Why cannabis use can lead to schizophrenia and the complete destruction of young lives
Updated: Mar 4
There was a really fascinating article in The Independent recently, which tells the story of one family's struggle with schizophrenia and the devastating effect that the illness has had on them.
Aaron Dumsch was a handsome young man with a talent for football who even played for his university while studying at Arizona State.
Tipped to be CEO of a Forbes 500 company and with a girlfriend he thought he would marry, Aaron seemed set for a life of multiple personal and professional achievements and successes.
But everything started to change for him while at university, when things started to unravel and he spiraled from a gifted all-American member of the Arizona State University football team to a heavily sedated inpatient on a psychiatric ward in the state of Maryland.
After losing a football scholarship in his senior year, his interest in sport and academia had started to wane and he had resorted to smoking cannabis with a friend and skipping lectures and classes.
Before long, he was returning to the family home convinced that his dorm room was bugged, that the TV was giving out secret messages, and professing to all sorts of other bizarre and peculiar claims. Then, after a violent outburst, during which he threatened to kill several people, Aaron was expelled from Arizona State by the university administration team and ordered to return home.
After a traumatic experience in trying to get him back, his terrified mother, Anita, realised that he was having an episode of psychosis, and he was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia after an appointment with a psychiatrist.
Empirical scientific research tells us that smoking cannabis is a risk factor for the onset of psychotic and schizophrenic features. It only happens in a small percentage of the population but that's still over 70 million people, and this terrible problem needs our undivided attention and focus.
The same effect is true for bipolar mania, which I am testament to myself; it can preempt the onset of mania, the repercussions of which involve hospitalisation and a worsening of depressive and mixed state symptoms.
This yet again is where we need education. I do understand the temptation to self-medicate with recreational drugs like alcohol, cocaine and cannabis but if you are predisposed to a mental health condition, partaking in substances like these will only exacerbate the symptoms of the disorder.
Now that I am well, I have no need for alcohol or any other recreational drug and I know that I must never partake in them ever again. I'm educated into my condition and accept the resulting sacrifices that I have to make, but I have done this on my own really, there was zero drug counselling or educational support in my last psychiatric admission, even though the ward was clogged up with mentally-ill recreational drug users and alcoholics.
I mentioned the impact that mental illness can cause to those that support us, in a previous post, and Aaron's mother is a classic example of this indirect causation of mental health problems, since she has developed terrible anxiety through her excessive concerns for Aaron, resulting in crippling and distressing panic attacks. She explains that, 'in protecting the mentally ill, you become mentally ill just trying to get it all together'.
When reading the horror stories, created by Aaron's illness, the scale of the distress caused to the whole family becomes painfully and agonisingly clear.
While in the community Aaron has repeatedly stolen money from people, been involved in fraudulent activity and has even ended up in jail on one occasion. He performs random and weird acts like shaving just half of his head and donning bizarre items of clothing, all the while hanging out with drug takers and making his condition even worse.
He is currently an inpatient at a specialised psychiatric unit called 'Springfield', over an hours drive from the family home, from which he has only been released three times in the many years that he's been there because he repeatedly breaks the conditions of release, through reverting to illicit drug taking and other prohibited actions and behaviours.
The take out point from today's very important post is that partaking in recreational drugs, however harmless it may appear to be, is a highly dangerous and reckless action.
Young people are oblivious to the fact that they may be predisposed to severe mental illness until it's too late, having already indulged in recreational drugs and caused the onset of irreversible damage and severe mental illness.
Can we please start educating young people about the catastrophic effects that smoking cannabis can create? And can we please get them education and drug counselling when they're sectioned so that we have done everything in our power to save them and their families from the horrific disruption that mental illnesses like schizophrenia and psychosis create?!
This is just another thing to add to my list of things to campaign for!
If you would like to read the full article with Anita and Aaron Dumsch, I have attached it here.
There is also an interesting and educational video which I have added to the home page.
Today I'm getting my first dose of the vaccine so I'll report back tomorrow morning about how it all went!
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,