I share my family’s story in hopes that no other family has to go through what we have experienced.
My daughter was a sweet, friendly, honor roll student and cross country athlete who loved to do charity work & help others. She was raised in a very loving family, she was very close to her younger twin sisters; she was a joy to all of us. She was admitted to all four of the competitive colleges she applied to and looked forward to a future career in Psychology or Social Work. We did talk about the dangers of drug use but with her quiet nature and being a health conscious athlete, it wasn’t something I felt I had to worry about with her. She never caused me an ounce of trouble in High School.
In fall 2016, she entered her first semester of her Sophomore year at Lesley University. When I dropped her off at the dorm, the smell of marijuana wafting through the hallways was overwhelming. When I raised my concerns to her, suggesting maybe we should look into alternative housing options, she told me it’s legal now in Massachusetts, harmless and all of the colleges are the same way and she wanted to room with her friends.
Not far into the fall semester, my daughter had her first hospitalization. She said she was feeling suicidal and mentally off but after a week in this facility she wanted to return to college. Within a short period of time, she then dropped out of school and moved in with a friend and began using THC products heavily.
In February, 2017 my daughter was admitted to Mclean Hospital suffering from another psychotic episode. At the time of her admission, THC was the only substance found in her system. She was delusional, incoherent, and experiencing suicidal thoughts. She was diagnosed with PTSD from some unknown event even to her and we were told *over and over again* that THC could absolutely in no way be responsible for her condition. After four long months in the “short term” unit, she was released with prescriptions for heavy psychiatric drugs which took her years of painful withdrawal to come off of (Subutex, Gabapentin, Prazosin, Ativan and Cymbalta). She is still suffering today.
As the years have passed, I have connected with many other parents whose children have also experienced cannabis-induced psychosis. THC was the root of my daughter’s mental illness and her life has been inexplicably altered by the fact that it was not acknowledged/understood at the time.
It is my hope that this is now recognized in the medical community and with early intervention, family education and support, other young people would receive proper treatment and not leave facilities addicted and misdiagnosed.
This is becoming a very common problem with the legalization of marijuana and the prevalent societal view that it is a harmless substance. It is my hope that Mclean as an institution is now acknowledging this and providing patients and their families with the support and guidance they need to understand this condition and properly recover from it. My daughter came a long way and had a lot of success at a long-term care facility in CT (also not covered by insurance). Not long after, she eventually relapsed, ran away and cut off all contact from friends and family. We have tried for three years to reconnect and get her the help she needs. We send financial support and receive periodic updates from the people she lives with and continue to pray that she comes back to us. She isn’t the same person she was before she became involved with mairjuana and neither are we. Her family is heartbroken.
When I see others sharing their stories that took place in the years after my daughter’s experience; I wish that I had been better informed by the medical community, that had I known the connection, that THC is NOT harmless, gotten her the appropriate care and been able to spread the word to other parents and spare them the same grief.
One Reply to “Denise C. — June 2, 2021”
Thank you Denise C. for opening your broken heart to warn other parents about cannabis. I live in Perth Western Australia. I learnt about cannabis in 1988 when I facilitated parent groups in a drug & alcohol rehabilitation program. At this time young cannabis users were committing crimes in the community esp violence in their homes, charged and brought before the courts. A Court condition was for the teen to attend AOD ‘dependent’/ addiction counselling and their parents ordered to attend a ‘codependent’ group. I had never heard of cannabis. The program had previously only recognised adult alcohol addiction NOT cannabis. As parents shared how their teen had become totally disruptive, destructive, demotivated even violent e.g. smashing doors and walls (this esp. happened to defenceless single mothers struggling to hold down employment) I became cannabis aware. Mothers & Dads were often at loggerheads over their ‘morphed’ lay about, majorly troubled teen, most dads got angry and rejected their teen, the mother made excuses and did everything to keep peace and excuse the teen. I now know that cannabis lodges in the frontal lobe of the brain, especially significant on young brains, causing ‘blunting of emotions’). In 1991 Elaine Walters of Melbourne, Australia wrote ‘Marijuana an Australian Crisis’. Elaine had also facilitated AOD parent groups and became aware of not only cannabis harms but its harms caused throughout history. She was granted an overseas Churchill Fellowship to carry out intensive study into cannabis and the then politics which were being mounted for its legalisation.
‘Marijuana an Australian Crisis’ became my ‘bible’ and with other parents formed Australian Parent Movement of Western Australia to promote school & family education of cannabis. However, all efforts to apply to relevant government agencies to raise cannabis awareness were resoundly rejected. We organised educators, doctors and police as speakers at public meetings only to be cancelled by State politicians and academics who were members of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws).
Tragically, I did not save my daughter who went from cannabis to heroin and schizophrenia and early death. Neither have I saved her daughter (23) or her son (21) from the ongoing perils and destruction of teen cannabis.