AAA Reader Question

Submitted on 2014/02/27 at 5:57 pm

Dear Julie I am confused. You said ” I love writing the column and am very proud of my work. I didn’t miss a deadline for over five years. Then, as my bipolar disorder got really bad a few years ago and I had to go back on meds, I found myself getting behind with my writing. ”

Julie, are you saying that I can look forward to going off of my meds? One of the hardest parts of accepting my diagnosis is that I have a future of continually changing medicines. Can we actually manage our illnesses such that we can go off meds?

It would be a lot easier to accept this if I thought there might be some good news here. Thanks very much.


The New Psychotic Pot: Is High THC Marijuana Dangerous for People with Bipolar Disorder?


Hello everyone- here is an astonishing story. We had to remove the blog post from the Bp Magazine blog and from the Bp Magazine Facebook due to internet trolls… I can’t think of another name to describe the astonishing behavior of some people when they read my personal opinion- and my personal experiences with high THC pot and psychosis. It was even worse that when I originally talked about the topic three years ago.  We have now created a social media system where internet bullies are actually affecting opinion pieces that are backed up by experience.  Bp Magazine gallantly tried to keep the post up, but the amount of abuse we all received simply made it impossible to keep in on the website. So, I will publish the whole thing here tonight. Please know that I stand by my opinions and will not print any comment that is unkind. It’s simply not my style. I love differences of opinion and good solid arguments for one side or another of an issues, but wow, if this is what we are up against when we simply say- hey, if you have bipolar disorder be careful around high THC marijuana, we are in for a long and scary trip with a lot of heartache to come. I will never give in to those who are trying to push an agenda which is why I will gladly publish what I wrote here. I hope you can join me in getting the word out about the dangers of high THC marijuana so that people with bipolar disorder can make informed decisions. Julie

Here is the original blog post. Please know I’m not posting this to start a dialogue. This is an opinion piece that has one goal- to raise awareness of the potential dangers of high THC pot for those who have bipolar disorder.  People can agree with or not agree with this information as they see fit! Also, before you read, please know that I am steeped in five years of personal research on this topic from my coaching clients, training health care professionally and ultimately a very surprising personal experience.


The New Psychotic Pot: Is High THC 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.

ozzyI’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!!!!

Bipolar Disorder Curious? Listen to the Bipolar Disorder 101 Coaching Call and Change Your World!

free callClick below to listen to the Bipolar Disorder 101 coaching call where I condense my bipolar disorder knowledge into one hour. We had over 100 people on the original call- now it can reach even more people. You can listen online or download the MP3 to any handheld device. Here’s a quote from one of the listeners:

“Julie, how did you get so much information about bipolar disorder into one call? It’s the first time my son has ever made it through a whole recording about his diagnosis. I could tell that hearing the facts from someone who struggles as much as he does with bipolar really made a difference. Thank you! I was crying and didn’t want him to know, but it was happy crying. This is the FIRST time he has done anything with me related to his illness. I have hope now thanks to this call.”


The Bipolar Disorder 101 call covers:

What is bipolar disorder?

What is the difference between bipolar I (one) and bipolar II (two)?

What is mania? What is depression?

What behaviors go with each mood swing?

Are there other symptoms besides mania and depression? (Yes!)

And finally, some great stories.

Click here to experience the Bipolar Disorder 101 call.  Get ready for a wild ride to stability!


… My next live coaching calls When Love is Not Enough: Strategies for Parents of Children with Bipolar Disorder will  be on March 5th and 12th, 2015.   Please check back in the next few days for the details. The calls will be announced in my newsletter and on my social media sites as well.

Parent of a Teenager with Bipolar Disorder? Why What Teens Worry About Matters….

teen girlTeenagers have the same symptoms as adults with bipolar disorder, but how they see the illness is quite different. This is especially true when it comes to WORRY.

The worries of a teen are different than adult worries and this must be reflected in how we help teens manage this illness.

Teenagers care about….what others think, their short term future, friends, who said what to whom, dating, studying, being popular, electronic devices, music, school and the pressures of substance use. (Just to name a very few!)

These are very different than the adult worries of supporting themselves, supporting others, divorce, retirement, work, raising children, making money, changing the world and mortgages. It’s easy to compare these lists and discount teen worries as superficial- but they are never superficial to the teens themselves.


Teens also live in a world where nothing is private. They can easily make huge mistakes on social media when they are in a mood swing. They communicate through text sound bites, worry about what others will think far more than adults do and often have to deal with too many pressures to succeed in our fast paced world.

When you talk with a teen about bipolar disorder, think of what it means to them to have the illness, not what it would mean to an adult.


My Mood is Stable Today!

shopping cart mania 50

Bipolar disorder? Good news. My mood is stable today This means the following:

1. I got up and started doing what I needed to do for the day. It wasn’t like I was walking through mud.

2. I didn’t make a big list of all I have to do in life and then get upset because I can’t do it all today. I take today for today and do what I can.

3. I started my day with a coaching client. It’s a good way for me to get on schedule immediately as I can’t be wishy washy about the time I start working.

4. I’m not having a running conversation in my head that sounds like two people discussing my life and telling me what’s wrong!

5. I’m not in a euphoric hypomanic episode. This means the ideas will be regular and not overwhelming. It also means that I won’t go to my favorite store and just start shopping for fun. That’s what the picture represents. It’s not fun when you see the price tag!

Yay, A stable day. It’s the only way to live. I use my Health Cards daily to keep my mood swings from going too far. You can do the same! 


Seasonal Affective Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

Oh yes, the dark weather has started here in Portland, Oregon.  It’s easy to experience seasonal affective disorder symptoms when it gets dark at 4:00 PM. I have found that prevention is the best treatment for SAD.  The first step is to determine your worst time of the day. When do you feel the most down?  It’s around 4-6 PM for me.

Here are some tips for how I manage and prevent seasonal affective disorder :

1. I get natural light in my eyes if there is sun in the morning. Look up at the sky and let the light get into your retina so it can tell your brain to switch on your serotonin.  You want to look at blue sky whenever possible- this is the blue light that helps depression. Light boxes can cause mania in people with bipolar disorder. I recommend a full spectrum alarm clock if you want to use a light box treatment.

2. I have coffee with a friend during the dark times. A quick visit with someone when it gets dark early takes your mind off the gloom outside.   I’ve found that going to a movie helps as well.  Yes, the theater is dark, but seeing a comedy is often a great antidote to the outside darkness.

3. Exercise during your worst hours.  If 4- 6 PM is my tough time, it makes sense to battle the problem directly and make sure I’m as active as possible during these times.  If you work on a schedule and can’t exactly jump up and exercise for an hour at 4:00, at least stand up,  stretch and mentally remind yourself that you feel down because of the weather, not because there is anything wrong with your life. Take a walk right after work is possible.  Gyms have very bright lights and that helps.  It’s hard to remember to do these activities when you feel down- scheduling in advance works the best.

4. Try not to complain too much about the weather.  Portland, Oregon here on the west coast of the United States is funny.  The weather is terrible many months of the year. It has always been this way and yet we still complain.  It was the same when I lived in Seattle, Washington. We would have gloomy weather and rain all the way into the spring.  I’m not sure why I used to get so upset and complain so much. I’m the one who chooses to live in these areas!

5. Hang out with positive people. This helps all around.

You can manage seasonal affective disorder!



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