Our forever 19-year-old son, Johnny, died by suicide three months ago today. He would have been 20 on Feb. 7. We still miss him terribly but are putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you to those who continue to check on us and offer support and comfort. While it’s “back to normal” for the rest of the world, it’s still fresh here.
I wanted to share a story about something that happened three days before he passed. On Sunday, November 17, 2019 around 5:30 PM, he came over for dinner. He lived in our condo a couple miles down the street and would often pop in for a home-cooked meal. This evening, he was a bit agitated. “I need to tell you that you were right,” he told me. “Right about what?” I asked. “Right about the marijuana and the drugs. You told me weed would hurt my brain, and it’s ruined my mind and my life. You were right all along. I’m sorry, and I love you.” He died by suicide three days later.
Johnny dabbed for years, starting at age 15 or 16. When I said “dabbed” just now, did you know what I meant? Not everyone does. I didn’t until recently. Do you understand the difference between smoking pot (and some edibles) and dabbing high-THC wax, shatter, or butter? Most of my friends look at me blankly when I say these words and say, “I’ve never even heard about this.” If you don’t know what cannabis extracts are, and you have children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews between the ages of 14 and 24, PLEASE take the time to educate yourself and read on.
I am NOT talking about those of you who are supporters of legal recreational marijuana for adults over 21 years old—it’s your life—do what you want. I know some people who take it successfully for specific medical purposes, so please don’t write comments in my post about my personal experience. I’m specifically talking about illegal usage by children and young adults under 21, whose adolescent brains are still forming. You may be thinking, “C’mon, Laura, it’s no big deal – it’s just pot.” “Pot’s legal, so it must be safe.” Or “I did pot when I was a kid, too, and look, it didn’t hurt me.” Well, have you recently studied TODAY’S pot, and have you personally seen its effects on your children like I have?
Why is it so different? First, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a crystalline compound that is the main active ingredient of cannabis that gives the “high,” is extracted out of the cannabis so that it’s nearly pure. THC is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. Then a butane torch is used to heat the crystals (similar to beeswax) or oil in a “rig” (just google it), or a vaping device with a heating element called a dab pen can be used. Forget the “grass” or “papers” that were rolled in the 70s and 80s. The pot we grew up with (10% or less THC content) is HUGELY different than today’s high-concentrate extracts (often 80% THC content or higher).
The brain is still developing through a person’s 20s, and psychotic disorders typically develop in the late teenage years. During brain formation, heavy cannabis use has been shown to have a negative effect on the formation of neural pathways. While the vast majority of marijuana smokers never experience CIP, researchers have found that the earlier and heavier someone starts smoking, the more likely it is that they will develop a disorder at some point (often years later). We must educate our children when they are young (10-12 years old) and use hyper-vigilance in the early teen years, which we found was much easier until the age of 16 when they could drive. Keep talking, keep trying.
The harmful combination of a still-forming mind, high-potency TCH products, and a high frequency of use = Cannabis-Induced Psychosis. Yes, that’s a real diagnosis (or High-THC Abuse – Severe). Repeated CIP incidents can trigger schizophrenia or other mental illness, and even the cannabis is withdrawn, the psychosis doesn’t go away. This is what happened to my boy. When he died, the toxicology report showed he had ZERO drugs in his system. He wasn’t depressed, neglected, drugged, or unloved. He was psychotic, paranoid, and delusional by the time he reached 19, and he refused the anti-psychotic drugs that could help him now, because he thought he wasn’t sick (common to this illness).
I am compelled to help increase awareness about dabbing and prevent more senseless deaths. Johnny’s #1 value was Altruism, so please read these articles, help me keep his spirit alive, and share to help others!
Potent pot, vulnerable teens trigger concerns in first states to legalize marijuana – The Washington Post