I didn’t smoke much pot growing up as it always made me kind of paranoid. I had some good experiences where it made me laugh, but it just wasn’t my thing. The one experience I truly remember is when I ate pot brownies one night in 1982. That night, I had one brownie and it didn’t seem to work so I ended up having 4 or 5 that were loaded with pot.

At first it was enjoyable, but after a couple hours, it turned into a bad experience. I went to bed and started having hallucinations, and when I couldn’t shake it off, panic set in. I thought someone slipped me LSD because I couldn’t imagine pot doing that. For the next few hours, I sat in bed panicked, with buckets of sweat pouring down me. It was terrifying. I didn’t feel right for a couple days, and it was about the last time I ever tried pot. I was 19 years old. But I never gave a second thought as to what happened and the potential dangers of pot.

In 2010, when my son was 16, he had experimented with pot for about a year and was pretty much a weekend user. He was playing high school sports so I missed the signs. My son became moody, lazy, and had fits of anger that were unusual, but I never put 2 and 2 together.

In the second semester of his sophomore year, we caught him with pot. We read him the riot act and he ended up stopping. He said the last couple of times he smoked he felt strange and was intending to stop anyway. Then on Halloween of his junior year ( 2011) , he went to a party and smoked it again for the first time in 6 months. He said he felt strange immediately. Something from that night affected him immediately. The next day, he said he was feeling panicky and was sweating excessively.

From that point on, he felt so anxious he wouldn’t get up and go to school. (He was unable to attend his high school classes for the duration of that school year.) He said he couldn’t feel his legs very well and said it felt like he was always urinating. We took him to a psychiatrist who said there was no correlation between pot and what he was feeling. The psychiatrist insisted that pot is out of the system in 30 days. He put him on Remeron and weekly therapy. The Remeron made him slow down and add weight. It made him feel emotionally dead.

His symptoms persisted for about 6 months before we started to see improvement. During that time, we tried psychologists and even some unconventional treatments out of desperation. We thought it might have been a reaction to a protein powder he was taking. We eventually went to a pediatric neurologist at one of the best regarded hospitals in the U.S., who didn’t make the correlation with pot either and wanted to put my son on another anti-depressant because she felt Remeron was too strong. At that point, we decided that the meds were not the answer and slowly (over many weeks) weaned him off the Remeron.

Within in a short time, we could see him getting his spark back and his severe anxiety didn’t return. He mostly returned to his normal self after about 10 months of hell. He recovered fully (including the excessive sweating that came out of nowhere) just prior to his senior year and returned to his level of excellence athletically and academically.

During that time, my 25-year-old nephew took his own life after having two psychotic breakdowns over a 2-year period. He was a sweet, hard-working kid with a bright future and lots of friends. He had no signs of mental illness, and when he had the breakdowns, it came as a complete shock. Nobody would have ever expected it with him. Seeing him so delusional and so overly medicated by doctors was horrific. The doctors had no answers and he never got the treatment he needed.

My sister made the correlation between my nephew’s pot use and psychotic breakdowns, but I dismissed it because the doctors told us it wasn’t related. It wasn’t until my nephew’s funeral, and seeing how my nephew’s death affected my son, that it dawned on me that the two were related: that there is some genetic factor linking pot use to psychosis. My son realized it and hasn’t touched pot since. He’s terrified of it. Last year, he needed a ride and got in a car with friends who smoked pot in the car. My son said he felt strange the next day just from being exposed to second-hand pot smoke.

Our family has no history of psychosis yet we have 3 examples of marijuana impacting the mental health of family members. My son is also convinced that he has a few friends who have been seriously impacted by using.

We got lucky and my son got lucky. Probably the only reason he’s healthy and still alive is because his older cousin went through it first. If my sister had not made the correlation, it probably would have been a different result for my son. They saved his life. Tragically, my nephew wasn’t so lucky, as all the doctors failed him. Our family went to various doctors and mental care facilities that were considered the best, but not one made the correlation.

Written by: CK

Western U.S.