Real story: 'My cannabis paranoia'

Picture of Darren Gold

Drugs counsellor Darren Gold, from Essex, smoked cannabis heavily for 12 years from the age of 15.

His drug use led him into a life of petty crime, filled with several periods in prison. He attributes much of what happened to him to cannabis use.

"I started smoking cannabis because I was desperately unhappy at school. I had a fantastic upbringing, and had great parents, but I was separated from all my friends when I went to secondary school, which made me lonely. Because I was going through puberty, I became even more depressed, and had very little self-confidence.

"Then I started hanging out with a group of kids who smoked and drank. When I was 15, one of my friends brought some cannabis to school. We smoked a joint, and I remember rolling around on the ground and laughing hysterically. All my problems disappeared. I wasn't worried about anything any more. It was such a relief.

"I started smoking more and more because I wanted to keep feeling good. Within a week, I was smoking cannabis practically every day. I had to steal to fund my habit, but I didn't care.

'I was smoking cannabis practically every day. I had to steal to fund my habit, but I didn't care'

"After leaving school, I lied to my parents about getting a job, and I'd hang around with my friends, stealing cars, joyriding and smoking dope all day. Soon I started selling drugs, but I smoked more than I sold, and I was always getting in trouble with the dealers.

"I ended up spending two months at a young offenders institution. While I was there, I was attacked. When I got out, I started smoking even more cannabis, but it made me really paranoid. I kept thinking that the boys who attacked me were watching me and following me. I was constantly looking around for them.

"My mum was really worried about me, and suggested I go to Israel to live on a kibbutz for a while. Eventually I did and, at first, I thought it was great. For six months I couldn't get any drugs. But I was drinking heavily instead.

"After a while I left the kibbutz and went to live in Tel Aviv because I'd heard that you could get cannabis there. I ended up dealing again. But the paranoia started to get much worse. I was convinced the police were following me and bugging my phone. I used to live in fear of them abseiling down the building and coming in through my windows, SAS-style. I had no idea it was the cannabis making me think that.

"Eventually I was raided by the police. I was lucky because I had hardly any drugs at the time, but they still put me in jail. The conditions were terrible, but when I got out on bail, I moved to another part of the city and started dealing again.

"When my court case was due, I came back to the UK because I was afraid I was going to get a long sentence. By the time I came home, I was in a real state. I was still smoking cannabis heavily, and I was taking heroin too.

"In the end, I was arrested for burgling my parents' house and for several drug offences. Thankfully, my mum stood up in court and pleaded with the judge to send me to rehab. I was sent to a prison with a good drugs unit. If I hadn't been, I would probably be dead by now.

"I've been clean for almost nine years. I put every last bit of effort into giving up drugs, and now my life couldn't be better. I trained as a counsellor and I have a wife and a six-month-old baby. For the last four years I've been a Drugsline outreach team leader working with kids in schools and organising programmes on drugs awareness. My mum and dad are so proud of me.

"All that cannabis I smoked has left me with a bit of a temper. That's something I still have to discuss with my counsellor every now and then. The paranoia is still with me, but not to the same extent as before. But I doubt myself, even today. When I do something really good, I still tend to see the downside.

"Smoking cannabis played a huge part in what happened to me. But I don't look back at what could, should or would have been. I don't want to live in the past. I want to live for the future.

"I'll continue to work at it. I've come a long way and turned my life around, and I'm pretty happy with that."

Getting help

There are several sources of help if you or someone you know has a problem with drugs. Find out more in Drugs: where to get help.

Page last reviewed: 08/10/2014

Next review due: 08/10/2016

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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

chief123 said on 16 October 2012

I agree that this is sensationalist and considering he was a drug dealer and mentioned heroin and that the police where on his case i dont think what he mentions is even paranoia or his problem could really be put down to weed!
However skunk definatly will trigger psychosis in someone with pre-disposition no doubt. I had some problems as a teengar before ever drinking or smoking where i actually was a bit crazy and once smahed my head through a glass window. however only after smoking skunk a few times a week [and taking no other drugs] did i really become paraniod and i have not really fully recovered or sure i ever will. i started to think i was being lied to all the time and having wierd things like peoples appearences changing before me. eventually i thought i had cameras in my room and i would here vioces sometimes, i lost all friends thinking they lied to me etc and couldnt trust family. even after stopping weed for a year and barely drinking i still had times like that once thought that i was on a tv show like the truman show!
I dont think anyone who smokes skunk will get paraniod but people like those who have commented here big up weed so much and deny its negative effects so people dont think before taking it, i never shud have and only did as no one told me how bad it could make someone like me so think twice before you claim it to be fine!

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lecrappe said on 28 December 2009

This article is completely sensationalist. While this may have happened to this person, what about giving balanced statistical information people who smoke weed in the UK vs how many commit crime. Suggesting that smoking Marijuana makes people steal is ridiculous. We are not talking about crack cocaine here.

Many people smoke weed at some point in their life and it has no ill effects apart from the usual health problems associated with smoking, which I agree is reason not to smoke any substance at all.

I'm a 35 year old male who gave up marijuana over 10 years ago because I found it a big demotivator, and had lots of lung infections due to what I now think is dirty bong water.

To suggest that everyone will have this person's experience I would expect from the Daily Mail, not from the NHS.

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drooler said on 10 November 2008

I cannot agree that cannabis use was the sole cause of all Darren's problems, though it may have helped exacerbated his paranoia. I used tobacco for 43 years and canabis for over 30 years on a daily basis and never commited theft or burglary etc to fund my use of it. I gave them both up 2 years ago, because I was fed up with smoking, especially as it causes damage to health. I had no problem giving up canabis. I just stopped using it and had no ill effects. It took 3 months on a prescription drug and a lot of will power to get off tobacco, yet it is canabis that is the class B drug, not tobacco.

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John Williams said on 24 October 2008

Darren Gold makes a good point but his point does not show the true fact of cannabis. Cannabis is not to blame for his choice to become a Drug Dealer and steal from others. The fact that Darren was allready depressed before he started smoking will be the true reason for his lifestyle choice.

I have smoked Cannabis for many years. I can remember smoking it at one point everyday but that is not good for your health has you tend to eat too much. I know many other cannabis smokers and I have never known anyone who ONLY smokes weed to go and commit crimes. Weed makes you feel relaxed and you dont want to be traveling around let alone commiting crimes.

Now the paranoia issue with weed is not has big as most people make it out to be. Smoking Weed is like drinking beer. For some people they get drunk and become violant and abusive. But some people can become drunk and are not Violant or abusive. It is rare to find someone who would be violant or abusive after only smoking weed.

This is where the perception of paranoia comes into it. When you are drunk you do not care what you look like to others. I've seen a woman who was so drunk that she could not care if she was urinating in the street. This is because she could not think about anything else which was happening around her pluse drinking boosts confidence so some people will know but will not care.

Smoking Weed has a different effect then being drunk because even though you will appear the same as a drunk person when you are stoned you are very aware of your appearence to others hence you have paranoia. Darren Gold's Paranoia with the Police was down to the fact that he was a Drug Dealer and even if you are not stoned you will be Paranoied about them coming for you. Especially with a long prison sentence. Plus, Israel, it is a fact that if you are selling drugs the Police will be following you because how else will they know the address to come knocking at your door like they did for Darren.

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Anonymous said on 23 April 2008

hi I have just read your story and I am not sure if you can answer me but my son is in hospital for paranoia. it will be about 30 days before its out his system. They wont him to take drugs to cure, but he will not. Its a waiting game to see if the paranoia will go away. Did you get any help with any drugs? I am so worried about him, to be honest I am not coping even though I know he is in the right place.

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