On Thursday, July 26 a man believed to be high on marijuana was arrested for aggravated assault with a knife, the Rutland Herald reported July 27. Fortunately no one was injured. Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont issued a press release today, saying “the scene of a screaming, knife-wielding, apparently psychotic man whose lawyer suggested he had been smoking marijuana should give pause to Vermont legislators and other policy leaders who are considering regulated sale of marijuana, .
Although the event happened in Vermont, the 19-year-old perpetrator was from California. Marijuana does not have to be “laced” with other drugs when acute psychosis occurs.
Once again events are linking marijuana to mental illness and violence in Vermont. The worst such event happened in October 2016, when a suicidal man with high levels of THC (the psycho-active ingredient of marijuana) allegedly drove his vehicle into another car, killing five teenagers, including four Harwood Union High School students. Like last week’s assailant, the perpetrator of Vermont’s largest mass criminal homicide ever may also have had other drugs in his system. Regardless, the connection between high-potency marijuana, psychosis and violence is strong and must be understood and acknowledged.
Three physicians weigh in on issue
The following statements are from three eminent physicians and researchers on the advisory board of Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont, an organization formed in 2017 to oppose legalization of marijuana:
‘I don’t think any serious researcher or psychiatrist would now dispute that cannabis consumption is a component cause of psychosis.’
“I think it’s very similar to asking if tobacco causes cancer. I think there is sufficient evidence to say it causes psychosis. Remember, we use “evidence- based medicine” in which one does not have to have 100% certainty to act but rather weighs the surety vs. the risks/benefits. Another way is to ask the “my kid” question – i.e. what would you recommend if it were your kid. Finally, I cannot help but say to legislators that the weight of the evidence that MJ causes psychosis is several times greater than the weight of evidence for most medical marijuana indications.”
– Dr. John Hughes, MD, psychiatrist and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, nationally-recognized expert on addiction, in December, 2017 statement
“The evidence that, for many people, cannabis use plays a causal role in the development of psychotic disorders grows stronger by the month. At this point, much of the effort to discredit research on the link between cannabis and psychosis comes not from scientific rationales but from political and financial motivations. It is time to move past false politically-driven debates and put into action efforts to reduce the negative impacts of cannabis on developing brains.”
– Dr. David Rettew, MD, author, Burlington child psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics
By Dr. Christine Miller, Ph.D, originally published by Poppot on October 29, 2014Myth #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.
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.
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.
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.
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. *
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.
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.