this country has not been around long enough for the effect on youth use to be determined.
Myth #10. The Drug War on marijuana is too expensive.
It is hard to put a price on the damage done to someone’s life if they develop a chronic psychosis like schizophrenia or psychotic bipolar disorder. But if economics must be considered, the cost of just schizophrenia alone to our country is approximately $64 billion per year, accounting for treatment, housing and lost productivity.16 If all adults were exchange their glass of wine or two over the weekend for a joint or two, our rate of schizophrenia would be expected to double. That $64 billion per year would pay for the drug war on marijuana and much more.
Brief Bio for the author:   Dr. Christine L. Miller obtained her B.S. degree in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. For over twenty years she has researched the molecular neuroscience of schizophrenia, ten of those years at Johns Hopkins University.  She is semi-retired, conducting occasional biomedical consulting on medical cases and an active volunteer for SAM-Maryland (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).
Citations:

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  3. D’Souza DC, Perry E, MacDougall L, Ammerman Y, Cooper T, Wu YT, Braley G, Gueorguieva R, Krystal JH. The psychotomimetic effects of intravenous delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy individuals: implications for psychosis. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004 Aug;29(8):1558-72. Morrison PD, Nottage J, Stone JM, Bhattacharyya S, Tunstall N, Brenneisen R, Holt D, Wilson D, Sumich A, McGuire P, Murray RM, Kapur S, Ffytche DH. Disruption of frontal θ coherence by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol is associated with positive psychotic symptoms. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;;36(4):827-36. Bhattacharyya S, Crippa JA, Allen P, Martin-Santos R, Borgwardt S, Fusar-Poli P, Rubia K, Kambeitz J, O’Carroll C, Seal ML, Giampietro V, Brammer M, Zuardi AW, Atakan Z, McGuire PK. Induction of psychosis by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol reflects modulation of prefrontal and striatal function during attentional salience processing. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Jan;69(1):27-36…………….
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  13. Kuepper R, van Os J, Lieb R, Wittchen HU, Höfler M, Henquet C. Continued cannabis use and risk of incidence and persistence of psychotic symptoms: 10 year follow-up cohort study.BMJ. 2011 Mar 1;342: d738. Moore TH, Zammit S, Lingford-Hughes A, et al. Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review. Lancet. 2007;370:319–328. Zuardi AW, Shirakawa I, Finkelfarb E, Karniol IG. Action of cannabidiol on the anxiety and other effects produced by delta 9-THC in normal subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1982;76(3):245-50. Patton GC, Coffey C, Carlin JB, Degenhardt L, Lynskey M, Hall W. Cannabis use and mental health in young people: cohort study. BMJ. 2002;325(7374):1195-8. Hayatbakhsh MR, Najman JM, Jamrozik K, Mamun AA, Alati R, Bor W. Cannabis and anxiety and depression in young adults: a large prospective study.J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007;46(3):408-17. Hasin DS, Keyes KM, Alderson D, Wang S, Aharonovich E, Grant BF. Cannabis withdrawal in the United States: results from NESARC. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008;69(9):1354-63. Buckner JD, Leen-Feldner EW, Zvolensky MJ, Schmidt NB. The interactive effect of anxiety sensitivity and frequency of marijuana use in terms of anxious responding to bodily sensations among youth. Psychiatry Res. 2009;166(2-3):238-46. Zvolensky MJ, Cougle JR, Johnson KA, Bonn-Miller MO, Bernstein A. Marijuana use and panic psychopathology among a representative sample of adults. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2010 Apr;18(2):129-34…………….
  14. Medina KL, Shear PK. Anxiety, depression, and behavioral symptoms of executive dysfunction in ecstasy users: contributions of polydrug use. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2007 Mar 16;87(2-3):303-11………
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    O’Kane CJ, Tutt DC, Bauer LA. Cannabis and driving: a new perspective. Emerg Med (Fremantle). 2002 Sep;14(3):296-303. Biecheler MB, Peytavin JF; Sam Group, Facy F, Martineau H. SAM survey on “drugs and fatal accidents”: search of substances consumed and comparison between drivers involved under the influence of alcohol or cannabis. Traffic Inj Prev. 2008 Mar;9(1):11-21………
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Marijuana: What Parents Need to Know Today

Today’s Reality

For more information, download this brochure from Narconon.  Even if you smoked pot 20+ years ago without harm, today’s situation is different.  We want our children to avoid marijuana because they care about the risks in marijuana itself.  Here’s the facts for raising your children today:

* Marijuana has been modified since 1994. The THC, which gives the high, is 3-10x stronger in the plants of today.  If a child begins using today’s pot , it’s like to learning to drink with grain alcohol, instead of beeror wine.  Also, youth today frequently use the potent “dabs” “wax” and “budder.”  These are extractions can have 40-80% THC.

* Marijuana is addictive, contrary to a popular myth, particularly with today’s stronger strains of pot.

* In states with medical marijuana, teen usage is much higher than in other states, and many teens who use pot get it from some marijuana cardholders.

* Those who begin in adolescence or their teens, have an addiction rate of 17 percent, as opposed to 9 percent for those who begin using marijuana as an adult.

*Emergency Department hospitalizations from marijuana rose from 281,000 to 455,000 between 2004 and 2011, making it 2nd amongst the illegal drugs causing ER treatment.

* Individuals responses to marijuana can be vary greatly, and the potential for paranoia and psychotic reactions are real side effects, omitted in the pot propaganda.

* Marijuana is fat soluble and stays in the body for weeks, which is why some people have flashbacks.

* The  brain, which is 1/3 fat, isn’t fully developed until age 25 or later, and until it is, marijuana can cause irreversible damage.

* Marijuana is not as widely used as alcohol,  6-7% of the adult population, vs.  66% who drink, one reason the comparison doesn’t work.

* Marijuana usage causes traffic deaths and it is not safe to combine with driving.

* More teens seek substance abuse treatment for pot than any other legal or illegal substance.

* Marijuana is a gateway drug,  because nearly every young person who develops a drug addiction begins with marijuana.  Early pot users such as Robert Downey, Jr. (age 9), and Cameron Douglas  (age 13), prove that the stranglehold of drug addiction lasts for years.

* A multi-year study out of New Zealand, tracking marijuana users and through their mid-30s showed IQs decrease an 6-8 percentage points over time.  Again, we point to the medical studies summarized on this webpage.

* In a recent study, schizophrenics who have used marijuana had an onset of the disease 2-1/2 years earlier than those who did not use marijuana.

* Marijuana can trigger psychotic symptoms and/or mental illness, and cognitive decline in youth, more quickly than alcohol, while tobacco does not.

* Since marijuana usage increases the odds of developing a mental illness, expansion of pot will expand mental health treatment needs.

* Efforts to legalize for age 21+  hide the motivation to attract young users and build big profits.  Legal pot mean more young users.

* Marijuana usage is associated with greater risk for testicular cancer in males.

* With universal health care, all of us will pay for the increase in medical care for those needing help from pot abuse.

* The number of pot-related hospitalizations in Colorado accelerated in 2009 and went out of control in the the first half of 2014.

* Existing mental health issues, such as ADHD, anxiety and depression, greatly increase the use of drugs for self-medication.

Mental Health, Physical Health Alike

“We cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental health treatment and marijuana legalization, which increases permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness,”  states former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who fought tirelessly on behalf of parity for mental health treatment. Kennedy and policy expert Kevin Sabet promote  Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

* The National Alliance for Mental Illness lists four illegal drugs which cause psychosis: cannabis, LSD, methamphetamine and heroin and two classes of legal drugs, amphetamines and steroids. Pharmaceutical drugs are sold with warnings, while marijuana isn’t.

Sharon Levy, Chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on substance abuse, said “We’re losing the public health battle” and policy is being made by legalization advocates who might be misinformed about marijuana’s dangers.”

 

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