Marijuana and Behavior Disorder of Uncertain Origin
by Jacqueline Fields

The following account is written by the mother of a young man who was given a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and later bipolar disorder. He has suffered from severe behavior problems for many years and has tried many different kinds of medication. As we explained in the revised and expanded edition of our book, Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine, cannabis seems to be useful for some people with adult attention deficit disorder (page 176), impulse disorders (page 195) and bipolar disorder (page 140). The correct diagnosis of this patient is uncertain, but it is clear that cannabis helps him gain control over disruptive and destructive behavior.

This story is about my son Christopher. He is now 18 years old and has been using marijuana as medicine since October 1995 when he was 16 years old.

Chris was diagnosed as ADHD at Children’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, when he was 7 years old. His symptoms were very short concentration, low frustration level, totally disruptive in school to the point that school staff would refuse to work with him and would expel him regularly, saying he was too immature for school. He was expelled from kindergarten and spent two years in first grade. He would get mad and knock the books off the teacher’s desk - throw chairs - scratch deep marks into his face, bite his arms, and punch his face until his nose bled. At this time he was tried on Ritalin. His heart would beat so violently that you could see it through his clothing. He would be in a constant panic attack and the school social worker ended up sitting on him on the floor - calling me to come get him because she thought he was demon possessed. He was then expelled indefinitely until I took him to a psychiatrist. The diagnosis was ADHD. The community mental health center sent me to Children’s Hospital, Detroit, where the diagnosis was confirmed. Back at the clinic he was started on Tofranil and Dexedrine. The Tofranil was started first for his bad behavior. It was a little better for a while but that soon wore off. On top of this, other behaviors were whining, profuse sweating, arguing, and banging his head against the wall. So Dexedrine was added. I don’t remember any good results with this medicine. Chris was going completely out of control. He started walking out in traffic, scratching himself, jumping off high platforms, and punching out window glass with his fist. At around eight years old, they could not tolerate him in school, so he was started at a day treatment program. This was a school staffed with a psychiatrist and therapists and I was taught not to get over-anxious over anything Chris said. If he cussed me out, I was supposed to ignore bad behavior, and praise, praise, praise good behavior. He was to have plenty of space inside the classroom and outside so he could run the energy off. Not to pressure him with schoolwork, but to let him work at his own pace. His behavior was still bad. He would climb out a window and run from school. At eight years old he was alone in a big city. The police were called and I was called, and by the time I got there Chris had been found. Almost daily when Chris came home from school in a cab provided by the school, he would be laying in the back seat, kicking at the glass and acting like a caged animal. This went on until we left Detroit in August of 1988. We moved to Williamsburg, Kentucky, where we live now. Chris was enrolled at Nevisdale elementary, where his behavior could not be tolerated, even with placing him in the resource room. The principal spent 75% of his time with Chris because the teachers could not keep him in class. Of course the principal could not let this continue, but I will say that this one principal tried harder to work with Chris than anyone ever had.

Anyhow, Chris was then placed in a comprehensive care school. His psychiatrist and therapist were on the grounds and you’d think this would be the idea placement. WRONG. Chris ended up being hospitalized time and time again for medicine changes. Trying to find what works. He was tried on Mellaril, Thorazine, Paxil, Buspar, and Ritalin again, which almost starved him to death. A therapist there told Bill and I that we shouldn’t keep Chris so close to home. We should let him out in the community with other children. We had to force Chris to go out on his own. Big mistake. He got with some other kids and we learned he had been coerced into walking a beam on a real high bridge. Luckily he didn’t fall. They experimented with huffing gasoline. Chris was on Mellaril and imipramine at the time. He had received his last dose at 8 p.m. on August 7, 1992. I had Chris with me downtown grocery shopping and was unaware that he had been huffing gasoline earlier. He seemed perfectly fine to me and was OK when we went to bed. Chris had always had trouble sleeping, so when we heard him in the living room we didn’t think it odd. It was only when he came to our bedroom wanting 50 cents to buy a pencil at the store that we noticed something wrong. Bill heard the front door slam and he jumped out of bed, got dressed real fast, and headed out the door. I felt something had gone wrong, so I jumped in the shower. My husband came back with Chris and ordered him to go to bed. I came out of the shower and entered Chris’s room. He was sitting there on the bed rocking his legs up and down. I asked him where he had been and he said he was outside waiting his turn to ride the four-wheeler with the neighborhood kids. I asked him wasn’t it awfully early at 6 am to go out riding and he said, "No, we’ve been riding all night." I asked him when he got with the other kids and he said they had all spent the night here. I knew Chris had snapped. Suddenly he started talking to his friends as if they were right there in the room. We headed to Corbin Hospital. They checked him over and made arrangements for Chris to go directly to the psychiatric hospital at Somerset. My husband, my sister and I took Chris there - the whole time he was talking out of his head. For the next three days he was disoriented. He stayed in the hospital for two weeks. I had them checking for anything and everything in his system. All they ever found was Chris’s medicine that was supposed to be there. Chris finally told the doctor he had been huffing gas, but it didn’t show up in his system so all we could do was believe him. At this time he was tried on more medicine, Ritalin, which took his weight from almost 160 down to 117 pounds. It had to be changed to something else. At this time Chris was 13 years old and the diagnosis of opposition defiant disorder was added, and mild mental retardation. He was released back into comp care to continue medicine and therapy. He remained on these medicines until he ended up in Corbin Hospital in January 1995 and was put on Haldol, lorazepam, and clonidine. He was released on Klonopin and clonidine. These two medicines were bad. Every time he would wake up he was begging to die. I took him off the Klonopin because I had suicide watch 24 hours a day. Comp care put him back on medicine and on October 13, 1995 Chris went into Riverdale Psychiatric and was tried on Tegretol, trazodone, clonidine, lorazepam, and Buspar. All of these did no good but he stayed on clonidine and on Dec. 13 he was back in Humana Hospital and released on Catapres.

Sometime in January of 1996 Chris started daily doses of marijuana, and his psychiatrist resigned from Chris’s care because he didn’t know its side effects. In February or March I went to see another psychiatrist in Somerset and he spent one session with Chris, marked all over one of Chris’s psychological reports and told me bluntly that Chris had bipolar manic depressive disorder and that he personally did not see how I ever managed to keep Chris in school for as long as I had, and that if anyone in the school system read the psychological report they would not keep him in school. I was completely crushed. Then I came home and called Dr. Goldbloom and found out he had retired. I felt at that minute that Chris and I had gone the last mile and that there was no hope. Chris was going to voc rehab three days a week and the rest of the time he was aggravating me to death. The only relief I got was when he smoked marijuana, so I starting letting him use it every three to four hours. From January until May no one knew he was using it. Then in August school started again and he started the voc rehab again. Voc rehab three days a week and school two days a week. This worked really well. He would smoke his marijuana early, then go to rehab and school, and everyone commented on how well Chris was doing.

One morning he got up late and didn’t have time to smoke his cigarette. He had a horrible time at rehab. The supervisor called him into the office to find out why his behavior was so bad that day. Chris told her bluntly he hadn’t had his medicine. She asked what that was and he told her marijuana. Chris’s employment at the rehab ended that day, so we had to have a school meeting. Since Chris was using marijuana, he could not go to school either. So I asked that he be allow to be home schooled with me as that teacher and the school system could pay related services money to keep it going. They agreed because Chris is entitled to an education, and I am unable to obtain his marijuana in pill form. Marinol is available but no doctors anywhere will prescribe it because they are afraid they will lose their medical license. So as of this writing Chris is still illegal. He and I are criminals. I have written letters, made phone calls, done everything I know to do to be made legal. All I can say is this - people may not see the benefits of marijuana and I don’t understand how it works, but it does work. I call it our miracle drug because it has literally saved the lives of Chris and me. I have three children and I love them all, but Chris is special and has special needs. My other two sons can care for themselves, but Chris can’t. Before we found marijuana, Chris and I had actually planned our own deaths. After going through pure hell for 16 years we were both ready for the end. Just by a fluke, my middle son took Chris out one evening and brought him back home high on marijuana. After complete hysteria on my part - after I had talked with the doctor and pharmacist and learned it would not kill him - then I sat back and observed. Complete calmness - there was actually a loving human being in Chris’s body. I had never seen this kind of metamorphosis before. This person was likable, funny, cheerful, and the opposition come down and leveled out at a normal teenager. When he uses his medicine he is neither the president of the world or scum of the earth. He is almost a normal human being, level down to earth. We can both live with the person he is when he smokes his medicine. His hands do not shake and he can shave his own face. He smokes marijuana every three to four hours and it’s heaven on earth, but if we have to shorten the dose it is pure hell. He blacks his own eyes and punches himself. Anyone reading this would say this young man needs to be committed. And I say why? All he needs is the medicine that comes in a plant and he can function OK. I love my child and as long as I can possibly afford it he will have the medicine that keeps him sane. Didn’t God put aspirin in the bark of a willow tree? God is merciful. He walked me straight into marijuana when he knew I was ready to end our lives. God gave me marijuana as medicine for my son and to me that outweighs any kind of man-made law.

If I am arrested and put in jail, my husband will see to it that Chris gets his medicine. And if he is arrested I have two older sons that will see that Chris gets his medicine. If that fails I have friends and family who would make sure that Chris gets his medicine. I will not give up until this medicine is legally available for any person who has a medical need. In January 1997 I had to go to court to obtain legal guardianship of Christopher. He had turned 18 in November and was not capable of making decisions for himself. So there had to be investigations of Chris, me, our family, our home and so on. The social worker sat in my home and watched Chris smoke his medicine. She saw firsthand the before and after of Chris’s behavior. There was a psychologist visit and I made sure he knew about Chris’s marijuana use and he documented it. Our doctor already knew about it and agrees with it 100% but he cannot say it on record. All he can say is that he is aware of it. I talked with the judge and she was aware that Chris uses it for medicine before the hearing. At the hearing it was brought out by the social worker that she, the psychologist and doctor are all aware of Chris’s medical marijuana use. In front of the county attorney, Christopher’s attorney and the jury. Chris was found to be 100% disabled and I was awarded full guardianship even though they all know that I provide Chris’s marijuana. That is saying a lot for the authorities in our town. I am very proud of them when they put the well-being of a person above man’s law. I appreciate this very much. Christopher’s marijuana as a medicine is well documented in the town that we live in. Now I can only hope that it becomes legal and I will keep fighting until it does.

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