Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Adult Schizoaffective Son Smoking Pot, Self Medicating Christmas

My son was diagnosed back in 2014 with schizoeffective bipolar disorder and drug induced psychosis, which was enhanced by excessive pot smoking and other drugs.
Was put on APs, depression and anxiety meds. He decided in December 2018 to stop taking meds, started to self medicate with marijuanna and the symptoms came back full force. March /April 2019 Suicide attempts, audio hallucinations, voices, lack of maintaining proper hygiene, etc. hospital stays, and results… Invega injections (max amount), anti anxiety meds, and anti depressants. He was doing so great, always longing and wanting to smoke pot (which triggers the psychosis and schizophrenia symptoms) but never doing it until this week. He just started working construction again, has some money in his pocket and went to a dispensary.
He is 28, lives at home with me (48 year old mom) younger brother 18, and his soon to be step dad.
He has 2 other brothers, 22 and 26 who are returning home for Christmas.
I am his “person” , his main support, his go to person. This shocked me yesterday when he told me he went and smoked and he felt good and everything went well and thats what he wants to do.
He has been frustrated taking his meds, and been wanting and asking all different doctors to prescribe different meds, medical marijuana… basically he misses getting high. I have time and time again tried to explain that it will trigger the psychosis, but he refuses to care or to believe it. I know I can’t tell his grandparents ( it will truly give them a heart attack or stroke. They held my hand through this last cycle and will be devastated).
I am fearful of what lies ahead. I was not ready for the cycle to return so soon. I have just been bouncing back to “normalcy” myself and reaching out to the friends I have lost.

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This will be interesting, IMO he needs a place of his own, house, apartment, trailer out back… group home?

Stress is the trigger IMO, better pot then H, none of it is good, but the SZ will try anything to escape the horror… completely understandable…


Hi and I’m sorry to hear that , is it possible to tell him if he wants to live with you then there are rules and your first rule is No drugs ? and explain to him that you don’t want to see him go back to hospital

Yes, I did. Several times before he actually went to the dispensary, I clearly told him just that. I wouldn’t approve of it, he is not to be smoking while living here, I dont want to see him doing that to himself and that he is risking his sanity. He was told he could do permanent damage (which I believe happened a few years ago as well).
He said it makes him “happy” like nothing else. I told him its bc he’s high.
It is very upsetting. I don’t want him to go back to it.

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So Sorry , I would also tell him that he can not do it outside the house and live with you , sometimes there may be a little miracle they may listen .

I am in the exact situation with my Son at this time. Hoping to get some help also. Not sure how much more I can handle on my own.

@Kristin04 and @Pen, our situations are similar. Discussion and logic, therapy, pleading, bribes, compelled rehab, threats to kick him out of the house - nothing we did stopped my sz son from using drugs, mostly pot, which in turn brought on more psychotic episodes. I kicked him out of my house but his Dad would set him up camping or at a motel, and I was totally on board with that because neither of us could bear the thought of our youngest boy being homeless. Probably 3 or 4 rounds of this.

After a stint at the psych hospital, I allowed my son to come back to my house. Seeing that we were all in a vicious circle, I finally went to counseling specifically to work on being able to make very hard decisions. Then I worked out a written agreement with my son on the rules for living at home, which included taking his meds and not using street drugs or he would be evicted. Well, he used drugs and I evicted him. By prior arrangement, his Dad did not step in. Our boy was homeless for 3 months.

He’s back home again now. Rules still in place and I do random drug tests. Clean for a year and a half. What helped: Alanon meetings, seeing a counselor as I’ve described above to help me break the cycle of enabling behaviors, seeing a counselor just to generally help, NAMI family-to-family program, connecting with others on this site (and connecting IRL with two of you!), taking care of myself.

All the best to you on this journey.

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Resetting the rules and consistency is key.
I haven’t made it to the NAMI family meetings. I’ve had all intentions of going but Monday nights are rough, not what I wanna do after being at work and coming home doing dinner. But I know I would thrive doing so.
I have felt the need to be available at home, and initially didn’t want to leave my then 17 year old home alone with my oldest.
Just need to make “me” a priority.
Are you in therapy for yourself as well? How have the meetings worked for you ?

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Yep. Completely understandable about not wanting to leave a younger sibling home with oldest. By “counseling” I mean therapy, so yes, I have been in therapy. I had a couple of therapists; the one that helped most had been a psychiatric nurse. She helped me through the roller coaster of feelings and thoughts about my son - grieving who he had been, guilt about the role his Dad and I may have had in his illness, anger that the son I had and imagined was wrenched away, stress and frustration from the inability to help him, terrible worry about his future. In therapy I had someone to talk to about all this who could help me through it.

As importantly, Alanon and NAMI helped in just meeting and talking to other families who were in the same boat. I liked Alanon because you can just drop in. In addition to the NAMI classes, in my area they have a monthly drop in meeting; I went to a few of those early on. Really helpful because you were able to hear other’s stories and get information on local resources, which was its own journey.

Oh the ups and downs of cannabis. My sz son prob brought on his illness due to a combination of pot smoking, genetics and being a young teen. That saddens me and scares me for other kids but to be honest he has smoked the entire time pot and cigarettes. He is living independently and swears that pot helps him cope. He had been in clozapine fir 5 years and that had been a big help. He know pot and cigs only decrease the clozapine in his blood. He doesn’t care. He wants to stop being a waiter and work at a dispensary. I myself don’t smoke anything but how can I tell him to stop if he is managing on his own ? Lately he’s hit a bump in the road and may be doing stimulants. Now pot seems so not important.

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you dont, take hit with him…

I totally agree.

This was really brought home to me when my husband and I visited his family (with whom he feels very safe) over Christmas.

Whenever he and I walked from our hotel to his brother’s house, the surveillance was always very high (except when it was so late at night that the streets were deserted).

In contrast, when his brother invited him for a walk one day through a busy business district, he had a great time and was pleased to report to me that the surveillance had been “very light”.

I had previously been able to observe many occasions during which his symptoms demonstrated a significant increase in response to external stressors (lack of sleep, work/social pressure etc.) but this was the first time I got such direct feedback on the way his symptoms can decrease when he feels safe.

Poor guy.

Such a familiar story.
Hard to know if the pot in adolescence actually triggered the psychosis or if it was coming on and they used pot to cope. My adult son in his late 20’s does not want to be medicated. His drugs of choice are cigarettes and pot. I have been agonizing over this because we have a history of lung CA in our family. Though these are clearly not good for his health in the long run, how do we know if he would be able to cope without them. My son also misses the high when he tries to give up pot, and feels it helps him to be more creative. I have tried to tell him that the irritability and anxiousness he feels when he attempts to stop smoking cigs is because Nicotine is so addicting. (I have heard that a very high percentage of people wit SZ type disorders smoke and use pot.)

I too am fearful or what lies ahead. But I am beginning to see that by us allowing him to live with us indefinitely, it is taking away any chance he has at being independent. He doesn’t have to try to hold down a job because all his needs are met. He says that he wants to live on his own, but has not taken the steps to do so.

Of course there is the possibility that he can’t hold down a job. I think he needs to go down that road enough times til he realizes their is something wrong and that he needs services or else figure out a way to make it work.

No one wants to see their child become homeless. Honestly that sounds like one of the hardest things to be able to bear and I don’t know if we can or if we will again give in. Sometimes it may take a reality check for someone to realize that they need help.

Of course this is easier said then done. We haven’t given the ultimatum yet, and we haven’t been clear in our limits, so why should he believe us. What I am hoping is that he will move out, get a job and try to navigate living on his own. Or that he will stay with us, with the condition that he gets regular therapy and goes to a doctor. We have given in many times because it is so unpleasant to be around him when he is angry and says that we are manipulating him. So his Dad and I need to go to therapy and learn to be consistent, which is so hard.

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Same situation. My 28 yo, dx schitzophrenia, insists on smoking pot. It takes him into a near psychosis episode. Tried to tell him that pot brings this on… he doesn’t believe it. Doesn’t take his meds. Its a horrible disease; I get so mad at things he does, then I have to remember he is very ill. What a sad life he has, and a stressful one for us, the parents.

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Kristen04 Your experience is almost identical to our journey with our now 22 year old son. He left for college in 2016 on a full academic ride, joined a frat and did a lot of drugs including LSD, MDMA, PCP cocaine but the main drug was pot. He smoked it Day and night. I went to see him his first semester and he seemed anxious, hostile toward me and disheveled. He was worried about grades and felt pressure from keeping his scholarship and his rush experience with a frat. He finished with a 3.8 which he is still proud of.
We had NO idea or reason to believe he was on drugs. We have always taught all 4 of our kids about the dangers. At Christmas I had text him asking what he wanted and when would he get home. I either got no response or odd responses. Fast forward he called us saying he was in another city, scared tired and lost. My gut instinct was that he had driven there to drive a friend home before break. But it was much much worse. He was in a full blown psychosis. We were so clueless and spent 2 days searching for him and his car with state police. The police finally found him and thought he was intoxicated.
We took him to the ER and they put him on olanzapine/ 20 mg. But that was after they had to take a 72 hour hold on him because he got angry with us and we don’t have guardianship because he was 19.
We got him back to himself on this medication. At the 5 month mark he went off of it, got a job, went back to college here locally and was doing well. I could see the residual effects on his soul though. Around Christmas 2017 old friends came home and he started smoking pot again. Almost immediately I could see the confusion and psychosis coming back. No delusion but he kept saying he thought people were talking about him at school - paranoid. In May 2018 he moved back down to college and back in with a frat brother who is a drug user and dealer. This kid stole money from him and our son was finally starting to realize he had a problem. He came to us and said he wanted help. We got him in with a new doctor and back on Olanzapine. He was only on it less than a month and recovered quickly and returned to work and abstained from pot. In all of this time his one obsession remained on pot and his idea that it would not harm him. He still couldn’t see the connection between THC and psychosis or schizophrenia.

In the spring of 2018 he decided he wanted to take a semester off and work to save and move out. By now he was back to smoking pot morning noon and night and even in his room. I gave him the choice to go to drug treatment and stop or move out. He moved in with some guys from work who smoked pot and he spiraled from there. We saw him in March 2018 and he was struggling with his mind again. We moved him back home and he’s been here since. He went on Abilify from May - September 2019 and it did nothing whatsoever to help him. It caused hostility and language and speech issues.
In June of 2019 I got him into an Early Psychosis intervention program or EPI. Check them out online and reach out to them. This helped us so much. They switched him over to Geodon and he is on 40 mg twice a day. His mind is back but it’s taken about 10 weeks this time. He finished another 4 credits at college this last fall. ( slow but steady)
He has applied for and got one job but quit (4 am start time). We have told him that right now until he is stable his only jobs are

  1. Get well
  2. Abstain from drugs and be sober
  3. Learn all you can about substance misuse disorder and psychosis.
    This is harder than it looks though. He has been sober and drug free since March 18, 2019. But he talks about medical RX card for THC and CBD all of the time.
    We have a new psychiatrist now. He told him this week he wants off of the Geodon because it makes him tired. The doctor told him that he should not go off the medication because each time he does his symptoms return and it takes longer each time to recover. He said his brain would basically become resistant to treatment. I have read this before and I am not sure if it’s debatable or not.
    The ONE thing that I am certain of is this :
    THC is directly related to psychosis and schizophrenia in some people at risk for it. There are research articles on it and studies. But we do we hear the government say anything about this warning? We must inform and demand this warning gets out to consumers so that if they have family with schizophrenia or psychosis that they stay far away from it.
    He starts on Vayrlar 1.5 soon as he tittered off of the Geodon. He sleeps most of the day when he isn’t in class. He will take another class this spring. It gets him out and he has to focus. I worry that I will get a call that campus police have him for acting oddly. Right now he is doing well and I wish he would just stay the course on Geodon but maybe just a lower dose because it is working. He is refusing counseling and feels it’s a scam to take our money. He may be right lol. I know that cognitive behavioral therapy is a mainstay for helping schizophrenics gain insight into their mind and thoughts and to make better sense of reality.
    We have had to have my 75 year old mom stay with him so we could go to work. I worry constantly for the next episode when our world gets difficult again. It’s difficult now every day because he is no longer the son we knew. He has changed. But I look at my other kids and they are changing and moving forward too so there is that.
    We have become familiar with this cycle and right now we have had a few months of normalcy if that’s a good word for it. He still says some bizarre things and seems to say whatever he wants to whom ever and uses some profanity. But he has no voices, no hallucinations, no delusions, or confusion. He’s just very quiet. He has none of the negative symptoms and never has. He is very focused on his appearance and craves social activity - he just has no friends and struggles to meet and make new ones.
    My heart is broken and my heart hurts for all of you going through this. Be strong and remember that this day will pass and there is Hope! Our loved ones can get better and they can lead normal lives with the right medication and abstinence from drugs. It takes time.
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In my experience, not debatable. My son had/has a similar addiction to pot, with associated psychosis. He has been hospitalized 5 times. We dealt with the early episodes at home, but they became worse and resulted in hospitalization. Early on, in 2012, his recovery was maybe a week. Now, It’s been a year and a half of recovery since his last episode, and I’d say he’s around 85% recovered. I’m so grateful for that; hopefully he’ll continue his slow improvement.

I was just typing our story and lost everything. Through all my tears and thoughts I somehow cant find my post !! Argh !!

I will shorten my thoughts too much to go through at this time, but YES DEFINITELY THC is a HUGE contributor to bringing forth and unmasking the psychosis, paranoia, delusions, auditory hallucinations and all the negative symptoms this illness endures and wears on our loved ones and ourselves.

Due to the denial my son holds dear to his heart about his illness, he believes marijuanna will help him and cure him and that he doesn’t need the Invega Sustenna 254 mg. injections monthly or his anti anxiety meds and that all he needs is the right weed, and the doctors don’t know what they’re talking about. He thinks no one but he knows what he needs and what helps him.
The APs help with the psychosis and some of the symptoms but the negative symptoms are stronger than any meds my son has had and learning how to function and manage in this stressful world takes a tremendous amount of effort from everyone in the family.
He doesn’t realize the reason he wants to smoke pot is to be high and not in reality, because reality is way more uncomfortable for him to try to be a part of.

I am hurting today. I’m sad. I’m frustrated. I am trying so hard to be whole again from the past 9 months of my 28 year old son’s trauma, suicide attempts, hospitalizations, therapy, discontinuing therapy, maintaining medical injections and just life. Trying to help my 18 year old be excited to be going away to college next year. Keeping the family together ( I have 4 sons and am engaged to someone I’ve been with for 10 years, who now doesn’t know if he can handle this illness, that’s a post for a different spot).
I just want my son to stay away from the dispensaries, and move forward. It needs to get out there that the mental health issues are going to snowball and manifest into so much more for these innocent people carrying this awful illness !!

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@Kristin04, dual diagnosis is so very difficult. The negative symptoms are a big issue with my son, too. As if our poor loved ones don’t have enough to deal with, with just the positive symptoms and substance use. Then the universe has to throw in the negative symptoms, too. It all just sucks.

When my son’s rehab counselor suggested I attend Alanon, I was pretty disgruntled. Like, oh great, rehab isn’t going to work, is it (it didn’t) and you’re telling me to join a support group. It actually did help.

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Know exactly how you feel. You described my life except i have a wonderful husband. If we weren’t on the same page we would definitely end on divorce: like many couples have.