In 2016 Kyle graduated high school and entered college. Within the first couple of weeks, we noticed a personality change. We thought he was trying to cut the apron strings and strike out on his own. Frankly, I was hurt with how disrespectful our loving son became. Something was not right—-I thought he was struggling with freshman year adjustment. I knew he was partying too much—-I believed this would be self-limiting with lessons learned from natural consequences (failing a class, etc). We suspected and were concerned with drug use. We told Kyle when he came home on break we wanted to test him to make sure he was not on any substances—-and we did so, for Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We told him we supported him in all his endeavors, including pledging a fraternity as long as he tried his best at school and did not use drugs. He tested positive for marijuana when home on breaks.
On Christmas break when Kyle came home, I heard him vomiting in his shower in the early hours of the morning. I had never heard of Marijuana induced hyperemesis syndrome. I questioned Kyle about why he was sick, thinking he may have a stomach bug. He said that the vomiting was happening a lot—-much of the time, 50% of the time! I didn’t know what to do: should he see an MD, did he have a GI problem? Kyle said his anxiety level was also high. I never heard of our son mentioning anxiety previously. I called the pediatrician who referred me to a psychologist. Kyle had his first psychologist appointment on 12/19/16. We lost Kyle on 12/24/16 due to suicide.
In the aftermath of losing our 18 year old son, I was stunned, torn apart—-it’s been a nightmare. I eventually got the psychologist visit notes after demanding them many months later. Kyle’s chief concern voiced to the psychologist was wanting to stop using marijuana 3x/day. This gave us some insight into how frequent his marijuana use was at college. He was supposed to have a psychologist follow-up visit (the second visit), with us (his parents) after Christmas holiday. We knew he was using marijuana. We did not know it was 3x/day. We did not know about CHS. We did know we did not like the change in our son’s personality—-his disrespect, skipping classes. We were non- negotiable about no drugs or marijuana at home. On Christmas Eve, our son took his life. There were many things that intersected at the same time but this is what I know and believe in my heart and gut, as a mother:
-marijuana use contributed to his death.
-I learned about cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome after losing Kyle. His younger sister, in the aftermath of our unfathomable loss, told me she had seen nothing unusual in Kyle leading up to his death, other than reporting he had been taking multiple showers/day. That didn’t make sense to me or seem relevant then…until I learned months after our loss that this is an unusual remedy for sufferers of CHS.
Oh, how I wish I could go back and say: we need to plan HOW to taper you off marijuana…I had no idea! The psychologist never said anything and we, as parents, just knew we could not enable drug use (in this case—marijuana). Why didn’t I know about tapering? Would it have made a difference?
Marijuana was the only substance detected in our son’s toxicology report post-mortem. He had no prior medical or psychiatric history. We had told him we would not have him using drugs at home and he spent 12/21-12/23 out with his friends—partying and smoking marijuana, and when he came home on 12/24, I now believe he may have been in withdrawal. We would not allow marijuana use at home. He was 18 and we simply did not want our son using drugs.