'My psychotic breakdown'

At 15, Natasha Bailey used cannabis, and at 18 she had a psychotic breakdown. Now 21, she wonders if her drug use contributed to her problems.

"Back in my early teens I didn’t know cannabis could have any long-term effects on my mental health. I tried it at 15 and thought it was quite a mild drug. Its effects seemed a lot less dramatic than drinking alcohol. Smoking weed just made you giggle and eat lots of chocolate.

"Between 15 and 16, I probably smoked it once a week on a Saturday night at parties. Then a frightening thing happened at my friend’s 16th birthday. I smoked a lot and suddenly I was hallucinating, believing I was sinking into the floor. It was really scary, and I decided then to stop smoking dope.

"It was quite easy to give it up as I was changing groups of friends anyway. I left cannabis behind, or so I thought.

"Then, during my final year at school when I was 18, I started to behave unusually. I was always up early in the morning, and I went through a phase of getting very drunk and going out until very late at night.

"I reached breaking point in the summer after my A-levels. I went on holiday with my family and thought that they were plotting against me. I became tearful and accused them of spying on me. I stayed up all night talking to my teenage cousins. Then I would have breakfast and spend the day sightseeing. I didn’t sleep for days on end.

"Everyone was worried about me. I hit a crisis point when I fainted on the floor of the airport on the way home. I was very confused and scared.

'I’ll never know if the cannabis contributed to me developing bipolar disorder, but I suspect it could have'

"Over the next 48 hours I got worse, thinking my house was bugged and that everyone was plotting against me. In despair, my mother called an ambulance in the middle of the night. I was sectioned and taken to a secure ward of a mental hospital.

"When I was let out three weeks later, I was told I’d had a psychotic breakdown. The doctors hoped it was a one-off, but since then I’ve been through the cycle of mania and depression several times, and been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"Without my antidepressants and mood regulators I’d be unable to live a normal life. Even so, I still experience mania and depression; it’s just a lot more under control.

"When I’m manic I’ve learned to regulate it by eating sensibly, exercising a lot, and taking my prescription drugs. When I feel a depression coming, I go swimming and try to lift my mood by reminding myself that this feeling of sadness and hopelessness won’t last forever.

"I’ll never know if the cannabis contributed to me developing bipolar disorder, but I suspect it could have. If I had my time over again, I wouldn’t touch it. Every time I see reports on the news about cannabis causing psychosis or damaging teenage brains, I wish I’d known that at the time."

 

Cannabis: real stories

Smoking cannabis can lead to cannabis psychosis, causing you to lose touch with reality. Two men describe how it happened to them.

Media last reviewed: 06/09/2013

Next review due: 06/09/2015

Page last reviewed: 11/12/2011

Next review due: 11/12/2013

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The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Davedse said on 22 December 2011

This story is just not logical (and whereas it would be acceptable for a person with psychological problems to have this kind of outlook, as it's subjective, the NHS promoting it will mislead readers).

The reason being (besides everything other commenters have already stated) that somehow, even though being 'very drunk' was explicitly mentioned and being more proximate in time to the breakdown, this person wonders whether her smoking years earlier contributed to it, and doesn't seem to have a single doubt about her heavy drinking. Alcohol is a toxin to the body, and far more likely to result in this than anything done years prior could be.

Science works through empirical observation, but the kind of cause and effect this story tries to convince people with is as flimsy as anything can potentially be. Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation - on this kind of fallacy.

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northernuproar said on 24 July 2011

I don't think this article is that helpful. It's talking about how taking cannabis two years before triggered someone's psychotic breakdown.

They weren't a heavy user (once a week for a year is not heavy usage!), so I don't understand how that can show a cause and effect.

Whereas if you watch the videos, both the men involved were heavy users and you can easily see how this triggered their breakdowns.

And I'm not an advocate of cannabis by any means. I don't touch it because I had hallucinations (similar to Natasha) where I really didn't know what was going on. I didn't like the out of control feeling.

I've also had friends who have had psychotic episodes (for one night only) when they've had cannabis mixed with other drugs (Involving threatening people with knives, something very out of character).

So I can see how people may say it's an issue, but to say it caused a problem two years later after somewhat light use of the drug? Doesn't make sense. Whereas the videos do.

And for me, long-term drug use of other recreational drugs (and alcohol use) has caused me the most issues. I haven't taken huge amounts, but I took them and felt okay (so I thought). It's only with hindsight that I can see the problems they have caused throughout my life. The drug that was the most socially acceptable (alcohol) has caused me the most mental health problems (depression).

On the outside, I look to most people as if alcohol and my past recreational drug use was fine, but it caused issues. It did this subtly to begin with, and it's only with hindsight I can see the damage caused. Which is why articles like this don't help. I don't get why you didn't use one of the men in the video.

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princess10 said on 25 September 2009

I feel i had to post a comment in reply to what tinkerbell said, it felt an identical scenario, i lived with my daughter's father for 2 years with the same condition, he wouldnt accept it was the cannabis, he'd been a heavy smoker for at least 15years, and believed i was plotting against him, drugging him, sleeping with men while he was in bed beside me, he used to put sugar at the door at night, thought there was secret passage ways into the house, i lived in a bubble of control, cldnt go to the toilet on my own, cldnt shower on my own, the list could go on, i to watched in despair as he refused to believe there was a problem, and in the end had to cut contact him from him completley, its a very dangerous drug for some users!!!!!

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wizardx said on 15 January 2009

I went through the same thing but it is not all doom and gloom - it can end in a complete mental breakthrough. Please keep up your hope.

Smoked for twenty years and then went through a bad patch in my life and smoked/ate the stuff 24/7. I went through hell, couldn't stop using it, felt completely lost. After a couple of years of squalor something happened or broke inside me. I sort of came back to life and complete clarity of mind. No matter how much weed I ate there was no effect. I stopped using it but still felt a sort of high. I still do feel high - high on life three years on.

Feels like I did when I was a kid, all energy and inspiration and engagement with life. My therapist says that I have 'self-actualised' after getting to rock bottom of my psyche and that the weed took me so deep inside that I 'found myself' and shook off all the social conditioning and bad experiences in my life that led me to weed in the first place.

I'm not sure about that although my wife concurs with the analyst that I'm no longer psychotic or manic. I really do seem to be sane now and my career advancement tells me I have a power and energy in myself that I never had before.

I do know that however bad it gets there is always hope. Don't give up on yourself or family members who seem to be 'lost in cannabis' - they may just be working though their pain in an unconventional way and they may come back to you in better shape. Breakdowns happen for a reason.

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User80448 said on 03 January 2009

It's more likely that the person in the above article was already prone to mental problems which she then later blames on cannabis. Extremely frequent cannabis use over time may cause mental problems, but not moderate use. A single strong dose of cannabis may precipitate a single panic attack, and a sensitive or mentally unstable person may be bothered by memories a panic attack even after it is over. Those predisposed to schizophrenic disorders and/or depression tend to be also predisposed to drug use, so such use doesn't necessarily cause those disorders-- it could be the other way around. The article is reads like an anti-canabis scare story.

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User53560 said on 17 October 2008

im 37 and been smoking canabis in the evening for about 8 years to help me sleep but now i cant seem to stop, i can go on holiday for 2 weeks and not have any but need sleeping tablets. i really want to stop now but cant or wont! i only have 1 a night so it should be easy to give up, so why cant i just do it.

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Joe said on 01 June 2008

Sounds like the same thing I went thru after smoking lots of weed. I'm just on Prozac now but Alcohol makes it come back - usually the morning after I spent hours thinking paranoid thoughts about what happened the night before or about something in particular that's worrying me. It's hell sometimes but I know it won't last forever so try to sleep thru it.

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tinkerbell said on 25 May 2008

this ring too true for me,my husband of 20 yrs is going through the same thing he is psycotic paranoid and thinks everyone is plotting against him .he has been a heavy smoker for 20 yrs its got so bad that i have had to leave the family home with my young children.
the canabis drug ruins lives ,its not hamless it makes mince meat of your brains and nothing is the same ever again. i have never smoked even though my husband does.
i have watched in dispare as he has become worse, unlike you the doctors have not been help full , they say there is nothing they can do for him ,
i wish he could see the light at the end of the tunnel i just wont my husband back, i am printing your story and going to give it to him .in hope that he can see some sence and that i am not plotting against him x

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