Does Pot Cause Schizophrenia?

 

Here is a report about smoking pot during formative teen years and schizophrenia, and another study showing pot smokers with an impaired dopamine system. The Daily Mail carries these and it seems every month there’s another study out, obscured by the cry for individual rights and the unfairness of the justice system over the relatively harmless practice of occasional use. Lots’s of truth to that and I’m generally on board.

But can pot smoking bring on schizophrenia in the susceptible? Sure it can.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2377581/Teenagers-smoke-cannabis-damage-brains-LIFE-likely-develop-schizophrenia.html

These are the kinds of articles which tend to bring out the apologists en masse. I’m not judging pot users. I simply can’t, having smoked it for 40 years. I’m not against occasional use at all. And if you’re life is so pathetically affected by pain or malaise that pot is the only solace you can find, more power to you.

But let’s not pretend it’s good for us. Or, for our children. That would be stupid.

Granted, the low numbers of cases where schizophrenia occurs in no way justifies a ban. And the last thing I want to see is people thrown in jail for smoking a plant. We also shouldn’t kid each other.

I dealt as a kid, grew great plants, made killer hashish and smoked for decades. I’ve pretty much seen it all. These kinds of studies have been around for years for good reason.

I suppose one glaring case in my experience is this one. A single case study if you like.

Mikey was a Lebanese immigrant who arrived as part of the diaspora to Canada, sent abroad without his father. I met him in his early teens when I picked him up at some town homes nearby, where he lived with half a dozen siblings. Mike had a huge nose, big booming voice, not at all handsome by western standards. We put him to work selling flowers and he did well. After a few years, I moved to BC and left the operation to one of the guys with a license.

I heard later that in his senior year, one of the crew began providing him with joints to sell at school. He went from ignored to popular almost overnight. Of course, encouraged this way, he dove in to pot culture. He was suddenly getting attention from peers after years of neglect at home and at school. His job was his only source of significance to then. Now girls actually knew his name.

In his 20s, he called me out west one day He sounded troubled and so I helped him fly out for a visit. Mikey was happy to see us and we welcomed him into our home like family. He seemed pretty normal to me. Until we were smoking a joint one end of night when he told me that sometimes when he smoked with his brother Abdul he was convinced he was out to get him. He felt like his life might be in danger. What??

This got my attention. I’ve been around crazy people my whole life. I’ve seen this turn of events before and could see now all the familiar symptoms. In the three years we hadn’t seen each other, Mikey had changed. In those three years, dope was a big part of his life.

I asked him a few questions without putting him off. He let his guard down and let me in, detailing how his thinking was progressively going off the rails. He knew it but couldn’t trust anyone he knew to confide his secrets. Mikey was cracking under the combined weight of his traumatic life and usage.

Eventually, I told him I was mildly concerned about his mental health. I reassured him that he needed some help with this and that it was most certainly something he could get a handle on. I then suggested he return home, pack his stuff and come back immediately. He agreed and seemed relieved that someone understood what was going on.

Mike returned to Hamilton to arrange a move out west. He never made it.

Apparently, while packing in the 7th floor apartment he shared with his brother, he wound up on the concrete in the parking lot below. As far as I know, it was ruled a suicide. Given his expressed paranoia, this was plausible. Though he never expressed a willingness to hurt himself, we don’t know for absolute certainty what really happened.

That Mikey was in fear I had no doubt. But there are two additional points I’d like to make. One is paradoxical fear seeking. The other is the sensory inputs confidence continuum.

And what of fear? Physiologically, the heart rate goes up, blood pressure rises, breathing shallows and thinking narrows. Classic symptoms of adrenaline and cortisol’s effects on the body.

And what happens when you smoke a joint, drag on a cigarette, or even have a couple of beers?

Well, your heart rate goes up, as does your blood pressure, while your breathing shallows and thinking narrows. Classic fight or flight.

Paradoxically, I contend regular users are not so much addicted to the substance, rather are wired to adrenaline and cortisol; they actively seek out fear physiologically because on some level they are comforted or attracted to  this state.

And their usage is masked by a temporary dopamine buzz that lasts only the first bit of the high. Drink all night and you’re really just chasing that first two beers buzz. It can’t be caught. It’s the same with all substances. Hell, there’s no cupcake like the first one either.

Keep ramping up that dopamine artificially and in time, you won’t feel much of anything at all. Pain is one of life’s best teachers. Kill it and shrink in the face of growth; instead of expanding, contract. And the more you disconnect the body from its intuitive self, the harder it is to form an appropriate response to people and events around you.

 

If someone is susceptible to schizophrenia, adding regular doses of fear is one way to ensure it manifests itself. You couldn’t prescribe a better method of bringing it on than to recommend pot.

Looking to become schizophrenic like some of your relatives? Want to crack under the pressure of your dysfunctional family, with your country at war, your attachments fractured, and adolescent peer issues weighing upon you while your brain is still forming?

Here: smoke this daily.

I’m not even mentioning childhood trauma from unmet emotional needs; or PTSD from various causes; or the after-effects of heavy illness.

 

Nietzche said, “All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth comes only from the senses.” So, what is filtered through the senses is the raw material you have to make decisions and in part create your emotional state. You fuck with your sensory inputs enough and the brain can’t tell what’s real anymore.

And both of these kill confidence. You cannot be both confident and fearful at the same time. They are mutually exclusive emotions. And if your brain is unsure of its inputs, that’s another blow to confidence. Can you really be in chronic doubt and expect to live your destiny?

Who needs confidence, you say? You do. It’s your juice. It’s what takes your thoughts and turns them to actions. Otherwise, smoke each day and dream of a future that never arrives.

Know anyone like this? I thought you might. It was surely me at one point. And you may know someone whose confidence is so far gone they suffer from what is referred to as learned helplessness. That’s confidence buried so deep that they don’t even entertain the notion of a better way. All growth is stifled, or even retreating.

And how do we get confidence? Mostly from confronting fear resulting in victories big and small, from which we derive an emotional state of progressive mastery. Life gets better when we get better at life.

Our discomfort often drives our motivation. We need the contrast of pain and pleasure to consider our approach. There’s the hunt and the feast. Most happiness comes from the hunt.

It’s also why I don’t smoke it regularly anymore. I solved that riddle years ago. I realized I was inhaling fear and exhaling my confidence one joint at a time. It’s unavoidable. Indeed, when you drink you are sipping on fear and pissing out your confidence.

Most people don’t get schizophrenia from smoking pot. That’s a sure thing. There’s a lovely optimism bias in young people which provides some immunity from even considering it.

But you could. You could wind up like Mikey. Bless his heart and too short life. Another man down and out. And at the very least, you will live life more afraid. Assuredly, you will exist with less confidence.

That is not what the universe intended when you won the gift of life.

Over time, you will find that ten years have gone by. And you will realize you have not really lived ten years. Rather, you have lived one year ten times…

 

© Christopher K Wallace 2017, all rights reserved

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