The family of a talented musician has told how she killed herself after her personality changed following a single joint of cannabis.
Laura Bower-McKnight was a talented violinist
Laura Bower-McKnight suffered a psychotic episode after smoking a joint of skunk - the strongest form of cannabis - which led to a damaging course of drugs, depression, bullying and finally suicide.
The 22-year-old was found dead at her family's home in North Hykeham, Lincs, last Friday. She had hanged herself from the end of her bed.
Carol McKnight said yesterday that she had no doubt that cannabis had led to her daughter's death.
Mrs McKnight, 44, said: "People think nothing of cannabis nowadays. They just don't realise this drug can tip you over the edge.
advertisement"A lot of people try it. With the Government declassifying it [from a Class B to a Class C substance] I think young people assume it is completely harmless. But it can destroy your mind."
A violinist, Miss Bower-McKnight secured a place at the prestigious Royal Welsh College of Music, Cardiff, before going on to university. But she dropped out and returned home.
Miss Bower-McKnight, who had suffered from anorexia in the past, had already smoked normal cannabis with friends but decided to try a joint of skunk - and the experience proved devastating.
Mrs McKnight said: "It wasn't the real Laura, the lovely young woman, the musician, the passionate writer, the artist.
"It tipped her into psychosis. We lost our wonderful girl for a while. Her behaviour became completely erratic. She was doing very odd things.
"But people are ignorant of mental illness, and they labelled her as a loony. They did and said horrible things."
The bullying, together with a course of anti-psychotic prescription drugs, left her so depressed that she felt unable to leave the house, Mrs McKnight said.
"Laura was an extremely sensitive girl, and at this point she was vulnerable. I think she felt there was no future. She had come to the conclusion that the best parts of her life had already been lived."
Mrs McKnight said she and her husband Malcolm, Laura's stepfather, hoped that her death would serve as a warning to others.
"Laura would have wanted us to highlight these issues," she said. "There are a lot of young, vulnerable people. Expectations of them are so high. Drug use, depression and suicide among them is a growing problem."
Mr McKnight, 44, an engineer, said: "Different people have different limits with drugs. For some, even the tiniest amount can be too much."
According to the Royal College of Physicians, recent studies have shown that cannabis use doubles the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Adolescents are said to be particularly at risk, with those who start smoking at 15 years old four times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder by the age of 26.
A spokesman for the college said that a study of drug use in Denmark had also suggested the existence of "cannabis psychosis".
"It is a short-lived disorder that seems to be brought on by cannabis use but subsides quickly once the individual has stopped using it," he said
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