Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

Seventy miles northwest of New York City is a hospital that looks like a prison, its drab brick buildings wrapped in layers of fencing and barbed wire. This grim facility is called the Mid-Hudson Forensic Psychiatric Institute. It’s one of three places the state of New York sends the criminally mentally ill—defendants judged not guilty by reason of insanity.

Until recently, my wife Jackie­—Dr. Jacqueline Berenson—was a senior psychiatrist there. 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 strangers.

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

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26 Responses to Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence

  1. Towser says:


  2. Walpurgis says:

    I kinda think if Cannabis caused all these mental issues, we would see a lot more of it in the populace than we do.

  3. Mike_C says:

    If the evidence that marijuana CAUSES mental illness is out there, the article did not do a good job of showing it. (I have no idea, not my area of expertise.) Even if we stipulate that there is a cross-sectional association between pot and mental illness, it does not prove causation. For example, it could be that mentally ill people are drawn to marijuana, for various reasons.

    For example, there is a strong association between tobacco smoking and schizophrenia, IIRC. But no one seriously thinks that tobacco makes you schizophrenic. (Smelly and cancer ridden, sure, but not schizo.)

    That said, personally I’ve never used and am not interested. I’m also not a fan of legalization, not that anyone asked. But if I were President of the Earth, it’d be: for personal use, minimal penalties on the books, but in reality not enforced unless you’re making a big nuisance of yourself.

  4. Muzzle Blast says:

    The article is authored by a journalist with education in history and economics where he is making wild inferences confusing correlation with causation. The article itself reads like a sweepstakes come-on and being re-titled to Refer Madness II would be more appropriate.

    He is like a person who observes wet sidewalks outside, goes outside to get pelted by rain, observes this a time or two and can then only conclude that wet sidewalks cause rain.

    It is some of the finest tepid bovine feces I’ve come across in quite some time … putting any credence into it would be a foolish thing to do and I do not recommend it.

  5. Dan Patterson says:

    Great article..

  6. Unclezip says:

    I’m glad he started off correctly by tacitly admitting his wife is his moral and intellectual superior.

    The opiate problem in Appalachia started because the pharmaceuticals, aided by their pet pill-pushing ‘doctors’ and no real regulation, shipped enough opiates into the area to kill everyone in the country. Him(?) throwing that in was nothing more than another leftist attacking the hillbillies.

  7. WestcoastDeplorable says:

    Sorry, not buying it. The good vastly outweighs the bad, and among those “experts” who are touting this shit, I don’t see any research into what ELSE the schizo have ingested (including drugs from big daddy “Pharma”.

  8. Buzz D. says:

    This great article changed my mind about legalization. Very important read. Thank you Kenny and WiscoDave. The potency of the new grass is way too high to be safe. I do not want to have my Grandchildren killed on the road just so pot heads can get high legally.

    • Wirecutter says:

      Shit, the potency of weed has been through the roof for years now.
      Don’t blame that, blame the amateurs who smoke it and drive.

      • charles w says:

        Plus there are different types also. Sativa and Indica are different highs.

      • Blu Vaner .40 says:

        It’s like hard liquor. You don’t have to drink the whole bottle in one sitting, just like you don’t have to smoke the whole bag in one sitting.

    • Just a Chemist says:

      Then we need to outlaw alcohol, again, right? That way, the spongeheads won’t be able to kill your grandchildren killed on the roads just so they can get drunk legally.
      I’ve never used, hell, I’ve never even seen pot outside of a “DARE” presentation, but I just can’t help but compare it to alcohol.
      Most people with severe metal issues consume alcohol to excesses… and so on. If you took this guy’s essay and replaced all reference to cannabis with “distilled spirits”, it would read like an apologetic from the temperance movement, ca 1922.

  9. Blu Vaner .40 says:

    I’ll bet they drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes also. Were they breast fed as babies? Did their daddies love them? I’ve been around pot smokers for 40 years, and have yet to witness a single act of violence or insanity described in the article..

    • crazyeighter says:

      As Carlin said, “Mother’s milk leads to heroin.”

      • Butch says:

        So does eating carrots. Every heroin junkie ate carrots at some point in their useless lives.

        This discussion is one I have heard over and over for the past 40 years. Tokers are going to defend pot and non-users are going to disparage pot.
        I have never used but people who did use (not on the job) worked for me, from time to time. They thought their job performance was sterling, but it sucked. Once I found I had a toker on the payroll, I found a way to get rid of them.

    • H says:

      Well, I’ve seen some dumb shit behavior from pot smokers and might maybe have done some stupid stuff myself about 40 years ago, but no violence either and not a single cop I’ve ever discussed it with would prefer dealing with drunks instead of pot smokers. Not one. Not that I consider all cops to be paragons of discernment but to me that constitutes a trend.

  10. just sayin says:

    the Marshal regime who currently runs the South Australian state government recently quadrupled the fines for cannabis growing and possession, not bad given the rest of the world is tilting to legalization, me l think it’s just a corrupt tax grab, but then l’m lookin at a sentence as a “commercial grower” for 3 plants less than waist high that l make butter out of (2.2Lbs of grass makes me about a pound of butter which lasts me about 3 months).
    15th Feb l will let y’all know how hard they hit me.

  11. Ferndale says:

    This article is absurd. There is ZERO causal relationship. Some people are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. Amongst those people, marijuana may contribute to a florid psychotic reaction; this is well documented. Those people who are schizohrenic will experience symptoms regardless of whether or not they ever smoke marijuana. People without a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia will NEVER experience a florid psychotic reaction to marijuana, though they may experience a heightened risk of panic. There IS a risk of marijuana contributing to depression, as marijuana is demotivating and increases the severity of anhedonic symptom features. There IS a risk of marijuana contributing to lower achievement, performance, and cognitive processing speed; the result is a reduction of IQ by around 5 points for those who start using marijuana in adolecence.

  12. Travis says:

    Pot is definitely stronger now than when I was in high school. BUT, the only thing ever killed by someone high was a box of Twinkies.

  13. CC says:

    Did it ever occur to this brain trust that maybe people who are already schizophrenic started smoking pot as a method of self-treatment?

  14. just sayin says:

    the numbers of people allergic to penicillin and peanut butter these days, if we tried to get them recognized in todays society, neither would pass muster sadly. oh and those damned egg allergies, gotta ban them suckers too, huh

  15. Brock Townsend says:

    Asinine. As an avid user for 50 years I can unequivocally vouch that it doesn’t do any more that make one ‘mellow’. Have no idea where they come up with this B/S. It also overcomes nausea from radiation.

    • Wirecutter says:

      I’m the opposite.
      While weed doesn’t make me violent, I’m a lot more prone to fight if you fuck with me when I’m stoned. Alcohol makes me mellow. I can be in a bar drinking and if somebody comes up and tries to start some shit, I’m apt to buy them a drink and ask if we can settle it tomorrow.
      I know, I’m weird.

  16. Sail Man says:

    Bullshit reefer madness. I’ve been in EMS since 91. Calls related to weed I can count using the fingers of one hand. Alcohol? Hundreds, thousands of calls related to booze. And reefer wasn’t my “gateway drug” back in the day, alcohol was, thats what gave me the courage to try other shit.

Play nice.