A Father’s Warning About Chris’ Short and Tragic Life

Guest testimony by an Arizona resident

Here’s one story.  As personal and painful as it is to relate, I write this account hoping that efforts to legalize the use of recreational marijuana will be defeated.

My second son, Chris, had an outstanding secondary school career. As the youngest student in a class of 315 students, he was the valedictorian. At spring honors day, he received the American

chris-photoHistory prize, the best peace essay, a state and national scholastic writing award, the best student in mathematics award, AP Calculus award for the highest score and the Student Leadership award. But he was no nerd. He was President of the Student Council and Co-captain of the wrestling team. He had a ton of friends and he loved to backpack, kayak and rock climb. My only worry about him was his lack of fear in tackling any physical challenge.

On a holiday break in his first year at Stanford, he came home and went out with some of his friends. About a half hour later, he came running back home in a state of absolute panic. This fearless kid was terrified and in a state I hardly recognized. He thought the woods were surrounded by FBI agents and that a high school football star was trying to rape him. It turned out that the kids who picked him up were smoking marijuana. Evidently, this was not Chris’ first time. With all his accomplishments, he always tried to be one of the boys and smoking weed was what they did. I felt a tremendous sense of guilt because I hadn’t thought that it was necessary to talk about drug use with my own boys.

That night was a marker for his steady mental decline which continued even after he ceased using marijuana. Within two years, he was exhibiting full-blown schizophrenia. In his first of six hospitalizations, the doctor told us that he had a severe case and we should expect his mental acuity and his social affect to decline. The positive news according to the doctor was that Chris was high functioning enough that the decline could be tolerated. He was wrong.

The next ten years were not pretty. This thoughtful, intelligent, winsome child became extremely paranoid and sometimes violent. He heard voices continually and his thoughts became completely disordered. Once a promising writer, his journals show a steady progression from cogent essays to paragraphs and sentences that don’t make sense to jumbles of meaningless word combinations. Hospitalizations and attempts to medicate him had no effect.

At the age of 28, perhaps in a moment of lucidity recognizing what had become of him, he took his life.  Although there will never be any proof that marijuana was the cause of his schizophrenia, I believe that the first panic episode I witnessed was a precursor and initiator of his illness. This is certainly consistent with the scientific studies which suggest the correlation between early marijuana use and schizophrenia.

Proposition 205 would imprint on young people that recreational marijuana use is without risk.  No wonder that so many social agencies, medical professionals, state officials and business groups oppose its passage.

I am sure that many people smoke marijuana on a limited basis with no apparent ill effects. However, there is ample scientific evidence that marijuana use by teenagers whose brains are in the developmental stage are at risk for psychotic events which may be long term.  There is also evidence that long-term use by adults can also lead to mental impairment issues. For anyone who is interested, I can share a bibliography of over 60 scientific articles addressing the risks that early marijuana use poses.


Editor’s Note:  It is a public health failure that we have not warned young people they are at risk for psychosis and other mental illnesses from marijuana. But as this author remarks, risks remain for those who start using marijuana as adults.  Our recent article summarizes the dangers of marijuana, and why it cannot be consumed safely by anyone.


Pot’s Downside Clear in Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October Can Shed Light on the Role of Drugs Like Pot in Domestic Violence

Few people dispute that alcohol contributes to domestic violence. They probably don’t flinch if you say methamphetamine is a cause. But they viciously attack anyone who blames the sacred marijuana plant.

A 14-year-old boy who killed his father and injured three others at a South Carolina school came from a home domestic violence and pot. It should be no surprise by now with the number of violent marijuana users in the news lately.  (A report shows his father had convictions for marijuana and domestic violence.)  Perhaps Jesse Osborne’s attack on his dad and others is a reflection of the trauma his dad — a pot user — had inflicted upon him and his mother.  Jesse had been asked to leave school for bringing a hatchet there.

Despite widespread denial among pot users, the following studies show a strong connection between marijuana and domestic violence.  (October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.)

Effects of marijuana use on impulsivity and hostility in daily life, by Emily B. Ansell, Holly B. Laws, Michael J. Roche, Rajita Sinha, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 148 (2015) 136-142. January 6, 2015. 2014.12.029/   (Study of 43 subject found marijuana, but not alcohol, use increased interpersonal hostility and impulsivity in daily life, day of use and next day, Smartphone assessments)

The Relationship Between Marijuana Use and Intimate Partner Violence in a Nationally Representative, Longitudinal Sample,”  by Jennifer M. Reingle, Stephanie A.S. Staras, Wesley G. Jennings, Jennifer Branchini, Mildred M. Maldonado-Molina, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, May, 2012.  (Consistent use of marijuana during adolescence was predictive of committing intimate partner violence in early adulthood and being a victim, 2 x more likely.  Sample of 9,400)

Examining the relationship between marijuana use, medical marijuana dispensaries, and abusive and neglectful parenting, by Bridget Freishler, Paul J. Gruenewald, Jennifer Price Wolf,  Child Abuse & Neglect  (2015)  (Telephone survey of 3,023 in California cities concludes current marijuana use correlates to child physical abuse but not neglect, abuse more widespread closer to dispensaries.)

Alcohol and drug disorders among physically abusive and neglectful parents in a community-based sample, by K Kelleher, M Chaffin, J Hollenberg, and E Fischer. American Journal of Public Health, 84 (10) pp. 15861590, (11,000 people with substance abuse problems: abuse-3x more likely, neglect-4x. Substance abuse is involved in 50-80% of child abuse according to this study.)

Violent Behavior as Related to Marijuana and Other Drugs, by Albert Friedman, Kimberly Glassman, Arlene Terras, Journal of Addictive Diseases, Vol 20(1), 2001,pp. 49-72. (Marijuana users nearly as likely to engage in violent behaviors as crack users)
As a nation, we are turning a blind eye to the damage marijuana users may present to women and children.  We need to stop underestimating the poor judgment and the warped sense of time that marijuana users have, which often combined with fires and hot cars, have been lethal.

The Need to Stop Multigenerational Violence and Substance Abuse

For groups advocating to stop violence against women, it’s recommended that “marijuana use should be considered as a target of early intimate partner violence intervention and treatment programming.”  Treating problems at their source is best.

We also must do this to avoid child abuse, because studies show that  “abused children are at special risk to become heavy pot users in adolescence. ” from   Characteristics of Child Maltreatment and Adolescent marijuana Use: A Prospective Study, by Howard Dubowitz, Richard Thompson, Amelia M. Arria, Diana English, Richard Metzger and Jonathan Kotch, Child Maltreatment.    

The Emerald Triangle of Northern California is a reflection of a society with widespread acceptance of marijuana use. There’s  multi-generational drug abuse woven into to the culture, and with it comes addiction and violence.

Prevent Child Abuse America was formed in 1974 and has made little progress.   We’ll only make progress if we make progress with “the war on drugs,” which Drug Policy Alliance mocks and calls a failure.  The alternative is chronic drug abuse and family violence which gives the drug abusers their freedoms but at what cost?   Consider some recent events: Two babies died in Pennsylvania shortly after parents whose children have seizures forced the state legislature to pass a medical marijuana bill. *  In May, a man in Pennsylvania, killed his 5-month old daughter while high on marijuana.  Yet marijuana advocates try to tell us that marijuana is harmless.  In April, a mother who smoked throughout pregnancy smothered her three-week old daughter who died through asphyxiation.  She admitted to smoking marijuana which made her fall asleep with the daughter in her arms.

A case that happened in West Virginia on October 3 is even more shocking.  At 4:30 a.m., a mother awoke to find her baby covered in blood in the basement with her boyfriend.  The man had sexually assaulted the baby who was brain dead.   It turns out that both she and the boyfriend had smoked pot the previous night.   Under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol, he had a psychotic break.

Instead of arguing that another drug or that alcohol creates more domestic violence, we need to acknowledge that all drug use in interconnected.   Multi-substance abuse is the rule rather than an exception.  Marijuana, however, is most likely to contribute to psychosis, as described above or in other brutal murders.


From Flying Mustaches to Flying Car and What Next?

 This testimony is from a mother in California who spoke in front of the capital in Sacramento with Moms Strong on October 4, 2016.

Today’s pot can be far more dangerous than it used to be.  There is “weed” 300-800 times stronger than it used to be, “edible cookies and candy,” and honey oil or “dabs” sometimes called hash oil, which is up to 90% THC.

I learned all of this the hard way.  Thankfully, I’ve joined a group no parent would ever want to belong to called Moms Strong.  How does one become a member of this group?   You don’t want to know …It began 5 years ago with my gifted son who went off to college.   His elite state college on the central coast warned us of the dangers of alcohol but nothing about the dangers of drugs.

He was seeking a way to belong by joining a fraternity and a consulting club, tutored students and lived in a dorm with roommates.  He tried drinking, despite the warnings, but found he couldn’t handle it.

Friends in the dorm offered him pot and he thought it would be safer. That first hit took him down a long path into darkness.

He was able to obtain a medical marijuana card from a doctor over the phone–to treat insomnia. The doctors rarely suggest which type of THC product the patient should use.  Here in California, marijuana edibles, as well as weed and “dabs”  (butane hash oil) are delivered to medical marijuana cardholders via the Internet dispensaries.

By his 2nd year, there were early warning signs that things were not going well.  The changes were:

  • Falling off the Dean’s list
  • Disconnecting from close friends and family
  • Increasing fears, paranoia, insomnia and stress
  • Breaking the law by selling pot to friends
  • Fighting with roommates and quitting the frat
  • Decreased feelings of self-worth

During his 3rd year, he went from a casual to an addicted user.  From weed, he went to edibles and onto dabs which triggered psychosis within a few months. He noticed he couldn’t carry on a normal conversation or work math problems.  His college friend contacted me via FB reporting my son’s disturbing voice mail:

“Hey..I’m not sure if I want to live. I’m seeing flying mustaches. So call me if you think I should live.”

We brought him home, took him to our local ER where we hoped to get help for him.  The doctor thought he was having a 1st time schizophrenic outbreak, tested his blood and found “just pot” and placed him on a 72 hr. involuntary hold. It was the worst night of my life seeing my son so afraid and being powerless.

A psych expert sent him to a behavioral hospital to rule out bipolar mania.

At that hospital, the experience was a nightmare.  They had no knowledge of cannabis-induced psychosis, instead diagnosed him as bipolar and prescribed Lithium.  He forced to be among people trying to harm themselves or others.

That doctor suggested he take a leave from college and go into an outpatient therapy program.  Within 3 days, he started smoking pot again.  In a couple months, he stopped taking the Lithium as he hated how it made him feel. We were powerless over his drug use.

He returned to college for his fourth year, but then withdrew with failing grades.  Just a year and a half after his 1st psychotic break, he experienced symptoms for 3 days reported by this same friend:

  • Hearing voices, distrusting everyone (including his best friends)
  • Getting lost in his head and then suddenly saying “That’s what they want you to believe” or “They’re coming for me.”
  • Running from friends through traffic, scaring bystanders, with his friends trying to make sure he didn’t hurt himself or anyone else.

They waited for him to snap out of it, to no avail.  They took him to the Emergency Room where he got no help; they called me AGAIN.  We had 2 more ER visits which resulted in a medication to help the psychosis, advice on how to stop smoking pot.

My son just couldn’t kick smoking pot.  Within a few weeks, his rock bottom hit when he had a car accident, totaled the vehicle, and got a DUI. Thankfully he did not harm himself or others.

He called me begging for help to quit smoking pot.   We agreed he would go to a dual diagnosis drug rehab where he was first thought to be schizophrenic.   But after proper medication, he was diagnosed with cannabis-induced psychosis.

My son learned he has a sensitivity to THC.  He quit and is struggling to stay clean.  He takes medication to counteract the THC cravings from his three-year marijuana addiction.  He is still hoping to finish college and his future is still not set in stone.  He doesn’t see flying mustaches any longer, or any other hallucinating visions, but it sure was scary.  We are thankful that his whole life has not gone up in smoke.

Prop 64 will make it easier for anyone to try the “Russian Roulette” of today’s pot, without any warnings. Marijuana must be avoided,  especially  to those under age 25 — and maybe up to age 28 — because the brain is still developing, marijuana must be avoided.

Please vote No because of all the young minds that are at stake.


Marijuana is a Hard Drug, Dutch Doctor Compares to Heroin

A Growing Threat to Our Youth

There are several reasons that marijuana should no longer be called a soft drug, which is misleading. The cannabis of today is undeniably a hard drug.   Dr. Darryl Inaba, Director of an addictions recovery center in Medford, Oregon was recently interviewed on the science of marijuana addiction.  He said:

“As a clinician who has worked with those who experience medical, emotional and social problems from its use for the past 40 years, I am concerned about the life consequences that legalization will have on those who are vulnerable to developing problems from its use, especially youth users who are most at risk.

“Currently about 17% of those who are treated for substance-related and addictive disorders in the United States list marijuana as their primary and many list it as their secondary or tertiary drug of choice. It is, in fact, the substance most often listed by the 1.8 to 1.9 million treated for addiction each year in this country.  

“The majority of the clients I have treated for CUD during the past 40 years were self-referred, not criminally-referred into treatment.  They entered treatment because marijuana was causing severe dysfunction and disruption in their lives and they desperately wanted to stop despite the great ridicule they were getting from others calling them a ‘wussy’ who should go out and get a real addiction like heroin or meth before needing any help to stop.”

Those with Cannabis Abuse Disorder will not be able to stop without help.  Dr. Inaba goes on to explain the problem with stronger strains of marijuana today,  “dabs,” “spice” and edibles.

Expert finds it’s more dangerous than heroin

Dr. Martien Kooyman of the Netherlands  said the following about the truth of today’s pot:

“The cannabis grown and sold today is not same drug as was available in the 1970s. The average THC has increased to more than 15%. Cannabis issue can clearly lead to addiction. The damage to the brain from chronic use is worse compared with chronic use of heroin. Among the negative effects of long-term cannabis use in adolescence include neuro-psychological dysfunction, decline in IQ, short memory, among others.”

Dr. Kooyman vehemently stated that cannabis can no longer be labeled a ‘soft’ drug. There is no justification to have different laws for cannabis than other drugs (labeled as ‘hard’).

“The legalization of cannabis reinforces already existing opinion among youth that there are no risks in using cannabis.” Dr. Kooyman made these comments at a special session on cannabis at the World Federation Against Drugs meeting, held in Sweden, 2014.

Marijuana advocates insist it’s not as dangerous as heroin.   Existing studies on addiction are not accounting for the higher THC of today, over 16% in Colorado and average more than 20% in Washington.  In the old studies, the rate of addiction was 9% for adults and 17% for those who began as adolescents.   In essence, your chances of getting addicted to marijuana were roughly the same as the chances for getting addicted to alcohol.

These statistics need to be studied again, accounting for THC that is averages about 4x higher than previously.   Furthermore, “dabs” and “wax” are off the charts in THC, very potent and addictive.