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Drug use increases risks of mental health and deaths

August 30, 2022

As of mid-August of this year, there have already been 63 near deaths and 6 deaths of children. In 2021 there were 70 cases for the entire year, a 35 percent increase over the previous year. 

Why the increase? 

According to reports from Texas, one of the few states to provide detailed information on drug use by perpetrators, cannabis is associated with a disturbing number of child deaths from abuse and neglect, many more than alcohol, and other drug use combined.

Is this a factor in Delaware where we allow medical marijuana use and illegal drug use is known to be widespread? 

I served on the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force. What was repeated many times was that there was a lot we do not know about the effects of the long-term use of marijuana. 

What we do know about the risks is alarming.


In an article by Alex Berenson, author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, he tells of a conversation he had with his wife, Jackie, who served as a senior psychiatrist at the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute

Mid-Hudson is one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill, defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity. Many of Mid-Hudson’s 300 patients are killers and arsonists. At least one is a cannibal.

Most have been diagnosed with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that provoked them to violence against family members or others.


A couple of years ago, Berenson said his wife was telling him about a patient. In passing, she said something like, ‘Of course he’d been smoking pot his whole life.’

‘Of course?’ Berenson responded.

‘Yes, they all smoke,’ his wife said.

‘So marijuana causes schizophrenia?’ he asked.

This conversation led Berenson to pursue the truth about the effects of marijuana use.


Berenson said teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly are about three times as likely to develop schizophrenia, the most devastating psychotic disorder.

A mountain of peer-reviewed research in top medical journals shows that marijuana can cause or worsen severe mental illness, especially psychosis, the medical term for a break from reality.

Berenson said that after an exhaustive review, the National Academy of Medicine found in 2017 that “cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.”


Cannabis users today are consuming a drug that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC, the chemical in cannabis responsible for its psychoactive effects, Berenson noted. 

In the 1970s, most marijuana contained less than two percent THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20 to 25 percent THC, due to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques, as well as a demand by users for cannabis that produces a stronger high more quickly. 


‘Over the last 30 years, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have turned speculation about marijuana’s dangers into science,’ Berenson said. 

‘Yet over the same period, a shrewd and expensive lobbying campaign has pushed public attitudes about marijuana the other way. And the effects are now becoming apparent. Almost everything you think you know about the health effects of cannabis, almost everything advocates and the media have told you for a generation, is wrong.’


Drug-impaired driving is an increasingly critical issue for states and state highway safety offices. 

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System reported that drugs were present in 43% of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result. Over one-third (36.5 percent) of the identified drugs were marijuana in some form. 


When House Bill 371 came before the Senate, the evidence of the dangers to mental health and highway fatalities were ignored. Instead the focus was on the revenue legalization would generate.

We are fighting a drug death epidemic. We are looking at fatal and near-fatal child abuse cases. 

What we know about the dangers should convince us that the risk is too high to pursue legalization in Delaware.

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