How Cannabis Turned a Bright Public Schoolboy into a Schizophrenic

Discussion in 'Cannabis & Health' started by Bajeda, Aug 2, 2006.

  1. Bajeda

    Bajeda Super Moderator Platinum Member & Advisor

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    HOW CANNABIS TURNED A BRIGHT PUBLIC SCHOOLBOY INTO A SCHIZOPHRENIC

    Mark Watson, a much-loved son from a secure and comfortable background, had a bright future before him. But at 16 his behaviour became erratic and threatening and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

    His father David, a GP, believes his son's condition was triggered by his use of cannabis. Here, Dr Watson, 63, who lives with his second wife Lynn, 50, a head teacher, in Devizes, Wiltshire, tells his family's tragic story. As Mark and I sat together in the living room he suddenly turned to me and proclaimed with absolute conviction, 'You've got red eyes again, I don't like it.' When I asked him gently what he meant, my son fought hard to suppress his agitation, crying out: 'You know what it means. You're the devil. I know you are the devil.'

    Only months before my son had been a happy, energetic teenager with the world at his feet. He was now someone who at times seemed like a complete stranger, and I watched, horrified, as he made his terrifying descent into a nightmare world of hallucination, confusion and paranoia.

    I am an intensely private person and my family means everything to me. So it is not easy to speak out about my son. But I need to make people aware that what has happened to Mark is not simply random biological bad luck - but was, I believe, triggered by smoking cannabis.

    Mark's illness should be a warning to every parent and a lesson to every liberal politician who believes street drugs like this are basically harmless.

    Mark had such tremendous potential. A happy and healthy child, he was also very good looking and at the age of 11 even worked for a child model agency after being spotted while playing rugby.

    When he was three his mother and I divorced quite amicably. We decided it would be better if Mark and our two other children Kathryn, now 27, and Graham, 25, should remain in the family home and their mother would live nearby. Often I would come home and find her cooking meals for the children. Certainly it didn't seem to affect their behaviour.

    When Mark was 11 he passed the entrance exam to become a day pupil at the UKP2,000-aterm Prior Park Public School and I was immensely proud of him.

    He excelled in sport, particularly rugby and I loved to watch him play. He also worked hard, gaining ten GCSEs. We had a close relationship and I loved spending time with him, going fishing or shooting at a local club.

    However, after starting the sixth form in September 1998 to study for four A-levels, Mark's behaviour began to change. As a teenager he loved to go out to clubs with friends at the weekends. But when he came back he would be vague, silly and uncoordinated. As my son Graham who was 18 at the time pointed out, his younger brother was clearly 'stoned' - under the influence of some kind of mild drug.

    Of course, I was alarmed though not surprised by how easily a teenage boy, eager to experiment, could acquire these drugs. All I could do was plead with Mark not to touch the likes of cannabis.

    I've known all my professional life that this so-called soft drug has been associated with mental illness and at one point I physically got down on my knees and begged him not to use it. But he would just shrug his shoulders or smile benignly.

    As the months went on Mark would stay up all night watching television or listening to music, complaining he couldn't sleep. He also became increasingly distant. His mother and I spoke frequently about it, but neither of us could fathom it.

    A few months later, in May 1999 I got a call from one of his schoolmasters to say Mark's work had deteriorated badly. I tried to talk to him but he just said he wanted to leave school and that he couldn't take any more. He said he wanted to get a job and needed some independence.

    I'd had high hopes for him professionally and was concerned he felt this way. But I had been so upset about his general behaviour, and wondered if maybe the academic pressure had been too much for him, that I told myself that perhaps if he left school and had a less pressured existence he would return to his old self.

    We could worry later about what he should do with his life. Mark got a job as a waiter in a local hotel and also found a bed-sit to live in. It was an awful, soulless place and I reminded him how much I wanted him to be at home. But he was vague, distant and difficult to reach out too.

    Looking back this was clearly the deepening of the disintegration of clear thought that marks schizophrenia. And it was because of this that he was really unable to function independently.

    He was totally disorganised. He couldn't account for the money I gave him to help support himself and wouldn't turn up when I had arranged to meet him. Within a couple of months he had lost his job and had to return home.

    Once home his paranoia got worse. He would stay in bed until the afternoon, barricaded in his room. When I could get in I found knives and iron bars under his bed. When I asked why, he replied: 'In case they attack me.'

    As Mark's father my instinct was to reach out to help my son. As a GP I began to realise that this was a young man who could be suffering from schizophrenia and needed professional help.

    I knew this would mean seeking psychiatric treatment though hadn't thought beyond what the implications of this could be.

    There were still times when Mark could be perfectly lucid and we could enjoy dinner together or a nice chat. This could go on for a week or two and I would think everything was fine. Then within minutes he would change. One evening we went to a local pub for a meal and he became convinced everyone was talking about him. I had to take him home because he was so agitated.

    He kept looking frantically around the room and whispering loudly to me how people were staring. I suppose it was embarrassing but I'd gone beyond that. I was too deeply disturbed by what he was becoming.

    His mother and I spoke every day about Mark because she was as close to him as I was and we both agreed he desperately need professional help.

    So in October 1999 I contacted my own GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist. He visited Mark at home on several occasions, and listened to him as he described me as the devil. Yet it was still a shock when the psychiatrist recommended he should be admitted to hospital. It was just so hard to accept this terrible change in my son.

    But schizophrenia is a difficult illness to understand. People mistakenly believe it means a 'split personality'. Instead, it is an illness that can affect any aspect of the way a person thinks, feels, speaks and behaves, so he or she may lose touch with reality.

    Experiences such as hearing voices always seem very real to the person affected by schizophrenia, who may not recognise that they are unwell.

    It is the combination of delusions, hallucinations and thought disorder which are often called 'psychosis'. It occurs as a result of complex brain chemistry.

    The brain produces a chemical called dopamine, a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation and feelings of pleasure. Often known as the body's reward chemical, it is released during pleasurable experiences.

    We can get it from cigarettes, alcohol, sex, eating chocolate or even looking at a lovely sunset. However, if a person has schizophrenia they are unable to metabolise dopamine and this can cause symptomssuch as hallucinations.

    Taking drugs like cannabis produces a massive amount of dopamine in the brain. And this can trigger schizophrenia.

    It's now known that if someone had a flaw in their brain, which may or may not lead to mental illness, then taking drugs like cannabis could trigger conditions like schizophrenia.

    However, even more disturbing is emerging research which suggests that taking the drug without any biological fault in the brain could also cause the illness.

    It was devastating to have Mark sectioned, though he went voluntarily, understanding that he needed help.

    The hospital wasn't an unpleasant place but as a parent there is something horrifying about taking your 17-year-old son to a psychiatric ward.

    Being a doctor and understanding the medicine of it all couldn't shield me from the sorrow I felt as a parent.

    But I knew being admitted to a psychiatric ward was the only way we could help my son. At the hospital Mark was treated with a variety of anti-psychotic drugs in an attempt to find one which would have an effect.

    Throughout this time I visited every week praying to see some change in his behaviour. But as the months went on it all seemed so hopeless. None of the drugs were having any effect.

    I had my work as a GP to keep me busy and took pleasure in the development of my other children. Kathryn is now a teacher and Graham is in the Royal Marine Commandoes.

    The irony is that Mark was always considered the cleverest of my children and had got the best GSCE results. But we were also profoundly aware that he was fighting to gain some form of basic independence.

    After about a year in hospital, however, there was still no improvement. So his consultant suggested giving Mark a relatively new drug called clozapine. This works by blocking the action of dopamine in the brain therefore preventing the symptoms of schizophrenia.

    Within six months of taking the drug Mark was calmer and no longer hallucinated.

    By the end of two years, he seemed to be managing his condition so well that his doctors advised that he could come home. I knew this didn't mean he was cured but that he had reached a point where his schizophrenia had become manageable and would allow him to have some kind of normal life.

    He would, however, have to continue taking clozapine twice a day. Mark rejoiced at being discharged and talked about getting a flat of his own. After all, by now he was 20. I fretted over this but a very old school friend of his called Sam, who was a fine boy and one I could trust, said he could share with him.

    I had to support Mark financially as he was incapable of getting a job. But I prayed this independence would be the slow journey to a new start.

    He didn't do much all day, sleeping in late because of the effects of the clozapine. But it was a step away from being in hospital. However, it didn't last long. He soon stopped taking the clozapine and before long Sam told me that Mark was smoking cannabis.

    But I just couldn't get through to him. I was helpless because I couldn't cut off his financial life line and have him wandering the streets.

    But the drug soon affected his behaviour and he quickly started displaying signs of his illness. He was delusional and even aggressive, lashing out at me which was a frightening experience. Then he would disappear for hours - once it was two days before the police found him - and I feared for his safety.

    I had no choice but to have him readmitted to hospital. This time he was sent to Kneesworth House Psychiatric Hospital in Cambridge. He was put back on clozapine and had counselling and anger management sessions. The place itself is very calm because it is located near a farm and set in green fields. I knew this kind of atmosphere could only help Mark.

    He has been there for three years now and I go down to see him every week. He looks better and feels calmer, though he has put on an enormous amount of weight - he now weights 22st - as a side-effect of clozapine. But I'm just grateful that he has managed to find some peace of mind.

    Throughout this terrible ordeal one thing that has helped me has been getting involved with Rethink, a charity which works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness - and that includes the families. It was a revelation to meet parents like myself all united in sorrow for their children's situation.

    I admit that I had felt ashamed by Mark's condition, but through meeting such people I discovered that cannabis-associated mental illness is no respecter of social class. There were high-court judges and lawyers whose children had succumbed to drugs, then developed schizophrenia.

    The time has come for young people and their parents to be aware that cannabis can trigger the condition. It is not a riskfree drug and classifying it as such is a total red herring.

    In January Charles Clarke announced to the House of Commons that the mental health effects of cannabis were 'real and significant' and that it may exacerbate or even trigger a range of serious mental health problems, including schizophrenia. He added that a massive programme of public education was needed to convey the danger of cannabis.

    Unfortunately, nothing has yet been done. And though a person can stop taking cannabis, once the brain has been triggered into a schizophrenic state, this can never be cured, only controlled. So people taking it now are playing Russian Roulette with their health.

    It's something I have to accept for Mark as we start to talk about him being discharged from hospital. I remarried two years ago and my wife and I moved from the family home to our present place in Devizes. But I haven't sold the old house because I'm nursing a hope that one day Mark can live there, look after himself and have some quality of life.

    It has been heartbreaking watching the destruction of a life once so full of promise. As a parent I've been through every stage of anger, grief, shame and despair.

    Now the only thing I cling to is hope. Hope that Mark can reclaim something of the life he has lost and hope that by speaking out I can stop other parents and their children suffering in the same way.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/li...ain.html?in_article_id=398519&in_page_id=1774














    Comments? I think that while this indeed is a possible risk of the drug, educating people would be a much better policy than trying to make it even more of a crime.

    Also, the father knew his son was using pot and should have known if there was a history of schizophrenia in his family. Especially as a GP. He claims that it wasn't biological and seemingly blames it all on the weed. What happened to his son is sad but to blame it all on the drug is just stupid.

    Plus now you have things like "In January Charles Clarke announced to the House of Commons that the mental health effects of cannabis were 'real and significant' and that it may exacerbate or even trigger a range of serious mental health problems, including schizophrenia. He added that a massive programme of public education was needed to convey the danger of cannabis." so incidences like these will just fuel further anti-drug propaganda that exagerates the dangers of the substance and makes it seem like the devil's own weed while many otc's are plenty more dangerous.


    Thoughts?
     
  2. Forthesevenlakes

    Forthesevenlakes Platinum Member

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    by this GP's logic, anyone who smokes is equally at risk, and thus we'd see alot more schizophrenics than there are. the GP reveals his own lack of knowledge on ths subject by denying there is any biological history. a predisposition to schizophrenia can, in fact, exist without it being observable as full bllown schizophrenia in a family member. the doctor's simplistic view of what constitutes schizophrenia is a bit unnerving as well. stating that "the brain is unable to metabolize dopamine in schizophrenia" is like saying all cancers are the same. in fact, there are many different symptoms and possibly types of schizophrenia, and some symptoms seem to point to a lack of dopamine in some areas (flat affect, akinesia, etc.) rather than an excess.

    while its truly tragic that this GP's son developed a debilitating mental disorder, it seems like the good doctor is attempting to point the finger at a culprit, when there may be no culprit to blame. sometimes mental disorders just arise without an easily identifiable cause. although this was never formally proved, there was, not more than a few decades ago, a very fashionable theory that bad parenting was the cause of schizophrenia. the GP may do well to look into this and see how easily the blame could be turned on himself before decrying a drug for creating "cannabis-associated mental illness". theres no need for scapegoats here, his son's condition is sad enough without spreading the misery.
     
  3. hh339

    hh339 Gold Member

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    I have always been puzzled with this. I know a person who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but noone except his doctor believes this to be accurate. He uses drugs every day, mostly amphetamine(s) i.v and cannabis, but also buprenorphine and various other drugs. The thing is that the drugs seem to help him a lot, and especially the amphetamine. I would definitely say that he has a condition(s), but I have no idea what that would be.

    This guy has always been a true original, extremely hard to understand, but underneath the weird impression he gives people he is a true genious. At first sight he does seem quite dumb, but when one gives him enough time to relax and feel comfortable his words make everything but him seem dumb. He truly hates authorities that "don't have a valid point" as he says (can't argue with that...), and his doctor is not very favoured by him. He hates "that retarded cunt".

    Now I don't see any good reason why the drugs he is on should NOT make a condition like schizophrenia far worse then it originally was. Maybe I am wrong, but we have been in school together when we were younger and we have talked and socialized a fair amount of times since then. My point is that he has always been the same, but noone hardly took the time to try and understand him. For someone that never met him before, he would seem very strange, so maybe his doctor has made a serious mistake here. She probably has. He had not been sleeping for days when he first saw this doctor, and not one of the times was he fully clean and/or sober. How the hell can you diagnose a person on drugs?

    Another problem is that he has a very strange sense of humor and it would not surprise me the least if he just sat there with his doctor lying and acting like an idiot just for the fun of it. Anyway, being awake for a few days would probably do the trick anyhow.

    Oops, I got a little carried away here, but my point is that if one is going to consider these speculations, true or not, one must take into consideration all the mistakes that could have been made around the facts that are presented. Blaming cannabis should not be done until enough research has been done. It can of course be a triggering factor for a mental illness, but a headline like "How Cannabis Turned a Bright Public Schoolboy into a Schizophrenic" is equivalent to spreading misinformative anti-propaganda.

    Thumbs down.
     
  4. old hippie 56

    old hippie 56 Gold Member

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    Swim have always thought that mental illness was a gene defect, not brought on by outside sources. He has a niece who has bipolar disorder, so does his sister-in-law(niece mom) sister-in-law mom is also bipolar and schizophrenia. Never knew them to do any type of drug.
    Reminds swim about watching the History channel series on cannabis, mostly government B.S. leading to making it illegal.
     
  5. Alicia

    Alicia Gold Member

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    If there is family history, of schizophrenia or any mental illness for that matter all things psychoactive should be used with caution or better yet avoided. 'Drug' induced psychosis is often caused by excess use or to large a dose which will subside, or in some 'rare' people can trigger the illness. On the other hand schizophrenia comes in different forms with many different symptoms depending on the personality of the individual, his social upbringing.

    Younger people smoking cannabis at an earlier age (teens) are at a lot more higher chance of being affected not just with mental illnesses but with cognitive changes in the brain.

    Saying it causes the mental illness by itself is crap, there has been no clear evidence despite the media bullshit scare tactics. however we are all different just because a smoker doesn't develop the illness now doesn't mean it wont pop up later in life.

    cause we all go a little mad ;)
     
  6. turkeyphant

    turkeyphant Gold Member

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    Having a father like that would likely make SWIM go a little crazy too.
     
  7. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    I think it is simple. Simply compare the % of cannabis users that has schizophrenia to the same for other drugs.
     
  8. snapper

    snapper Gold Member

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    Sounds like Dr. Watson is in denial. It is easy to blame something else for one's problems. The sad thing is that the mentally ill seek out drugs to help with their disease, and but typically the disease is there first. His arguement that weed triggered a disease that would otherwise never manifested is ignorant. If it was that easy to trigger, it would have happened for some other reason, like maybe the dopamine rush from watching a sunset.
    The time of onset, pattern and symptoms are all those of a textbook paranoid schitzophrenic, including the onset of symptoms during teenage years. The relapses that Dr. Watson's son had when he left his institution were associated with him not taking his meds, not smoking cannbis.
    It is a shame that self-deluding pompous assholes like this guy can villify a medicine which helps countless people because his son has a disease and he feels he needs to blame it on something other than the genes in his sperm. I'm sure that the intensely private Dr Watson does not care what impact his words have, except to confirm that the evil weed is at fault, not organic factors.
    That article correlating cannabis users brain waves with those of schizophrenics (which really shows no evidence of actual schizphrenia in heavy cannabis users) is weak at best, but all the witch hunters sure are using it to justify prohibition.

    Dr. Watson, your son is a schizophrenic, was born a schizophrenic, and would have become one regardless of what he smoked. The stress of a sheltered, intensely private lifestyle, with all the pressure you likely applied to Mark to assure he excelled in school and acheived YOUR professional aspirations most likely triggered the breakdown. The drug use and clubbing was to escape from the pressure you applied. Could it be that blaming cannabis is a way of assuaging your guilt, and that with every yahoo that jumps on your bandwagon, you are further justified in your opinions ?
    Schizophrenia is a BIOLOGICAL disease. Mentally ill people use drugs to treat symptoms of such diseases, not the other way around.

    Snapper
     
  9. Alicia

    Alicia Gold Member

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    could'nt agree more. very spot on...
     
  10. Nagognog2

    Nagognog2 Iridium Member

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    There is always the possibility that the kid is right. That Doctor Watson is the Devil. Call an exorcist to pay 'em a visit. I want the movie rights.
     
  11. purplehaze

    purplehaze Gold Member

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    This kid never had chance, it sounds like the family expectation's were set a little to high and he never got to be mediocre at anything. Then forcefully sent to cambridge when he's 20, wow. I don't think that cannabis causes mental illness I could be wrong, but this article defanitely didn't have a valid arguement toward illness caused by cannabis directly. I mean c'mon put yourself in this kid's shoe's thier had to be alot of daily stress and unachievable goal's. I don't think his parent's would have been "his type of people" anyway he couldn't even get high and chill without someone over exaggerating to the point of getting down on thier knee's begging not to smoke cannabis. I'm sorry but I find this article funny yet sad from the kid's perspective IMHO. Payce.
     
  12. INodHardOhYeah

    INodHardOhYeah Gold Member

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    Drug use, including cannabis but more often drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, have been thought to not cause schizophrenia but bring about the illness earlier than would be normal. Schizophrenia usually begins manifesting itself around early adulthood, typically the early 20s. I'll try and find a link to the most recent research on the subject.
     
  13. Bajeda

    Bajeda Super Moderator Platinum Member & Advisor

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    Helpful articles on the subject.

    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1440-1614.2000.00685.x
    http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/172_06_200300/mckay/mckay.html
    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/161/3/501


    Basically cannabis use is positively correlated to early onset of psychosis in schizophrenics. However, there is no evidence as yet to suggest that cannabis use can cause people to develop schizophrenia when they don't already have the condition.

    So its sad about the GP's son, but it was most likely going to happen sooner or later. Sooner, considering the intense pressure the poor boy was obviously under judging from the details of the article.
     
  14. Jatelka

    Jatelka Psychedelic Shepherdess Platinum Member & Advisor

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    SWIJ has uploaded the ajp cannabis and age of onset of schizophrenia article and some other cannabis stuff to the archive.

    Bajeda: You found the ajp article: Why did you not upload it?
     
  15. Bajeda

    Bajeda Super Moderator Platinum Member & Advisor

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    I forgot sometimes after posting a link to check if its in the archive. Thanks for uploading it.