Category Archives: Mental Health

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 he went on a shooting rampage, he had been trying to get mental health treatment.

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..……

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.)

What’s the Marijuana Mania of Today?

The cockpit after man disrupted a flight from Seattle to Beijing. AP Photo

Man on pot edibles disrupts flight to Beijing

The turbo-charged, high-THC marijuana of today brings out lots of marijuana mania. Jimmy Kimmel’s pot jokes at the Oscars fell flat, but Kimmel could try using these stories on his nightly comedy show.  Or maybe they aren’t so funny, just a reflection of how marijuana does a number on the human brain.

suicide-rates-Colorado-Marijuana

High Percentage of Youth Suicides in Colorado involve Marijuana

Statistics and Toxicology Reports Reveal Marijuana – Suicide Link

The increasing number of youth suicides seems to be tied to two factors, bullying and marijuana.  Although bullying may be a reason that youth turn to marijuana, in doesn’t resolve the underlying issues making them depressed or upset.  The outcomes for trying to resolve such issues using marijuana are very poor, and in fact marijuana usually makes problems much worse.

Colorado has tracked suicides before and after legalization, and policy makers should be alarmed by the results.

The numbers show an increasing number of suicides by year and by age group.  The youngest group (10 – 14 yo) have increased nearly 270% from 2005-08 to 2013-16.  The next age group (15 – 19 years)  increased by 133% over the same period. The 20-24 years group increased by 128% over the same time period. All of these jumps are very significant.

Total Number of CO Suicides by 4 Yr Blocks and Age
Total 10-14 yo 15-19 yo 20-24 yo
2005-2008 (4 yrs) 3108 23 169 273
2009-2012 (4 yrs) 3674 45 171 294
2013-2016 (4 yrs) 4265 62 225 350
2009 = Yr Med MJ Commercialization (legal sales) started
2013 = Yr Recreational MJ sales started

 

This Graph Demonstrates Clear Relationship Between Cannabis Legalization and Suicide Rates

Note in the below graph that suicide rates were falling in Colorado prior to medical marijuana legalization. Then they started to rise. They fell off slightly but then skyrocketed when Colorado voters decided to green light the recreational marijuana industry.

suicide-rates-Colorado-Marijuana
All Age Groups Suicide Rate Colorado

The percent of marijuana found in bodies of all suicide victims DOUBLED (from 8.1% prior to legal mj sale, 8.7% during the years of medical mj sales, TO 16% in recreational mj sales years) since recreational sales of marijuana started in 2013 from the preceding two time frames.  THIS should be extremely concerning….  Yet legislators are plowing ahead ….

Increase in suicide for all ages seems tied to availability of the drug.

Toxicology on kids with completed suicide from Colorado 2004-2015 (no data for ’16, ’17).

One scientific study shows the  teens who are daily marijuana users are 7x more likely to attempt suicide than non-users.

Another theory as to why marijuana is prevalent is that marijuana can decrease the vomiting reflex. If a person ingests a lethal dose of chemicals that can kill them, the body will try to expel them by vomiting. If a person takes an anti-nausea substance, it may allow those chemicals to stay in their system, therefore allowing the chemicals to kill them.

Ten- to Nineteen-Year-Olds are the Most Vulnerable to Marijuana Related Suicide

teen-suicide-Colorado-marijuana
State of Colorado, Suicide Toxicology, 10-19 year olds

 

Programs to prevent youth suicides need to also be concerned with preventing youth marijuana usage. Nine out of eleven teens who committed suicide in one Colorado community had marijuana in their system.  It is pathetic. To learn how one teen used marijuana to deal with bullying and then committed suicide, please listen to the following You Tube.

Marijuana Cessation

If your child quits using marijuana, please be sure to give them counseling and support as much as possible.  Since the heavy use of this drug can deplete 20% of your natural dopamine, it takes time for the brain to recover and regain the natural occurring chemicals.

There’s a risk for suicide after marijuana cessation. The greatest risk comes six months after beginning abstention, according to Dr. Drew Pinsky. In these cases toxicology won’t show the connection with the drug, and yet, it is well known by researchers that marijuana causes mood disorders like depression which in the most serious cases lead to suicide. Learn more about suicide risk and marijuana on the MomsStrong.org website.  We previously wrote a three-part series on marijuana and suicide.