The Woman in 606

Aftermath of a Stranger’s Death and the Puzzle of Psychosis

Comments

1
You need to write more Christopher, this was really a great article. And one other suggestion...maybe time to move.
2
THIS is one of the main reasons I sit on the other side of the planet and check the Stranger every day. Brilliant, well written articles - sweeping over several subjects.

Thanks Christopher for a good read and thanks to whomever is editor who knows the importance of giving articles and texts the room to breath and move. Its refreshing in a world of twitter-journalism.

3
That's a good heart you've got there, Christopher. Be careful with it.
4
holy shit.
5
Excellent work. And fascinating. I found out in college that I'm bipolar and I decided I needed to quit smoking pot, since I reasoned (somehow) that it was contributing to my ongoing depression, and I was roundly mocked for my decision by my pot-smoking (and closest) friends. Learning now about marijuana's connection to those pre-disposed to a psychotic break (which I've mercifully never experienced), I feel a little vindicated. My logic was flawed, but my instinct was right.
6
wow.
7
It's a victory when I dress myself in the morning.

Amy, honey, hang in there. It's going to take a while, but one of these days you're going to wake up and realize that instead of feeling worse than you did the day before, you feel about the same. From there it gets incrementally better. Get dressed when you can, put one foot in front of the other when you can, and plod through this.

It may not feel like it now, but you will get through this. I promise.
8
@5: Yeah, my ex firmly believed that pot made him psychotic and that it led to a diagnosis in his twenties as schizophrenic. I knew him in his forties and couldn't fathom how anyone could think he was schizophrenic, much less a series of professionals that actually got him declared sufficiently crazy to receive SSI benefits. I also thought his hatred of pot and conviction that it made him crazy was, well, crazy, but I shrugged and considered it one of his idiosyncrasies.

Live and learn, I guess.
9
This was a really great article. However, I have suffered from mental illness, Bipolar Disorder in fact, for years and I ingest marijuana (quite regularly - one part medication, then just a little recreation) to alleviate those symptoms. I have never been more stable in my entire life and do not use any other medications other than those to treat my ADHD as well as continuing to take Omega-3 supplements. People are actually shocked when I tell them I have BD ("But you seems so normal..."), even friends I've known for years (or at least in the past five). However, I do have a large community of friend and family around me (I'm hardly a lonely person) and I see a doc at least once a month to check in with, more or less as a safety precaution. While these are likely factors in the success of my stability, I believe it is naive to think the exacerbation of psychotic systems is solely due to heavy marijuana use - there's always an extraneous variable.

[Also, if you look at any terrible situation involving drugs, you'll find a lack of readily accessible (e.g., free/low cost) drug and/or mental health treatment (such as Florida & the bath salt face eater), aside from the already existing stigma of seeking these out.]
10
This was a really great article. However, I have suffered from mental illness, Bipolar Disorder in fact, for years and I ingest marijuana (quite regularly - one part medication, then just a little recreation) to alleviate those symptoms. I have never been more stable in my entire life and do not use any other medications other than those to treat my ADHD as well as continuing to take Omega-3 supplements. People are actually shocked when I tell them I have BD ("But you seems so normal..."), even friends I've known for years (or at least in the past five). However, I do have a large community of friends and family around me (I'm hardly a lonely person) and I see a doc at least once a month to check in with, more or less as a safety precaution. While these are likely factors in the success of my stability, I believe it is naive to think the exacerbation of psychotic systems is solely due to heavy marijuana use - there's always an extraneous variable.

[Also, if you look at any terrible situation involving drugs, you'll usually find a lack of readily accessible (e.g., free/low cost) drug and/or mental health treatment (such as Florida & the bath salt face eater), aside from the already existing stigma of seeking these out.]
11
Thanks for this, Christopher.
12
I feel like this article is a special gift to me, because I quit smoking weed three days ago for the sake of my mental health. I've tried quitting several times before, and have felt very alone in my efforts because no one around me believes that it is harmful or habit-forming (but watch them panic when they run out). Reading this article has strengthened my shaky resolve.

Thank you so much for writing so beautifully and respectfully about Ms. Rosado, and for illustrating how mental illness affects a whole community, not just the afflicted person.
13
So we did what anyone would do if a neighbor started stomping around, shrieking, smashing things, slamming doors, and stabbing a cat.

We called the cops.


Well, personally I would have called the cops before I opened my door and stepped out of my apartment, but I don't live in neighborhood beset by wailing junkies where I don't know any of my neighbors.
14
An excellent and timely article.

15
wonderful article. Thank you.
16
Outstanding journalism.
17
As @1 said, I wish you wrote more.
18
What you said, @2. (Bonus: the editor you congratulate for letting Christopher off the leash is...Christopher!)

My best wishes to those facing their own mental strains thinking about laying off the smoke.
19
Beautiful work Christopher.
20
Regardless, that was a really well-written story.
21
@9 -- Marijuana is a paradox for people with mood disorders. And not just for the obvious reason, which is that individual reactions to psychoactive drugs are vast. One fascinating thing I discovered in my research that I didn't have room to discuss is that, while marijuana has chemical compounds (like THC) that aggravate psychotic tendencies, it also has other chemical compounds (like CBD) that are powerful anti-psychotics. There is a lot more THC than CBD in marijuana. But it turns out that CBD is just as good for treating psychotic patients as the anti-psychotic drugs on the market AND it has none of the side effects. Read this:

http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/30/ma…
22
Wow. Well done.
23
Amazing work. and I agree with @1/@17.

The link between mental illness and marijuana needs to be studied and there needs to be more education. I never knew. And I'm so glad that, in ten years of living out west (Seattle and Vancouver), I never got onto the stuff.
25
Wow. Well done.
26
What a beautiful, heartrending piece. I can't help but think of my own brother who is descending into the final arc of a twenty year downward spiral of depression, delusion, paranoia, and heroin. It's saddening and not a bit maddening how ill-equipped our healthcare and justice systems are for handling people who struggle with mental illness, drugs, and the intersection of the two.
27
In high school I had a friend that smoked increasing amounts of Pot as he progressed as an uppergraduate and into college. He was also diagnosed with schizophrenia around the time he graduated (the typical years of getting diagnosed) but he really self-mediated with Pot. He ended it when he took is mom's car off a bridge.

Do I think the pot made him schizophrenic? NO.
DO I think it worsened his condition? Definitely.

Maybe it was because I was science nerd but I always knew about the risk of psychosis with pot. I knew it was playing with fire for someone with a mental condition so smoke and I was surprised by the lack of knowledge (or the potential hiding of information) by the dispensary workers.

I don't know if something in my brain has changed as I've grown up or if it's adult responsibility piling up but whenever I smoke now I because hyper-paranoid. Like I sit silently waiting for the cops to kick the door in. I don't like it and I could easily feel that if I was less well "grounded" I could completely lose it.

Pot like all drugs has side effects, some nasty
28
I'd tell you how wonderful this article is, but I'd just be repeating what everyone else has already said.

But it really surprised me to see mental health professionals discuss psychosis as a breakdown of the psyche, and not address mental illnesses as brain disorders. Perceptions of reality are horribly distorted by illnesses like bipolar disorder, PTSD, and especially schizophrenia. This happens because, through a combination of environment and genetic predisposition, the brain stops working correctly. Sometimes hallucinations are just random nonsense that malfunctioning neurons produce, and looking for the symbolic value of them isn't very useful.
29
This is one of the worst things I've ever read on The Stranger.

It is rambling, the characters are idiots, and it doesn't seem to have an actual point.
30
SPAM ON AISLE 24!!!!

and an excellent article, christopher. say hi to timothy for me.
31
Wonderful piece!
32
@29 Well then you should have totally related.
33
An excellent piece of writing. Thank you for this.
34
Thanks for mentioning the fact that the cat survived.

Swearengen's on the rag today. Nice article.
35
Absolutely agree, Christopher. I actually live in Denver (born and raised in Seattle) and we're a little further along with cultivating CBD heavy strains/edibles with little to no THC. And like any medication, treating mental illness or otherwise, one won't work for everyone and have a variety of side effects that don't affect everyone in the same way. I certainly don't believe Cannabis is a panacea, but unlike the 8+ pill cocktail I used to take daily, this one works much better for me. I suggest looking into the writing of Dr. Lester Grinspoon as well, particularly Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, if the very wonderful Dr. Mitch Earleywine didn't already suggest it.
36
I would be interested in seeing if there are studies done on the affects of certain strains of marijuana, and even more importantly the way it is grown- i.e. organically or with fertilizer and pesticides.
37
Thanks, Christopher. This was a great article.
38
Really lovely, Christopher. Thank you.

What a sad end for Ms. Rosado. It's a damn shame the responding officers didn't approach the situation with a bit more subtlety. Perhaps she would still have jumped, but I can't help but wonder if it could have ended differently.
39
This tragic piece is another reason the greed of the medical marijuana industry in WA is do galling. Just a lack of concern and education, more concerned with profit.
40
This was one brilliant piece of writing. Found the link on Twitter. Started reading. Could not stop reading. Was glued to the screen. Absolutely brilliant.

/ John Andersson, Umeå, Sweden
41
I don't agree with the sweeping generalization that this kind of stuff happens because we don't know our neighbors ... maybe in Crazytown (aka Capitol Hill) this is the norm, but where I am (NE Seattle), we neighbors actually do talk to each other and keep an eye out for each other.
42
This was a great article, and very timely. The presence of the cat in the story reminded me of this research exploring the link between a toxoplasmosis (a brain parasite we contract from cats) and schizophrenia: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/05…
43
Great article! I read a study a few months ago about how marijuana can cause a psychotic break in people with underlying mental illness and have been trying to tell my pot-smoking friends about it, but haven't had much luck. They all seem to think a little bud will calm someone in psychosis. I think this is important information to get out there for many people's well-being.
44
Fantastic writing, Christopher. I've had a few people close to me battle mental illness. I never really correlated how marijuana can affect those who suffer from psychotic behavior, but it now makes a lot of sense.
45
Excellent piece, Christopher
46
You've gotta find that cat and do a follow-up.
47
" ... it wasn't because she smoked a joint," said the guy who sold the pot.

Maybe not, but clearly she hadn't smoked just one joint. The victim was found to have had more than a quarter-ounce in her possession. She's probably been smoking regularly, heavily, for months now. How much was she smoking a day? A gram? Two? Five? A quarter-ounce a week? That's some chronic she had, too, very potent. It's entirely plausible that sustained levels of THC in an already unstable, chemically imbalanced brain can lead to a psychotic break.

Something to think about as I pack my evening bowl. RIP, Miss Alyssa Rosado. Your pain is gone.
48
Drugs have different effects on different people. If the government had been allowing proper science to be taking place with marijuana, we'd know an awful lot more about which compounds did what and how they interact with other drugs.
49
Great article, Christopher.

I can attest from personal experience that pot and mental illness do not mix, whether it "causes psychosis" or not.
50
I am in awe of this article. Not only how well-written and timely it is (I live near The Castle in Belltown, where a fellow jumped several days ago; rumors it was a drug-induced psychotic meltdown) for our communities, but also how relevant it is to me. I am clinically BP, and never had any idea that the reason I occasionally have bad trips after smoking marijuana, could be a result of my mental disorder. Incredibly eye-opening.

I'm not a frequent smoker, and when I'm in a group smoking, I have rarely had a bad freak-out. About two months ago, I was smoking a joint with my partner for a fun night, and ended up not knowing who I was. I should mention that we smoked nearly the entire packed joint. I forgot all memories and struggled to remember where I worked at and who my family was. I hallucinated that we were all aliens, and cried that I needed an ambulance. I slowly got out of my strange psychotic state by early morning, and we vowed that I would now be known as a one-hit-wonder. Now, I never smoke alone, and at the most I take two hits with my partner or friends. It's still an enjoyable experience, but I do firmly believe the phrase, "use with extreme caution". I've never met anyone that reacted the way I did with weed.

This brings so much clarity to my situation- but I am curious to know why my psychiatrist never mentioned it when I told him I occasionally smoke weed for recreation. It'd be worth at least a mention, right?
Thank you for such a beautiful, informative piece of work.
51
I am in awe of this article. Not only how well-written and timely it is (I live near The Castle in Belltown, where a fellow jumped several days ago; rumors it was a drug-induced psychotic meltdown) for our communities, but also how relevant it is to me. I am clinically BP, and never had any idea that the reason I occasionally have bad trips after smoking marijuana, could be a result of my mental disorder. Incredibly eye-opening.

I'm not a frequent smoker, and when I'm in a group smoking, I have rarely had a bad freak-out. About two months ago, I was smoking a joint with my partner for a fun night, and ended up not knowing who I was. I should mention that we smoked nearly the entire packed joint. I forgot all memories and struggled to remember where I worked at and who my family was. I hallucinated that we were all aliens, and cried that I needed an ambulance. I slowly got out of my strange psychotic state by early morning, and we vowed that I would now be known as a one-hit-wonder. Now, I never smoke alone, and at the most I take two hits with my partner or friends. It's still an enjoyable experience, but I do firmly believe the phrase, "use with extreme caution". I've never met anyone that reacted the way I did with weed.

This brings so much clarity to my reaction to marijuana- but I am curious to know why my psychiatrist never mentioned it when I told him I occasionally smoke weed for recreation. It'd be worth at least a mention, right?
Thank you for such a beautiful, informative piece of work.
52
@47- Yeah, if someone had been drinking a couple pints of vodka a day, maybe the liquor wouldn't be the reason they did (suicide, murder, public masturbation) but we all know it wouldn't have helped.
53
Brilliantly written and informative...thank you, Christopher.
54
This was a great piece. Thank you for writing it, Christopher. RIP to Rosado.

I have bipolar disorder. I was 14 when it fully presented itself. I was rapid cycling, going from hypomanic during daylight to suicidally depressed during the night hours. I started smoking pot constantly to self-medicate, as my mom refused to take me to a psychiatrist. I was level, no mood swings as long as I maintained my high.

She caught me once and I promised to stop smoking, but I couldn't stay away from it with the brutal swings from elated to crushingly numb. When she caught me smoking pot the second time, I sobbed as I told her that I'd quit if I got help from a doctor for bipolar and if I could transfer to the alternative high school so I could still graduate. I told her about how I didn't want to kill myself, but that I knew that I couldn't stand living with myself and my moods. She finally agreed to take me to a shrink and enrolled me at the alt high school.

It took a year and a half to find the right medication. Ever since then, I don't crave pot anymore. I went from smoking 10+ times a day to not touching it for years at a time. For me the mental illness instigated the heavy pot use. Without pot dulling my senses and evening my moods, I know that I would have committed suicide before I reached my 17th birthday.

I know my experience doesn't trump data, but pot helped me in the meantime. I wish that there was more study done about mental illness and pot. I was always a lightweight: it only took three tokes to be high and happy for a few hours. I'd like to know if other people with bipolar have the same reaction.
55
Holy shit, that's my old apartment.
56
You are FUCKED UP!!! This was somebody who was suffering from a mental illness and you put it out there for everybody to see. She is dead! Can she have no peace?!? FUCKED UP!!!
57
This is an important piece and powerfully written.

A teenager in the 60s I generally stayed away from pot. My mother was psychotic and I didn't care to experiment with mind-altering drugs except for booze. Most pot was shit back then anyway.

A few years back I smoked some stuff with a friend and could not believe how hallucinogenic this current stuff is. I was down the rabbit hole. I can't imagine how any fragile person wouldn't succumb to a psychotic break sooner or later on this turbo fuel.
58
Thank you for writing and publishing this. I hate the taboo we have on talking about suicide.

At my job, I deal with suicidal people and completed suicides (don't know what else to call it, but you get the point) on a very regular basis. Even though I've been doing it for years, it still shocks me how common it is here. Some people are having a mental break, some are incredibly depressed, and for some (a seemingly happy, well adjusted 10 year old) there's no explanation I have ever been able to come to.

If you are depressed, contemplating suicide, or have a loved one that is - please know that you are not alone and there are people who want to help you. People who want you to live. There are good people at the Crisis Clinic, call them: 866.4CRISIS

If you're not comfortable with that, please reach out to someone you trust. Or, if you feel you're at a dead end, call 911.
59
As someone who was sexually abused in my very early childhood, diagnosed with bipolar as a teenager, has smoked marijuana regularly throughout my life, and is stable and successful in my profession and personal life, I resent the conclusion this article draws between marijuana and psychotic behavior. For me, marijuana helps me alleviate symptoms of depression when I'm low and pulls me up to a "normal" state, allowing me to function normally. Though it's true that marijuana seems to trigger psychosis in some people, this blanket statement is ridiculous and untrue.
60
Wow, that was an incredible piece of writing. Thank you, Christopher.
61
Makes me think of the only truly useful words in the bible... "Love one another."
62
This article brought up a 1960's memory for me, of my close friend's brother, where we all attended college, starting to smoke more and more pot. More and more distant, finally he was off in his own world, fixated on the hidden messages in The Who's rock opera Tommy, and convinced that our friends' newborn was indeed the pinball wizard, the savior of the world. Lifelong schizophrenia blossomed with the aid of a lot of weed. More awareness of this and similar cascading effects on the susceptible from pot might save a lot of people. Thanks for writing this article.
63
This is one of the best things I have ever read from The Stranger. Thank you Christopher, and an extra thank you for letting us know that the cat is ok.
64
A fascinating story, well told.

The story of this girl, her afflictions, and the medical marijuana industry are all interesting. I was most interested, though, in your story about how this brought you closer to your neighbors.

Also, I'm glad the cat survived.
65
@56- Dead people don't care.

@59- The author never made the blanket statement you are upset about.
66
Beautiful
67
i think you're a really wonderful writer, and your writing voice makes you sound like a really good person.

i bet it's true. thanks for the article.
68
Awful, harrowing story told very beautifully, Christopher. Your humanity shines through in every word.

I'm a little over a year now in my little Capitol Hill studio apartment, and I probably only know 2 or 3 neighbors by name. I don't know if this is a Seattle thing, or just an urban-living thing, but it is most definitely isolating. I'm so sorry for Alyssa and her family.

And thank you so much for getting the word out about the less-than-positive effects of MJ. Just because it's a 'miracle plant' that helps so, so many, doesn't mean it doesn't also have other chemical effects. The more info to the more people about this, the better.

Thanks again for a wonderful piece, you've really touched a lot of folks today.
69
Thank you for a thoughtful and informative article, Christopher. I'm amazed how you were able to traverse very sensitive topics with grace and compassion. It was a very compelling read.
70
I had a friend who worked in that same Castle megastore, probably during the same period that she did. Apparently Castle management decided to literally have their entire staff train their replacements and then immediately after fired them so that they could save money on raising people's wages. Totally arbitrary and cruel. So in all likelihood her being let go by Castle was more likely a cause of her problems than a symptom of one that had already manifest.
71
@28: I think the above psychologist didn't bring up the organic component of mental disorder because Rosada *had* been sexually abused, and therefore what she was experiencing was likely a psychotic break and not genetically-based schizotypal behavior. It's just more relevant that way; not that s/he didn't know.

@56: This article may help educate and bring help to countless people, and that gives it more value than keeping hush hush about the life of a person who *clearly needed help*.

@59: I don't think you understand what anecdotal evidence is. In your life, there is no link between your pot usage and your mental health. What good research and statistics do is combine all those stories and all those lives and make connections and look for patterns. Psychosis and marijuana are linked, period. This has been shown by more than your one very small story of your own life. It's like if someone says "cigarettes aren't addictive," just because *they* didn't get addicted. When in fact, huge studies show that, for far more people than not, they really are quite addictive. The first statement is dismissive and considers only their own experience (i.e., it is a narrow perspective).
72
Also, beautiful article Christopher Frizzelle.

This issue absolutely certainly needs more attention.
73
I'm overcome with melodrama. No! I'm bi-polarized!

Have you stopped shaking long enough to file your $50 entry fee for the next round of Pulitzers?

And how does someone at the Stranger go into "reporter" mode? It's never happened before.
74
Just a note on the cat in the story. She was named Hope and was put through surgery by the Seattle Animal Shelter.

We recently got an update from the adopter:
"We ended up naming Hope, Nadia! Which means "hope" in russian. She is doing really great here, still sleeping in her bed almost every night! She really loves her laser pointer! She's really grown on both my grandma and myself."

-Kara Main-Hester, SAS staff
75
This was a great article. Not sure exactly the point you were trying to get across though...is it people need to be less isolating and more friendly. Or pot is bad? Either way I hope she rest in peace and I hope the cat was adopted into a wonderful home where it will live out it's reaming lives trauma free.
76
@75: it's okay for there to be multiple messages in a story.
77
I do think you should give some credit to prohibition, not just the MMJ industry, who from my perspective and experience you took a small and unimpressive slice to serve up your point.

An industry allowed by Washington state, is completely unregulated by the state. Unlike, say, liquor and food companies who have scores of FDA agents to write up long lists of rules for them to follow, hopefully to the benefit of the end consumer, and fortified with hard American science.

In the MMJ industry unfortunately it is up to the producer and provider to self-regulate the quality of the product. Fortunately for patients, safe and effective products often do much better than shady ones that float on advertising and exploiting long dead stoner culture.

Is recreational use very present in the industry? Of course, and to the same degree (if not more severe) than the thousands of pharmaceuticals that are passed quickly from physicians hands to Capitol Hill bathroom bars.

MMJ in Washington is young, 2-3 years young. Let it rise out of toddler hood before you knock its legs out, eh?

78
I do think you should give some credit to prohibition, not just the MMJ industry, who from my perspective and experience you took a small and unimpressive slice to serve up your point.

An industry allowed by Washington state, is completely unregulated by the state. Unlike, say, liquor and food companies who have scores of FDA agents to write up long lists of rules for them to follow, hopefully to the benefit of the end consumer, and fortified with hard American science.

In the MMJ industry unfortunately it is up to the producer and provider to self-regulate the quality of the product. Fortunately for patients, safe and effective products often do much better than shady ones that float on advertising and exploiting long dead stoner culture.

Is recreational use very present in the industry? Of course, and to the same degree (if not more severe) than the thousands of pharmaceuticals that are passed quickly from physicians hands to Capitol Hill bathroom bars.

MMJ in Washington is young, 2-3 years young. Let it rise out of toddler hood before you knock its legs out, eh?

79
Wow! Thank you for sharing that.
80
Anyone with a mental illness can break down at any moment. My ex is Bi-polar and weed seemed to help her. Everyone reacts to things differently so I don't think its fair to generalize this theory. Amazing article though, I read the whole thing! Medical marijuana should be treated like any other prescription, coming with a pamphlet and pharmacist explaining the possible effects, causes and warnings...ect.
81
I was really struggling with intense depression two years ago. I started smoking more pot in order to feel better. It was the only thing making me feel "good". My depression became so intense that one day while I was high, I started having tunnel vision and having a panic attack. I couldn't stop thinking about killing myself, and my thoughts were racing. I had to go to the hospital. I am really glad I did. I also don't smoke weed anymore. again, pot didn't cause my depression, but it definitely did not help.
82
I was really struggling with intense depression two years ago. I started smoking more pot in order to feel better. It was the only thing making me feel "good". My depression became so intense that one day while I was high, I started having tunnel vision and having a panic attack. I couldn't stop thinking about killing myself, and my thoughts were racing. I had to go to the hospital. I am really glad I did. I also don't smoke weed anymore. again, pot didn't cause my depression, but it definitely did not help. This was a really fantastically written article.
83
I'm kind of surprised that neither Chris nor the folks at the dispensary hadn't heard that pot can exacerbate psychosis; it's common knowledge. Mark Vonnegut's memoir Eden Express has a nice description of his bipolar pot freak out in the late sixties, and I've heard old hippies talk about it frequently.
84
While I certainly believe that pot did not help an already sad and lonely existence, the thing that really hit me about this article was the aloneness one can feel living in Seattle. I have lived in several big cities and none is more clique-ish and unfriendly as Seattle. I find it weird as just a couple hours away is Portland where people (for now anyway) are definately more "neighborly". Yes Seattle is bigger and more cosmopolitan. Don't get me wrong, people are generally polite but they do not want to talk to you or get to know you. I live just blocks away from the building written about and I also know only one neighbor in my bldg. if I try to talk to anyone, I get the why is this weird 40 something woman speaking to me, look. Clearly she doesn't dress as cool as me and doesn't make enough money to talk to me.
If we learn anything from this article, let it be that we try harder to be nice to our neighbors. Stop, introduce yourself, say "hi". It won't kill you or make you less cool. It may make all the difference to someone.
85
One of the best articles ever written in the stranger. Thanks for writing this Chris.
86
@77_ I'm actually hoping the MMJ community gets it's legs chopped off as soon as possible. State legalization is better, and federal legalization is the holy grail. Until there's federal legalization, we'll never have the research you speak of, but when it happens it'll kill the MMJ system.
87
@75- Frizzle didn't say "pot is bad". He said "Marijuana may cause some people with certain mental conditions to have really bad side effects."
88
This article touches on so many issues that are prevalent in the Seattle community - suicide, mental illness (in particular schizophrenia), sexual abuse, the anti-social elements of living in Seattle, and the often unrealized side effects of marijuana use among the mentally ill. This is an engaging piece of writing which could have been written as several articles but was woven into a very intense read. The article makes a compelling point that Seattle has a responsibility to do more for its mentally ill citizens. Perhaps this woman's life could have been saved.
89
As a nation, we're awful when it comes to dealing with mental illness. It's horrible that this young woman couldn't be steered towards better resources, but I don't think that's all that abnormal for people suffering from mental illness. Why can't we have mental illness emergency response in the way we have medical emergency response?
90
This is a good article, but I don't think there is sufficient evidence to say that cannabis causes psychosis in people who have mental illnesses. There is still the problem of the self-medication hypothesis. Do people who have a mental illness have a higher probability to go into psychosis due to cannabis use or is it just that these are the people who are more likely to use cannabis in the first place? It is obvious that people with mental illness, especially schizophrenia, use cannabis more than average. But schizophrenics also use tobacco and alcohol more than the average person (more than 80% of schizophrenics smoke). Does tobacco (or even alcohol) also increase the probability of psychosis?

I think there must be some factor in favor of the self-medication hypothesis. Culturally, we know about people who drink away their troubles (and 101 different country songs about it). Smoking away your troubles is also plausible.
91
Joining
92
I have PTSD and MM helps me keep a handle on it by chilling me the fuck out.

While MM may have exacerbated an already big problem; the issue is really being upfront about mental illness and for society to stop treating it as something shameful. Had this woman had a chance of getting some help, this nightmare may have been prevented.

Great article and I am impressed you keep it informative without resorting to high handedness so common when talking about MM, mental health and the general fucked up ways life can take.
93
@90, I'm of the school of thought that any psychoactive substance can exacerbate existing mental illness, especially if the features of the illness involve hallucinations, delusions, or psychosis. I think alcohol, pot, shrooms, anything that substantially changes a person's reality, will not help. There's a wide range of severity of mental illness. Surely, a lot of people diagnosed with BPD2 (which is debated enough in the mental health field anyway) could smoke a ton of pot and probably never experience psychosis. But a seriously schizophrenic person would not likely do well on marijuana, alcohol, or really anything besides antipsychotics.

A lot of schizophrenics and others with severe psychoses self-medicate because they are mistrustful of professionals. This is also why they don't seek help and end up on the streets. People with severe mental issues I don't think are shamed into staying away from treatment, but so psychologically distressed that they cannot do it on their own. Their families don't realize the depth of their illness and don't want to interfere until they're too ill to go voluntarily. Alcohol and pot are great ways to temporarily change one's distressed state without having to undergo the watchful eye of a doctor.

I'm with Christopher here: if we are to accept marijuana as a legitimate medical treatment, we must start treating like a legitimate drug. And all drugs have their risks, but no one talks about the ones involved with marijuana.
94
@9/@21 I have to mention that the face-eating guy being on 'bath salts' was debunked.. ironically enough the only substance they found in his system was Marijuana...

I can definitely connect the dots with THC and psychosis. I've smoked plenty in my life, and I had to dial it back at some points, to basically quitting altogether because it just does not have the same good effects anymore.. I get weird and squirrely now, and I'm normally very stable. I don't like the out-of-control-of-my-mind feeling anymore. Has anyone else here been so fucked up just on pot that they talk to themselves/zone out/become incoherent? How about long-term? It's not a stretch. Any active substance can be both good and bad and everyone reacts differently to drugs. There is no black and white to this.

BTW just have to say awesome article Chris, it knocked the wind out of me, and it is spurring some good debate such as this.
95
@93: I just don't think the studies are convincing. Being a Schedule I drug has made it difficult for legitimate research into its harmful properties. And none of the studies that I have seen have really tried to exclude the self-medication hypothesis. Cannabis could be both harmful (psychosis inducing) and a drug that is used to self-medicate. Or the self-medication could overcompensate and it could be helpful (there are studies showing it could be an anti-psychotic).
96
As far as the reaction of the cops, was kicking in the door really a good action to take when someone is in psychosis?
97
Awesome article. Thanks!
98
Wonderful, insightful, emotional article. Thank you for sharing Alyssa's life, and yours.
99
@96- If she'd been slashing herself up instead of perched on the windowsill it would have been perfect. I'm usually one to criticize the cops for being over-aggressive and violent, but in this case I can't fault them for trying to see what was happening as quickly as possible.
100
Thank you for the most meaningful article I have ever read in this magazine. You have done a great service for the many of us whose loved ones suffer from the effects of marijuana, mental illness, suicide or attempted suicide. Keep on writing.
101
Exceptional article. Thanks for writing it.