Pubdate: Fri, 16 Sep 2011
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2011 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Pamela Cowan, Leader-Post


Being hospitalized with psychosis while in his teens saved Shannon

The 15-year-old detoxed from meth amphetamines and pot, which he began
using in Grade 7.

"Looking back, I know I was just trying to medicate or make myself
feel better," U'Ren said. "It's a good thing I did have the psychosis
when I did because I went to the hospital and stayed there for two
months. During that time, I detoxed and I was no longer addicted to
these horrible, horrible things I was putting in my body."

During his only episode of psychosis, he experienced visual

"I didn't hallucinate. I didn't see things that weren't there. But if
I looked at a rug, my brain would make it three-dimensional, so it was
a distortion of what I was seeing," said the 29-year-old. "I had a
really hard time communicating with people or doing simple tasks."

U'Ren and Catherine Willinsky, manager of national programs for the
Schizophrenia Society of Canada, spoke Thursday about the Cannabis and
Psychosis Awareness Project at Changing Minds -- a national conference
held by the society in Regina.

"The project, which began about three years ago, is a partnership
between the Schizophrenia Society and three different early
intervention psychosis clinics across the country," Willinsky said.
"We worked with them to investigate the relationship of cannabis and
psychosis from the perspective of youth who have experienced both."

Twenty-two youths, who were recruited and trained as research
assistants, interviewed more than 50 young people across Canada
individually and in focus groups.

"We wanted to ask the kind of questions that would be relevant to
their peers so we could investigate the issue of why young people with
psychosis use cannabis," Willinsky said. "We know that between 70 and
90 per cent of youth in treatment for early psychosis do use or have
used, so it's a major feature of peoples' experience." Youths,
typically between 12 and 17 years, gave numerous reasons for using
marijuana, including peer pressure, curiosity, alcohol consumption,
anxiety reduction, fun with friends and to escape. The few youths who
never used cannabis said they were afraid of addiction or losing control.

Those interviewed expressed a lot of uncertainty about the link
between cannabis use and psychosis, but generally believed it played a
role. Many said using marijuana coincided with psychotic episodes
and/or intensified symptoms.

All of the results are being compiled for a final report. Messages
from the project are being shared using digital storytelling, poems
and rap at

Willinsky noted many interviewed said: "If they could speak to their
younger selves, they would try to discourage their younger selves from
using in the first place because, over the long term, it was quite
negative for their recovery journey."

U'Ren believes: "When you're experimenting with anything that's mind
altering, you are running the risk of damaging something that can't be
fixed. You can't fix the brain the way we fix a broken arm, at least
not yet." 
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