Our story of our son (E)’s struggle with Cannabis Use Disorder and Substance Induced Psychosis started in 2019. We dropped our intelligent, handsome, athletic, somewhat introverted freshman off at American University. As a kid that had some anxiety and ocd tendencies, was a bit introverted and had some lags as far as social development compared to peers, but nevertheless brilliant, extremely articulate and well liked on track to be a student and do some modeling.
Pot was legal In DC. E had never used weed as far as we knew and we felt like so many then, that weed was not like those terrible hard core drugs so it’s probably not the end of the world if he chooses to partake a bit. He was never a drinker. Fast forward to Feb 2019, I received a frantic phone call from E at 2 am exclaiming that he was dying and all his facial features were moving around. After calming him and driving to his college in my own panic, my hubby and I were greeted by E who had visited health services and was deemed to have had a panic attack. He said he was fine and that it was a green out. We asked what is that? He casually said oh it’s from smoking too much pot. We were taken back. He was indeed smoking it but he seemed fine now. We advised him to lay off the pot because it clearly makes him anxious. Exact same thing happened 2 months later, another panicked middle of the night call terrified he was “stuck in another dimension and could not get out” We were about to jump in our car and he said no it’s ok “Ill just sleep it off its a green out again its common”. I then started googling green outs from pot smoking and moving facial features and pot smoking and stuck in another dimension. To my horror there was quite a bit online about CIP even in 2019. I sent him a text and said you are having a psychotic reaction to pot, don’t smoke it. Nothing else came of it other than I thought he learned it wasn’t for him We brought him home after spring semester to find he had NOT attended ONE class. When we addressed it he said I felt so depressed and had social anxiety and pot helped me and that “yeah all I did was game, smoke pot, go to the gym and eat Qdoba!!” Like no remorse and no insight that this was a bad bad thing on multiple levels. It was easing anxiety short term but causing him to feel depressed and isolated and unmotivated long term and addicted. That summer I dragged him around to multiple therapists and he just rolled his eyes. They said failure to launch is common in young college guys and that pot isn’t helping. Fast forward to fall –we pulled him out of college, brought him home, he wasn’t in school or working, and mostly gaming. He was sleeping until 4 pm and staying up pretty much all night…everything seemed to be unraveling. I thought we were depressed. He agreed his life wasn’t going so well so he enrolled back in college locally for the spring. We were onboard. I had no idea he was smoking at home. I called the police several times on our pot smoking older neighbor bc the smell was so intense in the morning afternoons and nights in our house that it was unbearable. I was convinced it was wafting into our house– when I came to realize it
was coming through the vents in our house. We addressed it and he assured us it’s safe, from a dispensary that all his friends smoke the same stuff to and it benefits him in “every way”. Covid hit and I didnt smell it as much and he was in school doing OK.. He said he smoked infrequently as it helped him focus more on getting back into school, improving his gaming, improving his workouts –in his mind the panacea for all. but in reality he was addicted before we even knew he was regularly smoking again. The spiraling downward of increased isolation and gaming and dysregulated mood and eating and sleeping was clouded by covid -we didn’t realize that it was really pot as the driver as he was smoking it again all day everyday we came to find out later. His big turn for the worse started when he went on Vyvanse as he was convinced he had ADD and that’s why he had that second disaster semester and wasn’t doing so hot at the new college. So, he sought an ADD dr who readily gave him a stimulant. Essentially all that was created was intense focus on more gaming and loss of appetite, less sleeping and increasing pot use to help with the Vyvansse ‘come down”. His anger was increasing, he was increasingly volatile and irritable. He now was throwing cell phones, fisting walls and verbally abusive One day he was screaming at me bc he ran out of pot and wanted money for it and instead doubled up on Vyvanse- that set him into a pot withdrawal and stimulant induced psychotic rage where he proceeded to attempt to access and locked gun to “blow his brains out in front of his mother” I called my husband in horror. I tried to convince hubby that Ethan was having psychotic episodes. He said no way pot would do that. Well for E it was cumulative high potency heavy use coupled with Vyvansse. After that episode Ethan apologized for it and said it was pot withdrawal and he needed it to feel normal. I tried to convince him to see a psych who could evaluate and prescribe something for that instead of turning to pot. Being so thrown off by the increasing anger and aggression, I continued to research and told him we were not continuing to send him to college if he’s smoking – response was he “is living a non conventional lifestyle and pot is part of it. It enhances his life in all ways,and we can kick him out if we want ” We didn’t, we couldn’t, we enabled out of fear and confusion. Fast forward to 2021 fall. One night after coming home from dinner, we found him crying on the couch. He said he had intrusive thoughts he couldn’t get rid of. It was very alarming and I set up an app the next day with a local psychologist. He shared that Ethan admitted to smoking multiple times daily and that he felt he had no problem with it as it helped social anxiety. Meanwhile he hadn’t seen friends in months, he was clearly smoking all alone in his room or car. He would do chores we paid him for and clearly he was using it to buy pot and only pot. He went a few more times and the psych said well he may have depression. He definitely smokes a lot of pot and plans to never give it up and the intrusive thoughts may be a transient anxiety response. He said we have a choice…allow continued pot use or kick him out. Within a week, E has a psychotic break – we were at dinner, he seemed very restless and bright red in the face. He left out of the blue to run home. He was in the bath when we arrived and soon he
bolted out of the bathtub running into his brothers bed and hid under the covers yelling.don’t trust mom and dad they us, he gets dressed bolts out of the house saying if we don’t let him go he’ll jump out the window and he hit my husband in the face exiting and then drove around a few hours to return to 211 who chalked it up to a panic attack. Over the next 9 months it was us desperately trying to get him help. 4 911 calls 2 211, two professional and ER visits, walk in clinics We even got him an apartment in a different city with the sole purpose of having the local address for the first episode psychosis clinic we assumed he would agree to ..days and weeks and months went by pot smoking continued, we clearly had lost control and he was falling deeper in a rabbit hole. We were so scared to cut him off we actually bought him small amounts of the dispensary weed to tie him until we could get a 911 call ro stick. The addiction had such a strong grip that he became worse off pot than on. When we ran out we found something hidden in his room, THC 0, beer cans, OTC stimulants, caffeine pills, Kratom, (i do believe pot is a gateway drug) increasing usage of energy drinks, Vyvanse script bottles that were out before refill. He was continuously in and out of a psychotic state that consisted on severe delusions of implanted devices, mania of days of no sleep and eating, followed by 50 hours of constant sleep, implanted thoughts, being followed, picking at his thumb and bridge of nose until bleeding, all his personal devices being hacked (so he would break them), to being recruited by a top LA fashion brand to be their rep (which included him spontaneously taking off and using our CC to fly to and from LA to meet the waiting limo), he attributed popping radiators and train whistles to being super important and God like to angels and entities both good and bad floating above in glass boxes or spaceships. One night he came into our room after admitting to smoking a ton saying there was fur and fuzz coming out of hand that we went the next day to an urgent care for in hopes that I could speak to a dr myself. They didn’t find an implant and he was in such a rage they didn’t, he grabbed the steering wheel on the way home and yelled to stop the car or he would jump out, grabbed my phone and threw it out the window and said he was so mad he may kill me. His tweets were either photos of mass amounts of otc stimulants or pot and bongs, or feelings of being controlled, devices implanted, being sought after by the cabal for his body parts because he was such an exceptional gamer, to having a girlfriend who would only come and visit with a mass amount of pot and vyvanse supplies, as well as desperate cries for help knowing he wasn’t feeling normal. Eventually, when he was out of his mind high at his apartment thinking people were tripping him down the stairs, and also running around his apartment rooftop sitting on people’s laps saying they know what’s going on we- called 911 and he was admitted to Yale. They ordered an emergency physician’s certificate after trying to escape after breaking out of restraints. The failed mental health system offered a 21 day stay in the holding area. We instead found him a place at Turnbridge where Yale released him to. After the intake interview he bolted from the program and went missing for over a day. When he resurfaced after walking about 20 miles in 90 degrees with no wallet or phone and limping with blisters and about 200 bug bites from sleeping at the beach I knew it was only a matter of time before he was again admitted.
A few days later after taking his car, I picked him up to take him to the gym, the one activity he was able to maintain over the past months. He had not slept or eaten he admitted in three days and he was on the “weed and vyvanse diet” he had found “gushers” from some random smoke shop (Gushers in street pot tha is packaged like candy) and “ it optimizes his brain and body.” He was laughing non stop talking outloud, seeing all 7s as having meaning and continuing to talk about angels, entities and the cabal. Whatever that strain was, it sent him off the rails. I called 911 again. His blood pressure was at 245 likely from the 7 scoops of stimulant pre workout he admitted to taking. The 911 officers said they couldn’t take him for mental health??? but because his BP was so high they could take him in for that. He broke out of restraints, escaped the ambulance and I chased him 5 miles all over New haven. He was picked up and admitted this time to Yale for 18 days total. The Dr very seriously said you will be OK if you never smoke pot or use stimulants again, if you do you will relapse into psychosis endangering your life within a week. He was then bed to bed at Newport Institute where he stayed 28 days and checked out early AMA in response to his D and A counselor “” told him weed was harmless and he could sue us for sending him away for pot. He ended up back in New Haven trying to access his locked apt..only to set down every ounce of his clothes shoes toiletries at the FBI building and was soon surrounded by a bomb squad and all items were taken and burnt to ashes. We told him he could not come home, that he could be on the streets or back at Newport. He chose to ignore and ubered to our house. He still had control because we had such fear of what could happen on the streets where he would be smoking street pot laced with God knows what. On a positive note, he looked healthy, well rested and was out of psychosis unmedicated. We thought ok this may work. He agreed to an OP initially and then refused. Before we knew it the money we gave him for mowing the lawn was used to buy pot. His former psychiatrist dropped him bc E only wanted stimulant ADD med, E found a prescriber. Within a week, he relapsed to both pot and Vyvanse and his consumption of any substance seemed to be in overdrive. I equated it to a pac man. I had never seen this before. Everything was in excess. He was buying more pot than before, he was consuming anything mind altering he could find in excess from coffee, to energy drinks, we found empty bottles of cough syrup, hydroxy cut, misusing vyvanse, most recently when we was out of pot, he was not downing hard liquor- It was like he was making up for “lost time” of the 45 day stint of forced sobriety. The psychosis came back and worse…it was a more persistent kind of the severe delusions he had before. Aside from cleaning our house top to bottom of any even slightly mind altering substance, we took all access to money away BUT we didnt take the car away as we wanted him going to the gym. He found money in his brother’s room and in his savings account, we didn’t think he was aware he had. We put life 360 in his car. He was driving over 100 mph to the dispensary regularly saying he was going to chipotle or the gym then arriving home hours later having already consumed the
pot he bought. Things were so out of control all we could do at that point was record him and keep a symptom log for any proof needed to get him admitted (he was notorious for snapping out of psychosis when necessary) We had to take the extreme measure of the FL marchman act. Ethan was spiraling –up all night and for days, not eating and manic and increasingly psychotic persistently with non stop talking, obsessing in front of the mirror trying to find implants and laughing pretty much non stop. He had run out of pot and had taken all of his remaining vyvanse (7 ) in response to no pot one night. It sent him into a state that was terrifying saying we were torturing him, we weren’t his parents, he was not a real human and someone was sneaking into the house bashing his head in. We found at this point with such a severe addiction and the psychosis he was already in from using again he was actually worse not on pot. The withdrawals were just amplifying everything. Luckily I was able to get him on a plane 12/16 to Fl. He walked all hours of night, found random guys smoking pot and ended up with covid. The night before he was picked up by sheriffs, it was HORRIFYING up all night talking laughing to himself waiting for his girlfriend to come on her and his private plane. Two nights before he had poured a bottle of whiskey (hidden in the back of some kitchen cabinets at my in-laws )into cups and drank them. I found him at 5am completely out of it saying he thought he may die (he has never touched hard liquor)
The marchman act was approved and the assessment facility accepted him covid positive. and he has been in treatment since 12/23. He is currently not medicated and in denial that pot ever had anything but a positive affect on him. He’s not engaging yet and is still in a low level psychosis state. He needs that Antipsychotic. I feel his IQ has taken a dip and I do think brain damage from THC is a very real possibility. But I pray that with medication and acceptance and the right long term therapy and stay in RTC that his brain will heal and he will be able to live a full life again, a sober THC and stimulant free life. It’s an easier life, a better life, a healthier life and a life that can avoid long term psychotic disorder.