Melissa A — September 30, 2022

Hi, my name is Melissa Altom. I’m a family physician in Aurora, MO and I have 2 teenage sons. About 2 years ago, I read Johnny’s story, which moved me deeply, and began receiving your emails.  I told my sons about Johnny and had them read his story and watch Johnny’s tribute video. I can tell what an amazing boy Johnny was and how much he was loved-some of his pictures and especially the video of him singing reminds me so much of my sons. Understanding what marijuana did to Johnny is a very powerful message. I wanted my sons to see that it can happen to anyone. Thank you so much for sharing Johnny’s story.

As a mother and physician, I see the very real challenges and the dangers facing our children today. I was so disappointed and honestly frightened when Missouri legalized medicinal marijuana in 2018. The very next day after the election, I saw a 16-year-old patient who was brought in by a parent requesting a prescription for medicinal marijuana to treat the child’s headaches. The growing number of dispensaries in our state is alarming.

For years, I have seen firsthand the effects of marijuana and other drugs on mental health. My first experience with drug-induced psychosis was almost 30 years ago while doing an inpatient psychiatry rotation in medical school. A young college Freshman from a local university was admitted with acute psychosis. He had no prior history of mental health issues but became psychotic after using drugs with some friends. His frightened buddies brought him to the ER. He was hospitalized for about a week and discharged after his symptoms resolved. He returned to college, but before my month-long rotation had ended, the young student was readmitted with recurrent psychosis, this time his symptoms more severe and prolonged. He did not return to college that semester, instead flying home from Missouri to California. When I have thought back on this young patient, I have always hoped that he received treatment, stayed off drugs, and ultimately finished college, but I know that may not be the case.

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