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marijuana-suicide-risk

The Common Element in These Suicides: Marijuana

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

marijuana-suicide-risk
These four young men died in marijuana-related suicides. Clockwise from left, Daniel Juarez, Colorado, (photo, CBS News), Shane Robinson, California, Hamza Warsame, Washington (photo, Seattle Times, from the family) and Andy Zorn, 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)

Levy Thamba, left, and Kristine Kirk, right. Both died shortly after marijuana edibles went on sale in Colorado.

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.

Distinguish CBD from Substances Sold by Pot Promoters

Why is there no compassion for the families whose children began a descent into mental illness that began with marijuana?

There is tremendous compassion for those children with seizures who try cannabidiol (CBD).  For example, Alexis, an 11-year-old girl who speaks on behalf of an extract she uses to treat seizures, is a superstar.  It is heart-warming to know that she has been helped.  Alexis has a wonderful heart and is charming.  More recently she has been working with a group that insists the inclusion of THC for seizure medication.

The marijuana industry hopes for political gains by promoting Alexis’ story.  The public needs to give equal consideration to the  families whose children died because of marijuana.  Some have told their stories on blogs such as MomsStrong.org and Parents Opposed to Pot.

Dr. Gupta’s specials on marijuana on CNN changed political discussion about THE WEED. Now it’s time for him to present the other side of the story, the mental illness links.

Dark Side of the Miracle Cure

Furthermore, there a dark side to this “miracle” drug cure.

Some of the children who initially get help from CBD have bad luck later.  Lita Pawliw’s daughter died on February 3, 2017.  It’s heartbreaking.  In 2015, the province of Alberta relented in letting her little girl use the CBD instead of the prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.  While pharmaceutical medicines made her dull and lifeless, her family discovered that CBD made her lively and fun.  The online petition to pay for funeral expenses did not explain how she died.

The fact that CBD treatments for seizures sometimes backfire is a message that needs to get out to the public.   Whenever you use the term “medical marijuana,” teens think the marijuana that gets you high is harmless.   For the subset who goes into marijuana psychosis, marijuana can be lethal. Those making money from selling CBD aren’t required to give the warnings that pharmaceutical companies must give.  Their treatment is a fad and hasn’t met the long-term test of time.  Do people realize that the  Ketogenic Diet has a higher success rate than CBD?

Point Out the Dangers of High-THC Pot

The product that helps Alexis’ seizures should not be called marijuana.  It is predominately cannabidiol  (CBD), one of more than 60 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant.  The extract she takes is suspended in olive oil.  It is derived from marijuana, but it’s not “just a plant.”

Alexis takes a mixture that has 15 parts CBD to one part THC.  Today, most marijuana sold in dispensaries and in the black market is just the opposite.  THC, which produces the high in marijuana, is manipulated to produce the high potency pot of today.   In California, when doctors give recommendations for medical marijuana, they typically don’t specify any particular proportion of CBD and THC.  This neglect has damaged many minds, minds of young people who had previously functioned at a very high level.

The potent marijuana of today frequently triggers episodes of psychosis, and which can lead to permanent mental illness.  “Medical marijuana” continues to destroy the brains of  young people, some of whom have been treated by quack doctors.   Doctors in New York report episodes of young people who suffered from psychosis after using marijuana just once or twice.

Back in the ’70s, when there were equal parts THC and CBD, people were less likely to develop psychosis.  (A landmark study on low-THC marijuana from Sweden determined a person could use 50 times before they were at risk for psychosis. )  With most high-THC marijuana of today, the risk is higher.  The public doesn’t understand the difference between the pot of the ’70s and the pot of today.  It’s time for television doctors, such Dr. Phil, Dr. Gupta, Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz, to expose the truth about THC.

With edibles and dabbing done today, marijuana is far more dangerous than it was in the ’70s.  This is why it essential that the public stop confusing CBD with marijuana.   It is also important that people know that not every type of epilepsy is helped by CBD.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Oz are celebrity physicians who can sway public perceptions on health issues. Let’s hope they can educate on  the connection between marijuana use and mental illness.

CBD Oil is Available Throughout USA

Alexis’ seizures began at age 7.  Although Alexis and her family moved from Texas to Colorado, CBD sold as “hemp oil” is available throughout the country.  “Charlotte’s Web,” which was featured on a CNN show by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is available throughout the country because it’s considered Hemp Oil.  Charlotte’s Web and Haleigh’s Hope — which Alexis uses —  is CBD, not “a plant.”

Doctors with The Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado can explain the challenge of giving any THC to children.  They also explain the difference between cannabidiol and whole marijuana.   Why can’t those who bring Alexis’ story to the public explain it properly?  They argue that CBD only, such as the Epidiolex offered by GW Pharmaceuticals out of Great Britain, is not enough.   We caution that any THC in a minor could be brain damaging.

The public has a right to know that some children have died after the parents believed it was a miracle drug.

We challenge the marijuana investors and industry to stop calling CBD oil “medical” marijuana.  We also challenge them to submit their products through the FDA approval process, and to stop lying about “patients” going to jail.

People are basically uneducated on the differences between CBD and most marijuana,  despite Dr. Gupta’s explanations in his TV special.  Since celebrity doctors have promoted the upside of CBD, it’s time to explain the downside of marijuana.  It’s time for celebrity doctors  to educate the public about how THC can damage the brain.

Dr. Gupta should also review the National Academy of Sciences Report on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids released in January.  It concluded marijuana may provide “modest” medical help for three conditions:  nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, spasticity with MS and chronic pain.  Unlike the promoters of Alexis’ treatment, the report does not endorse marijuana is effective in the treatment for seizures.