Mylan Pharmacuticals link with suicide?

Read this article written by a New Zealand woman, and the experiences she is facing after her sons suicide.

Here is an excerpt:

A couple of days ago, after two years of fighting, I received Mylan Pharmaceuticals assessment of the causal link between their drug Fluox and my son’s suicide. Their conclusion is identical to that of the New Zealand drug regulator Medsafe, that the SSRI antidepressant Fluoxetine is the probable cause of Toran’s death. The rating of ‘probable’ includes an assessment that Toran’s suicide was ‘unlikely to be attributed to disease or other drugs.’

I recieved two documents from Mylan. The first was a record of the adverse reaction report I made to them. It is full of errors. Critically, my son is recorded as having been 19 years old. In fact he never got to be 19, or even 18. He was 17 when he died. He was a pediatric prescription drug user, not an adult as Mylan has recorded.

The second major error is that the person who received the information I reported, recorded that Toran had been diagnosed with depression. Toran did not ever have a diagnosis of depression or any other mental disorder. At the time of his death, his medical records showed ‘diagnosis deferred.’

There are lots of other errors – the dates on which his dose was titrated, the date on which he took three times the prescribed dose and ended up in the emergency room having self harmed, the levels of glucose in his blood prior to starting Fluoxetine, while on the drug and after withdrawal.

The most shocking thing about the form though, is that despite my providing my contact phone numbers, despite my offering to provide Torans medical file and the transcripts of his inquest (in which his clinicians, teachers and others gave evidence on his adverse reactions to the drug), the recorder has finished the report by ticking the box ‘unassessible’ under the heading ‘Causality of Reaction (In the Opinion of the Reporter) which provides the options ‘possible’, ‘unlikely’, ‘unassessible’ and ‘not related’. The definition of unassessable is a report suggesting an adverse reaction which cannot be judged because information is insufficient or contradictory, and which cannot be supplemented or verified.

This makes me unspeakably angry. It takes no small emotional toll to call a drug company and recount the events leading to your child’s suicide. For my report to be dismissed so easily is insulting to me and to Toran.

Perhaps the Regulatory Affairs Team Leader mistook the word causal for the word casual.

This report was sent to Mylan’s UK office for assessment where despite the errors, notably the incorrect record of Toran having depression, the assessment was that the drug was the probable cause of his death.

The Mylan NZ report is here Mylan NZ Causality Assessment

The Mylan UK report is here Mylan UK Causality Assessment

I have written to Mylan correcting the errors in their reports and asking for an amended report to be sent to me along with an explanation of the ‘unassessible’ rating in the face of my clear offers to provide any information necessary for the assessment.


More info on the website as link above,


With more talk in mind – Dr John Read

This is a great article Id like to share

Sydney Morning Herald, the Age Melbourne

Any review of Victoria’s mental health services must look beyond psychiatry.

John Read

September 15, 2011


SERIOUS problems in Victoria’s mental health system have been revealed recently in The Age. The important thing now is to find solutions. In doing so we should remember that although Victoria is in the spotlight, similar ”crises” occur regularly all over the world. Perhaps this is because Victoria is not alone in having a system based on fundamentally flawed principles.

 Mental health services have become increasingly dominated by psychiatry’s ”medical model”, which claims that feeling depressed, anxious or paranoid is primarily caused by genetic predispositions and chemical imbalances.

 This has led to alarming rises in chemical solutions to distress. In New Zealand, one in nine adults (and one in five women) is prescribed antidepressants every year.

 The public, however, in every country studied, including Australia, believes that mental health problems are caused by issues such as stress, poverty and isolation. The public also prefers talking therapies to drugs and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

 Research suggests the public is right. For example, the single best predictor of just about every mental health problem is poverty, followed by other social factors such as abuse, neglect and early loss of parents in childhood, and – once in adulthood – loneliness and a range of adverse events including losses and defeats of various kinds.

 Meanwhile, reviews of studies on anti-depressants (which only recently have been able to include those previously kept secret by drug companies) conclude that they are superior to placebos only for those at the extreme end of the ”most severe” group of depressed people. This represents less than 10 per cent of the people who are receiving these drugs.

 A recent Cochrane review (the type most highly regarded in the scientific community) for risperidone, a leading anti-psychotic drug, ”suggests that there is no clear difference between risperidone and [a] placebo”.

 A placebo (from the Latin meaning ”I please”) is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed the talking therapies are effective partly because, if done well, they too instil hope and expectations of recovery.

 The problem is that psychiatric drugs often have serious adverse effects. Anti-psychotics, for instance, can cause rapid weight gain, loss of sexual function, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegeneration and reduced life span.

 As previously reported, my review of ECT studies (with Professor Richard Bentall of Liverpool University) found that this treatment is ineffective for most recipients and frequently causes permanent memory loss. This in itself can be depressing.

 ECT also has a slight but significant risk of death, most frequently from cardiovascular failure.

 Inpatient units are equally ineffective and can also be damaging. When will we learn that putting large numbers of extremely distressed people in the same building is not a good idea?

 What I conclude from all this is that any review of mental health services in Victoria, or anywhere else for that matter, should probably be led by anyone other than a psychiatrist – and certainly not in Victoria’s case the state’s Chief Psychiatrist, whose job, according to Dr Ruth Vine herself, is “to watch over how the system is functioning”.

It is unfair to expect Dr Vine to take an objective view on the failure of the system for which she is responsible. That lack of objectivity is amply demonstrated by her claims that ECT is “safe and effective” and that the problem is the public’s “negative” views. Perhaps a lawyer from the Mental Health Legal Centre might be a good choice.

 Any review should include mental health service users and their families, and other mental health professionals, including social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists and nurses.

(Psychiatric nurse Philip Lynch reminds us that there are thousands of staff “who quietly continue to do important work every day, often in challenging circumstances”; so why only listen to the doctors?)

 The review should also investigate what percentage of people receive drugs, and what percentage receive safer, more effective alternatives, and how a better balance can be achieved. It must scrutinise the contact and transactions between psychiatrists and drug company reps and consider ways to reduce or eliminate these, and as well find ways to reduce the pressure on psychiatrists by helping them feel OK about sharing decision-making. When things go wrong, as they inevitably will sometimes, everyone should share responsibility, and support one another.

 The review would need to explore the ”recovery model” recently introduced in many other countries, including New Zealand. (No, I am not saying New Zealand is superior to Australia – except, of course, when it comes to rugby.)

 Further, the review would need to learn from the many innovative non-government organisations, such as Voices Vic and Mind, and study ways to prevent mental health problems developing – perhaps by focusing on providing safe and nurturing environments in the first few years of life. Also, simply listen to the public.

 Finally, The Age can assist by reporting the issues without exaggerated headlines such as “1000 DEATHS”.

 Dr John Read is a professor of clinical psychology at Auckland University. He advises that no one should reduce or come off medication on the basis of information in this article but should, if they have concerns, consult the prescribing doctor.


Physics Dreaming and Extreme States- An interview with Arnold Mindell

This looks like a very interesting interview on Madness radio

 Physics Dreaming and Extreme States Arnold Mindell

Click here on this link:

 to go to their website and download the interview to listen to


First Aired 3-1-2011    Duration:

What is reality? Why do people in extreme states feel connected to the universe, and experience uncanny and even supernatural events? Does quantum physics have something to teach us about madness? What if therapists were like indigenous tribal shamans, entering into clients’ “psychotic” worlds as if stepping into a dream? Arnold Mindell studied with pioneering scientists Richard Feynman and Norbert Wiener and then became a Jungian therapist and founder of Process Oriented Psychology. He discusses his more than 40 years of work with individuals and groups, including people diagnosed with psychosis, and the ancient belief in a purposeful dreaming reality behind everyday events. (Trouble downloading? Try rt/cntrl clck here:

Pursuing the Knowledge of Wellbeing- event Friday 29 October 2010 Auckland

 Psychiatric Survivors Inc., the New Zealand Healing Association Inc, GROW,and the Patients Rights Advocacy Waikato organize:
 Pursuing the Knowledge of Wellbeing


Friday 29th October 2010 9.00 am to 4.30 pm 

Auckland Horticultural Centre, 990 Great North Rd, Western Springs

All are welcome, you can see registration details on the attached form.Looks to be a interesting day including the following:


Generation Rx (Miller K, 2009)A 80 minute film about millions of children who have been effectively forced onto pharmaceutical drugs for commercial rather than scientific reasons, withthe risk of devastating consequences.

Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education & Research.Maria Bradshaw whose 17 year old son Toran committed suicide 15 days after being prescribed fluoxetine will present research data showing a causal link between psychiatric treatment and suicide and evidence that effective suicide prevention requires a social rather than medical approach.
Mental Wealth, Julian McCusker-Dixon .A Philosophy, an insight, and Welcome In 


Living Matrix (directed by Susan Berker, 2009) 100 minutes of exciting individual stories of the inherent capacities of body and mind to heal themselves if allowed and supported to do so. Quantum physics and energy psychology in action confirms thousands of years of observations of ancient healing.

Who Matters Most in Mental Illness? Gary De Forest. Different sides of the same story, aiming for mutually assured survival in the mental health system
 How We Know What We Know About Mental Illness,  Prof Borislav Dacic.If the body is biological and genetic, is mental illness a brain disease or biological and genetic failure in other body systems? Are the mind, soul and spirit important facets of what we believe are mental illnesses? Is the long term drug treatment an efficient and safe treatment in Mental Health? What are the side or direct effects of drugs? Like Minds like Mine or Mind Freedom? We need to talk on these mounting controversies in Mental Health and allow dialogue of different understanding and knowledge in order to get real on mental illness.

More information on 021-206 8759 and on (09) 846-9945 Cost is $40 waged $20 unwaged. 


Mental Health Unit ‘failed teen’. New Zealand Herald Sat Oct. 16th

This article was  in the NZ Herald today, you can see it on their website here written by Chris Barton.

A coroner has strongly criticised the care provided by a specialist youth mental health unit leading up to the suicide of 17-year-old Toran Henry.

Auckland Coroner Murray Jamieson said Marinoto Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services’ care of the teenager “was deficient on occasion and in particular on the day of his death”.

His remarks were included in the findings of the inquest into Toran’s death on March 20, 2008. The report was issued yesterday.

Dr Jamieson was critical that, in the face of escalating developments on the day of Toran’s death, the Waitemata District Health Board’s service left his care in the hands of a relatively inexperienced “key worker” who spoke to Toran by phone.

“Toran stated, that day, that he lost faith in one of his key workers, feeling that she had abused his trust,” said the coroner.

He said the situation would have been better dealt with by immediate consultation with a specialist psychiatrist, who could have taken direct action “such as arranging an urgent home visit together with immediate admission to a secure facility if required”.

There was criticism, too, of the way Toran had been prescribed the anti-depressant drug fluoxetine, better known as Prozac, which is not approved for treating major depressive disorders in children and adolescents in New Zealand. But it can be given to that age group by what is known as “off label” prescribing, which requires informed consent from the patient.

Dr Jamieson said the information given to Toran about the drug was not satisfactory. It was not a single comprehensive document, not up to date, not designed for a person of Toran’s age and did not include clear advice about taking the drug in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

He recommended that Marinoto should review the information provided to adolescents, especially the importance of taking the medication as prescribed.

The coroner was also critical of the last occasion Toran was prescribed fluoxetine, at a cafe near Marinoto early in March 2008, by a registrar in psychiatry who had not met Toran or his mother, Maria Bradshaw, before.

The coroner said the consultation should have been carried out by a specialist psychiatrist “fully apprised of the history and clinical picture at a venue appropriate for such an important clinical encounter”.

Dr Jamieson did not make any finding on whether taking the drug contributed to Toran’s death.

Although the question came up during the inquest, the coroner has not addressed concerns that the drug packets in New Zealand do not carry a “Black Box” warning as required by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. The warning explicitly states that “anti-depressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behaviour in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder and other psychiatric disorders”.

Malaga a le Pasifika, the cultural support service of Marinoto, was also criticised for the way it attempted, but failed, to organise a meeting between Toran and his father, Geoffrey Henry, a Cook Islander, whom Toran had not seen since he was 14 months old.

The coroner concluded that the circumstances relevant to Toran’s death were:

* The career plan that Toran had set his heart on in early 2008 had proved impractical.

* Toran had been reminded of the absence and apparent rejection of him by his father.

* His relationship with his mother had been tense.

* His relationship with his girlfriend had recently been unhappy.

* The day before his death he had been humiliated in front of many peers when he was involved in a brief fight with a younger Takapuna Grammar School student.

* His abuse of alcohol clouded his judgment.

Clinical director of Mental Health and Addiction Services at Waitemata Murray Patton said a new fluoxetine information sheet had been developed for adolescents and children.

Marinoto clinical staff have also undertaken training to ensure all service users and families have knowledge of common and serious side-effects of psychiatric medicine and how to monitor for them.

Tragic toll
About 540 people a year take their own lives – many more than last year’s road toll. More than 2500 New Zealanders are admitted to hospital each year through intentional self-harm.

Age range for 2009/2010:
* 10-14….7
* 15-19….53
* 20-24….189
* 25-29….136


This linked article can be found here on NZ herald site and is also written by Chris Barton

Toran Henry’s mother, Maria Bradshaw, is disappointed with the findings into her son’s death.

“Was it worth $70,000 to get a [coroner’s] finding where the only recommendation made was that children should take their medication?”

Mrs Bradshaw is yet to learn whether she will get legal aid to cover some of the cost of her legal counsel at the inquest. She has had to sell her house to cover her costs to date and says she will file a complaint about the inquest.

She says she is particularly concerned that the coroner appeared to dismiss arguments during the inquest that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) – the class of drugs which includes Prozac – were not associated with suicide. She said the coroner did not clearly lay out the reasons for his findings or why he favoured some evidence over others, particularly about the drug’s side effects on Toran. “I just don’t feel that it has been thorough,” she said.

Mrs Bradshaw finds it difficult to comprehend that the coroner finds no criticisms of anyone at Takapuna Grammar. “When they called the police on the day before Toran died to report the fight outside the school, they didn’t mention to the police Toran was under the care of mental health services.

// They didn’t call me … I would have thought that might have attracted some comment from the coroner because that was another opportunity that this could have been prevented.”

Torans Mother is speaking at a Public Mental Wealth learning day coming up 29th October. I will post details in the next post, contact Psychiatric survivors if you are interested to attend on 021-206 8759 and on (09) 846-9945

Samoan Perspective

We had a great seminar on Cultural perspectives. The speaker on the Samoan perspective was David Lui. A very good speaker, he shared his insights into the Samoan culture and their views with us.  Here are some snippets from his talk.

He spoke of how it is considered normal to communicate with spirit. In particular ones ancestors. They may not always communicate in an audible voice. But sometimes as a sort of knowing. Guidance given to one. The Samoans say that the spirits live in a place called pulotu. It is from here that they communicate with us. He showed us on the map of Samoa  where the Spirits leave when they die.  

He spoke of one of the elders, who is considered one of the high Chiefs (Kings) of Samoa. How much he had learned from him. Here is a quote of his that helps to explain the integral nature of spirit in everyday life.

“…. if you want sight and insight into my psyche, you will have to speak to the gods who inhabit it.  You have to eavesdrop on the dialogue between my ancestors and my soul.  You have to address my sense of belonging.  For,  ), “I am not an individual; I am an integral part of the cosmos.  I share divinity with my ancestors, the land, the seas and the skies.  I am not an individual, because I share a “tofi” (an inheritance) with my family, my village and my nation.  I belong to my family and my family belongs to me.  I belong to my village and my village belongs to me.  I belong to my nation and my nation belongs to me.  This is the essence of my sense of belonging  

Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi

The TuiAtua is one of the most ancient titles in Samoa and are direct lineage heirs of the Tagaloalagi line of kings. The other ancient lines are the Tui A’ana and the TuiManu’a (brother of Lufasiaitu) It is testament to the ancient might of these districts.

So why we must ask is it considered an illness to see and talk to beings in other worlds? The Samoan and the Maori believe we are made from the divine. Is this what some people see in their visions?A glimpse of their own divinity which can often be interpreted as delusions by those without such an experience. While they are left at a loss to find sense of such an experience. Something to ponder on.


Letters re Influence of Pharmaceutical Companies in New Zealand

Some of you may have already seen these letters published in the Sunday Star times. A statement on the influence of drug companies on the way we are buying and using prescription medicines. I have also inserted a link to the article to which  Dr John Read is writing about. Surely independent advisers are necessary? Here are the letters below, one from Dr John Read, and another from Janette Saxby an alcohol and drugs clinician.
The first one was in the July 25th edition – reproduced here (I couldn’t find it online)
  A responsible response from the Ministry of Health to your article, “Flu Experts linked to drug firms”(July 18), might have been to consider an audit to determine how many other advisers were in the pay of drug companies. Instead, one of its deputy director-generals is reported to justify the use of such advisers because New Zealand is too small to find experts independent of commercial influence. Even in the US, however, the majority of “experts” employed by their FDA have links to the pharmaceutical industry.
An audit might start with mental health, where the pharmaceutical industry has effectively lobbied governments to purchase ever larger numbers of very expensive, but minimally effective, psychiatric drugs. Prescriptions of antidepressants and antipsychotics continue to grow, despite research showing that both have little benefit compared to placebo pills and have serious adverse effects. The fastest growing drug group, however, is methamphetamine-type stimulants for children with severe difficulty concentrating and sitting still, the side effects of which include an average of one centimetre a year reduced growth.
The Ministry should not be naive and ensure the advice they receive is uncontaminated by commercial interests.
                                        Dr John Read
Psychology Department
University of Auckland.
In todays Sunday Star times was a letter backing Dr John Read’s submission.
Dr John Read of Auckland University’s Psychology department suggested ( letters to the editor July 25) that the government has been lobbied by the pharmaceutical industry to provide ever-increasing numbers of psychiatric drugs. He states that some of the drugs are expensive and only minimally effective. He is frighteningly accurate in his assessment and cites the increase in both anti-depressant and also stimulants for children are not effective and in some cases, quite detrimental. Working in mental health in this country and in particular in working with youths, I was astounded at how quickly drugs were prescribed to those under 18, despite there being very little evidence for their efficacy.
Not only are anti-depressants being over-prescribed, so the reliance on prescription painkillers is growing. Substance abuse is not just limited to alcohol and cannabis but prescription pain medication is a growing problem in this country.
I am grateful that he shares his insight not only with the public through this forum but also has influence over students studying psychology at Auckland University and in future we may see some more enlightened practice with less reliance on drugs.”
Janette Saxby
Alcohol and Drugs clinician
Waikuku Beach Canterbury

Marijuana can send a brain to pot. The Star article.

This interesting article I found on The Stars website here

 note that it says the THC level found in the 80s in Marijuana used to be 3 or 4%. Now it is more like 12 %.

Also they have found there is more of the psychoactive ingredient and less of the Cannabiol which is protecting. 
 It is quite a long, but well researched article written by Nancy White.
Below is some of the article.(edited)

At age 17, sitting in the basement with friends smoking pot, Don Corbeil first noticed all the cameras spying on him. Then he became convinced a radioactive chip had been planted in his head. “I thought I was being monitored like a lab rat,” he explains.

It never occurred to him that marijuana could be messing with his brain. Corbeil had been smoking pot since he was 14, a habit that escalated to about 10 joints a day.

He started hearing voices and, at one point, Corbeil thought he was the Messiah. Police found him one day talking incoherently, and brought him to hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis.

Corbeil had dabbled in other drugs, such as acid and ecstasy. But marijuana was his mainstay.

When he went on anti-psychotic medication and off pot, the symptoms eventually stopped. But twice he tried smoking it again, and both times the demons sprung up. “Within 10 minutes, the voices started,” says Corbeil, now 20, of North Bay. “It was as if people had been in a box for a few years and then you take the lid off and they all want to talk to you.”

He slammed the lid back on the box — he swore off marijuana.

With good reason: Research in recent years has shown that marijuana can trigger psychosis in vulnerable individuals. But who exactly is at risk remains hazy.

Smoking marijuana is one of a messy mix of circumstances — genetics, stress, injury, age of first use — that likely predispose someone to psychosis.

“There seems to be a combination of risk factors. But nobody knows which combinations can be the triggers.” says Jean Addington, psychiatry professor at the University of Calgary and president of the International Early Psychosis Association.

Some studies suggest that youth in their early teens who become regular users — toking a few times a week — have double the risk five years later of paranoia, hallucinations and psychotic breaks.

While most studies have focused on cannabis and psychosis, researchers are also investigating the relationship between marijuana and other mental illnesses. In a survey of more than 14,000 Ontarians, Robert Mann, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that people who use cannabis almost every day were twice as likely to have anxiety or mood disorders as non-users. The study, however, did not determine whether the drug prompted symptoms or was used to self-medicate.

And a McGill University study on rats last year found that injecting adolescents daily with small doses of synthetic marijuana led to depression-like and anxiety-like behaviours in a series of tests. Researchers also found that rats’ brains were altered long-term.

“We finally understand that marijuana is not the harmless substance we thought it was,” says Dr. Leonardo Cortese, chief of psychiatry at Windsor Regional Hospital.

No one is talking about the return of Reefer Madness, the 1930s film about cannabis use leading to death and destruction. The vast majority of pot smokers will not go psychotic.

But two recent developments have researchers particularly bummed about pot.

Imaging studies now show that crucial regions of the brain are still developing in the teen years, the very time many start smoking pot. After alcohol, marijuana is the teen drug of choice. More than 30 per cent of Ontario’s Grade 10 students reported cannabis use in the past year, according to CAMH.

And what they’re smoking is not their hippie dad’s doobie. Growers have bred more potent pot, more than doubling the amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient, and decreasing the cannabidiol, a protective ingredient.

About 3 per cent of the population will experience a psychotic episode from all causes. The rate, however, of cannabis-induced psychotic episodes is not clear.

“We’re just catching up to the effects of high-octane weed,” says Dr. James Kennedy, director of the neuroscience research department at CAMH. “We need new follow-up studies to see its effect on the population.”

While psychosis is rare, for the kid hearing voices, it is life-altering. Some are lucky and the symptoms stop when the drugs stop, but for many, the voices and hallucinations recur.

Social stresses such as family problems and emotional trauma contribute to the risk of psychosis, as do some biological factors, such as brain injury, says Addington. A family history of serious, persistent mental illness, particularly psychosis, ratchets up the risk too, but the genetic markers are by no means clear cut…

In the 1980s, the THC level in marijuana was about 3 to 4 per cent. In the last couple of years, says Det. Don Theriault of the Toronto Police, tests on marijuana show a 10 to 12 per cent THC level.

An estimated 20 per cent of Caucasians carry that COMT variant. That does not neatly translate into a one-in-five risk, however. “They could have several other genes that are protective. It gets complicated,” says Kennedy.

So what percentage is at risk of psychosis from marijuana?

Kennedy hesitates. This is not solid scientific ground.

“I’d guess 10 to 15 per cent would be at significant risk if they smoked a lot of marijuana, almost daily, in their teen years when the brain isn’t fully developed.”

It’s the brains front part, crucial in judgement and social perceptions that’s still under construction in the teen years. “The wiring, the circuits where the neurotransmitters flow and signal are still being laid down,” says Kennedy.

So does smoking pot permanently change or damage this still-maturing brain?

We’ll have that answer in two or three years, says Kennedy. Imaging studies tracking the growth of teens’ brains are looking at whether cannabis use alters the development, or permanently damages still-maturing brains.

It’s not only teens that may be vulnerable, however.

Ana Smith didn’t use marijuana regularly until her mid-20s, after she graduated from film school. “I’d stay home in the evenings with my cats, make tea and smoke weed,” says Smith, a Vancouver resident, now 39.

Then she started smoking during the day as well, first thing in the morning and through the afternoon, instead of writing screenplays. The only time she didn’t smoke was weekends, when she worked in a group home. She didn’t drink or do other drugs.

At first the voices in her head were pleasant. “They tricked me into thinking I was being discovered by Hollywood. It was a beautiful world for a couple of months.”

Then they turned evil, terrifying her. Smith spent four lost days just walking, sleeping on the streets. She finally checked herself into a hospital and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Smith has no known family history of mental illness. But a geneticist told her she had inherited genetic frailties from both her parents. Smith had also been under a lot of stress. “I think pot tipped me over the edge.”

After the diagnosis, Smith kept smoking pot because the voices demanded it. She stopped two years ago and her mental health has improved. “Now I know it’s just the illness rearing its head,” she says.

Research suggests that only about 15 per cent of people who experience a first psychotic episode do not have another, says Dr. Suzanne Archie, clinical director of the Cleghorn Early Intervention in Psychosis Centre in Hamilton. For a large portion of that 15 per cent, the episode was probably due to drugs.

“It can be very tricky to figure out if it was substance-induced or if there’s an underlying psychiatric illness,” says Archie.

If the patient is off drugs for six months with no psychotic symptoms, Archie leans toward a substance-induced diagnosis.

But for the majority, those diagnosed with a psychotic illness, the big question is: Could it have been prevented if the cannabis had been avoided?

That’s impossible to know, researchers say.

“The marijuana could cause schizophrenia to come on sooner,” says Kennedy. “If it interacts with a not fully-developed brain it could create a more severe, a more disruptive version of schizophrenia.”

With schizophrenia, marijuana likely precedes psychosis, although some people may smoke to ward off early symptoms.

With depression and anxiety, clinicians face a chicken-and-egg dilemma: Did the pot help spark the symptoms, or was it used as an attempt to self-medicate?

“These cases are difficult to tease apart,” says Dr. Benjamin Goldstein, adolescent psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Hospital. He advises anyone feeling anxious or depressed to stay away from weed. “The effects of pot on them swing more steeply toward the risk end.”

 To read the full article see The Star website.


Early cannabis users 3 x more likely to have psychotic symptoms

New research from the University Queensland shows the links between cannabis and psychosis.

See the original  article online here on the University Of Queensland website

Researchers at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute and School of Population Health have found young adults who use cannabis from an early age are three times more likely to suffer from psychotic symptoms.

A study of more than 3,800 21-year-olds has revealed those who use cannabis for six or more years have a greater risk of developing psychotic disorders or the isolated symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.

The study is based on a group of children born at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital during the early 1980s. They have been followed-up for almost 30 years.

“This is the most convincing evidence yet that the earlier you use cannabis, the more likely you are to have symptoms of a psychotic illness,” lead investigator Professor John McGrath said.

The research, published in the latest edition of Archives of General Psychiatry, also included the results of 228 sets of siblings.

“We were able to look at the association between early cannabis use and later psychotic symptoms in siblings. We know they have the same mother, they most likely have the same father and, because they’re close in age, they share common experiences, which allows us to get a sharper focus on the specific links between cannabis and psychosis – there is less background noise.

“Looking at siblings is a type of natural experiment – we found the same links within the siblings as we did in the entire sample. The younger you are when you started to use cannabis – the greater the risk of having psychotic symptoms at age 21. This finding makes the results even stronger,” Professor McGrath said.

“The message for teenagers is: if they choose to use cannabis they have to understand there’s a risk involved. Everyone takes risks every day – think of the sports we play or the way we drive – and people need to know that we now believe that early cannabis use is a risk for later psychotic illness.”

Schizophrenia is a serious disorder that affects about 1 in a 100 Australians, and usually first presents in young adults. This is also the time when the brain seems most vulnerable to cannabis. “