Why #Bipolar and pot smoking don’t mix.I have bipolar disorder. I work as a coach for parents and partners of children with bipolar disorder. Here are two facts: 1. For over three years now, at least 50% of the coaching situations I experience involve POT smoking that leads to mania and abnormal amounts of psychosis in the person with bipolar disorder. People who continue to smoke pot do not get better. AT this time, three of the six clients I’m working with have children who are either in the hospital or are about to go into the hospital because of pot induced bipolar psychosis. It’s not a joke and it has to be addressed.
We are about to face something so big we will decimate our already shaky mental health system here in the United States.
2. I broke my back and dislocated my hip in an biking accident. After two months of medical marijuana use where I carefully watched my THC intake, I had the WORST MANIA of my life. It lasted for four months after I stopped all pot use. I will never put pot in my body again. Here is my original article about my experiences as a coach and as a person with bipolar disorder who experienced pot induced mania and psychosis. I’m not staying in the closet about this- we are about to hit epidemic proportions in the mental health world as more and more states legalize this drug that has little to do with the ‘mellow shit’ we used to smoke in the 80s. Let’s educate ourselves and grow up and see the facts. It’s dangerous. **
The article below was originally a blog post for the wonderful Bp Magazine that had to be taken down because of the pro pot internet troll movement. They will not silence me. Don’t let them silence you!
PS: This is not a forum for people to tell me how great pot smoking is and how it calms them and I don’t know what I’m talking about. My only goal is helping people with bipolar disorder and those who care about them get better. Please share your pro pot comments on another page, not this one. Thank you. I’m serious here guys. We have to do something NOW. Julie
The New Psychotic Pot: Is Marijuana Dangerous for People with Bipolar Disorder?
I’ve seen a very disturbing trend in the bipolar disorder world over the past five years and I’m very concerned for the health of people with bipolar disorder. I see a large amount of pot smoking in our community that leads to obvious and serious psychotic symptoms that are being missed because people don’t have the information needed to make informed decisions about the pot that is on today’s market. We are smoking, supporting and ultimately legalizing a strain of marijuana that presents a very high risk of psychotic symptoms for people with bipolar disorder due to an abnormally high THC content in the pot as a result of intense genetic modification. (THC is the hallucinogenic component of marijuana.) When I first voiced my concerns about the psychosis I saw that was caused by pot smoking, many told me I was crazy. “Pot is for relaxation Julie! The pot now is no different than the pot you used to smoke in the 80s! Pot helps people calm down!”
I originally wrote about this topic for my Bp Magazine blog three years ago where I called this marijuana the New PSYCHOTIC POT. The responses were off the charts in terms of the DON’T TOUCH MY RIGHT TO SMOKE POT! comments I received. Years later, the research is out. The pot on the market today has little to do with the pot from even ten years ago. The pot today is ridiculously strong due to THC levels that are over ten times higher than found in more cannabinoid intense (the relaxing component of marijuana) and traditional ‘mellow out’ pot.
This high THC marijuana can cause psychotic symptoms that mimic full blown psychotic bipolar disorder episodes after just one hit of the pipe. Please, if you are someone who doesn’t think this is possible, please keep reading as I share my story about my personal experiences with THC induced psychosis.
In my opinion, this psychotic pot (where the THC level is higher than 10%) is often too strong for people with bipolar disorder. Pot has always caused a bit of paranoia, but it was the kind that made you glance over your shoulder and spook yourself for fun. Not anymore. This pot with its high THC content causes psychosis that rivals the worst bipolar disorder episodes.
I’ll let Ozzy Osbourn from his book, Trust Me, I’m Dr. Ozzy explain it more eloquently: “When I used to smoke pot, it was happy stuff: you’d get the munchies, have a laugh and go to sleep. These days, when you have a joint, you end up having to hold on to your drawers and hoping you don’t go insane. They f#@% around with marijuana now, creating all of these genetically altered mutant varieties. In the old day, a joint’s THC content- the chemical that gets you high basically- used to be something like 4%. Today, you hear of it being 20 percent or 40 percent.”
He continues, “It’s a bit like walking into a bar one day and being given a Bud Light, and the next being given something that looks exactly like a Bud Light, and it tastes exactly like a Bud Light, but which has the same effect on you as four bottles of vodka.”
I respect Ozzy as he is so open about the hell he went through due to his drug use. I naively smoked this psychotic pot once about five years ago when I was trying to get help for stomach problems due to my medications and I remember thinking, “What is this stuff? This is nuclear compared to the weed I smoked in college in the 80s! What is it doing to my brain? Why am I thinking all of these thoughts, but I can’t actually speak? Why can’t I move my body! What the hell is going on?”
Before anyone gets upset and wants to make sure I don’t forget the fact that marijuana is legal in some states and soon to be legal in even more- including my state of Oregon, I want to stress that I’m not out to tell you that pot is the boogeyman and that I want you to stop smoking because I have some control complex. I honestly don’t care if you smoke pot or not as it’s a personal choice. My goal is to educate people with bipolar disorder about the dangers of High THC so that they can make informed decisions that protect the brain.
The argument that smoking pot is safe if you have bipolar disorder is an argument based off of a pot that no longer exists. The conversation about pot smoking and bipolar disorder must be re-examined in the context of the pot that’s being sold on the market today.
Yes, many people smoke this high THC pot and don’t have psychotic symptoms, but they don’t have bipolar disorder and aren’t my concern! People with bipolar disorder are my concern. People with bipolar disorder have brains that are more susceptible to the THC in today’s pot and we need to get the word out that comparing what used to be on the market to what is on the market today can be deadly.
Why do I know so much about this New Psychotic Pot?
I broke my back and dislocated my hip in a biking accident in 2012 and have lived with severe chronic pain ever since. I very, very reluctantly tried medical marijuana once I found out I could 100% control the amount of THC I would put into my body. I charted my moods from the first time I tried the medical marijuana and made sure I had ZERO mood changes due to the pot. I was fine. The THC in the medical marijuana strain I chose was the lowest level possible- well under 10% and I felt ok using it as part of my pain management plan. One day the regular medical marijuana I get from the dispensary was out and I very stupidly didn’t do my research and tried a strain that had a slightly higher THC. Even though the THC level was considered low at 19% as compared to what the majority of recreational pot smokers use, I had a full on psychotic episode that lasted six hours and scared me to death. My main memory is being awake while being asleep and seeing people come out of my dreams into my living room while my body was rooted to the spot and unable to move. My chronic bipolar psychosis has been under control for years and ONE experience with pot that had a higher THC count sent me over the edge. I will never let that happen again. I respect my brain too much to put anything in my body that will cause bipolar disorder symptoms. Many of the comments I receive when I write about this obviously sensitive topic tend to assume I don’t have direct experience with pot induced psychosis. Please know I’ve done my research and now actually help medical marijuana dispensaries learn about the dangers of high THC in clients who have bipolar disorder.
I worry about what this pot is doing to people with bipolar disorder who smoke it every day. I work as a coach for family members who regularly deal with pot induced psychosis in their loved ones who have bipolar disorder. This is how I was originally introduced to the problem. And why would those of us with bipolar disorder want to put something in our bodies that causes psychosis? It’s about education. We can’t be ignorant on this topic anymore.For years, this new psychotic pot was underground and wasn’t as accessible as it is today. Now it’s sold like candy. Literally.
Facts are facts- high THC levels in pot can cause psychosis in people with bipolar disorder. Here’s a link to some of the latest research. Please know that this is not from big pharma and there is no money making agenda- it’s just a study about pot smoking and psychosis.
I want us to be open about the risks posed by THC for those with mental health disorders. If you are someone who wants to smoke pot to calm down or deal with anxiety, please avoid pot with a THC level over 10% just to be safe. I’m not for the legalization of marijuana in its current form as I believe easy access to the drug without highlighting the very real mental health dangers of THC is going to cause an epidemic of psychosis unlike anything we have ever seen in the mental health world. A friend of mine has an opposite view- he believes that legalizing pot means people can see the THC content in what they are buying and as a result will make more informed choices. Maybe this is true. I’m not naive. People are going to do drugs. It’s part of being human. Much of this comes down to minimizing risk. If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder and smokes pot, keep the THC under 10% and stay safe. Otherwise, it’s a psychotic brain time bomb waiting to go off.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Click here to read a study with the apt title Pot Smoking Boosts Mental Illness Risk Fivefold. Here are two quotes from the study:
“Compared with those who had never tried cannabis, users of high potency skunk-like cannabis had a threefold increase in risk of psychosis,” she said.
“The risk to those who use every day was even higher — a fivefold increase compared to people who never use,” she added in a statement.
Let’s talk about this openly in the mental health community and not confuse the old pot with this new and highly dangerous psychotic pot. Can High THC Marijuana Use be Dangerous for People with Bipolar Disorder? The answer is yes.
This is not about politics, big pharma or the legalization argument. I simply want people with bipolar disorder to know the very real dangers of THC.
Update: I would like to stress that the bipolar disorder and pot issue has many positives- unlike other drugs that can alter the course of a person’s bipolar disorder permanently, such as cocaine and meth accelerating a person’s mania, the psychosis caused by pot smoking can end very quickly once the person stops smoking the pot. And from what I have seen so far, it doesn’t come back unless the person starts smoking again. People with bipolar disorder often use substances to feel better- my issue is sugar. Once we decide the substance is not working for us and we want to change, it’s essential that we have a healthy replacement for what we stop doing. For example, if a person just stops smoking pot cold turkey and doesn’t replace it with a positive alternative, the pot remains inviting and the person will start smoking again. This is a complicated problem, but one that CAN be solved.
Update: I really can’t explain how people read this post and then made connections between myself, big pharma and bipolar disorder treatment in general. It’s as though they were looking for something that wasn’t there, but went ahead and acted as if it were there and then accused me of being in the pocket of the big pharma. I’m so SICK AND TIRED of people harming other people with their words and as many of you know, I have a Just Say No to Trolls policy for all of my websites. Also, it was very clear that many of the abusive posts were from people who had not read the article. I spent a few hours answering extremely technical questions about the actual THC numbers in pot today. Please know that I know my stuff and can answer any technical question you have as long as you read the FULL post and comment from a true spirit of discussion and education. Especially considering that I now TRAIN health care professionals on this topic- Thank you!!!!