Our 18 year old son walked in the front door. We were surprised to see him. Our son always worked on Monday nights from 5:00-9:00 pm. I asked him, “What are you doing home? It’s only 7:00.” His response was, “I don’t know.” I said, “What do you mean you don’t know? Didn’t you go to work?” He said, “I don’t know.” I inquired, “Are you sick? Did they send you home from work sick?” He said, “I don’t know.” Turns out our son had vaped marijuana multiple times that day, including earlier at school, after school, and just before he walked in the front door. Our teenage son was experiencing cannabis induced psychosis (CIP) for the first time.
THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, can cause psychosis which is a mental health condition that occurs when a person begins to lose touch with reality and may experience visual or auditory hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or disorganized thinking. Our teenage son had vaped a lot of marijuana that day. He was experiencing mental confusion, auditory hallucinations, and delusions. He didn’t know if he had been to work or not. He believed his lap top and the TV were directly speaking to him. Earlier that day at school he had heard music playing in the classroom when there actually wasn’t any music playing. He was beginning to lose touch with reality as a result of vaping high potency THC.
Our journey officially began 14 months earlier when our son was given marijuana to try at a high school party in the fall of his junior year. He had just turned 17. We found out two weeks later when he didn’t come home one Saturday night. We didn’t know where he was. We frantically tried texting and calling him. He finally responded. He was high on marijuana and couldn’t drive home so we picked him up. The next day we talked with him and told him that we didn’t think he should use marijuana. He told us that it was too late because he “loved the way marijuana made him feel.” After that conversation I called our pediatrician and he recommended a drug counselor whom our son saw reluctantly about 4 times. Our son agreed to only use marijuana occasionally on weekends with friends. He told us, “Everybody is using marijuana.” Unfortunately, he quickly became addicted to marijuana and within months of trying it, he was vaping marijuana daily. Just a year after he started using marijuana he developed cannabis induced psychosis.
As a result of treating his cannabis induced psychosis, our son also became addicted to benzodiazepines which were prescribed to him to treat the nasty side effects from the antipsychotic medication prescribed to him to treat the psychosis. Later that same year he had a grand mal seizure and almost died. The neurologist attributed the seizure to benzodiazepine withdrawal. Luckily for us a nurse who was nearby at the time of the seizure rushed to his aid and cradled him in her arms. When the seizure ended our son’s body went limp and his heart stopped. He was in cardiac arrest. The nurse performed CPR and saved his life. He was rushed by ambulance to an Emergency Room at a top Boston hospital. This happened on his 19th birthday. We almost lost him that day.
Before the cannabis induced psychosis, our son was an excellent student. He had been admitted to multiple universities and received scholarships. The cannabis induced psychosis interfered with his ability to concentrate on his high school work. His grades and attendance suffered after he experienced the cannabis induce psychosis half way through his senior year of high school. He ended up not starting college that fall as planned. He has a severe cannabis use disorder (CUD). By definition, a cannabis use disorder is the continued use of cannabis in spite of the serious distress or impairment it causes. As a result of his recent drug use, he has lost two jobs, was evicted from his apartment, his license was suspended, and he has lost friendships.
How has my son’s marijuana use affected me? I have had many sleepless nights worrying about him. I worry if he will be able to overcome his cannabis use disorder? I worry if his cannabis induced psychosis will be permanent? I worry if he will be able to support himself financially? I love my son very much and I hope he will be able to conquer his marijuana addiction. Sadly, it has caused him and our family great harm.