Ask About BPD
Comments 13

Ask About BPD: Self-Medicating, Medical Marijuana and Borderline Personality Disorder

Disclaimer: Cannabis, both medical and recreational, is very controversial and illegal in a great deal of the US and world. The views I express here, unless otherwise indicated, are my own. My experience should not be taken as anything but that, my experience and mine alone. It is not an endorsement of cannabis or any other drug. Only you can decide what helps you feel your best.

One of our readers asks: “I have a question… why is the only thing that seems to make my son seem half normal is to self-medicate? When he is stoned he seems to manage so well and seems so at peace and able to cope… but as soon as his buzz wears off he is crazy angry again? 😦 It is a lose/lose situation.”

This is what the experts have to say on the issue:

“…individuals with BPD may turn to psychoactive substances to self-medicate. The self-medication hypothesis is a psychoanalytically informed theory of drug addiction. This means that it includes the emotional and psychological dimensions in viewing addiction as a compensatory means to modulate effects from stressful states that are unmanageable for an individual. …nearly half of those with BPD have histories of substance use disorder. Rates of current and lifetime substance use vary from 14 to 72 percent. Other researchers have found a lifetime comorbidity rate of substance use disorder and BPD of 63.5 percent. This data demonstrates a clear relationship between substance use disorders and borderline personality.” http://www.borderline-personality-disorder.com/co-occuring-disorders/substance-abuse/

I think my experience supports this. I started having emotional problems in grammar school and smoked pot the first time when I was 12. I didn’t feel anything from it and didn’t try again until I was 14, when things had gotten really out of control for me emotionally. That time something magical happened, the pain in my mind and body was dulled to a bearable level for the first time in my life

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I was 15 when I was diagnosed with borderline and I have been self medicating with cannabis for the past 30 years.  There is no “anti-borderline” drug. I have tried all of the psychiatric medications that the doctors wanted to put me on, and none of them worked.

Worse than that, some made things worse for me. On some drugs I was paranoid, on some I was constantly suicidal, on some I was eating and smoking cigarettes in my sleep (I set my bedding on fire once because of “sleep smoking” and didn’t realize I was burning), on almost every one I experienced severe weight gain and on some I had fantasies of committing violence against myself and others.

Many times I was court ordered to take the drugs because I was on probation, no matter what they were doing to me, or I would go to jail. Eventually I refused to take any more psych drugs and that choice cost me my freedom for a year. When I finally got off probation I knew I had to get out of that place.

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I moved to CA for the mental health services and the medical cannabis laws. I was homeless my first year here, but it was better than jail. No one was forcing me to take drugs that harmed me and no one was arresting me for using the drug that helped me. That change in my legal status and the proper treatment with DBT completely changed my life around. Today I am accomplishing things I thought were not possible. But I also wouldn’t be able to keep doing these amazing things if I didn’t have cannabis to ease my severe anxiety symptoms.

There is a lot of conflicting information on cannabis out there. Some studies say it can cause psychosis and others say it reduces mortality in those with severe mental health struggles such as schizophrenia and psychosis.

“We observed a lower mortality risk in cannabis-using psychotic disorder patients compared to cannabis non-users despite subjects having similar symptoms and treatments. Future research is warranted to replicate these findings and to shed light on the anti-inflammatory properties of the endocannabinoid system and its role in decreased mortality in people with psychotic disorders.”  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3392453/ )

I know for a fact that cannabis has saved my life repeatedly. I can’t count the number of times I was battling urges to self-harm or thoughts of suicide and just a couple of hits eased those thoughts until they were gone. The only exception to this is when I smoke a pure sativa strain.

Most of the people I know who use cannabis prefer sativa strains but I have to avoid them like the plague. When I use sativa my baseline symptoms increase. As a baseline I become very overwhelmed by my emotions and cry about every little thing, I get irritated and aggressive. I am anxious and agitated; I often feel as if I am crawling out of my skin. The hardest symptom to deal with is having obsessive suicidal thoughts and urges to self-harm.

It took some time to realize there was a connection between my symptoms increasing rather than decreasing at these times. Before I had access to high quality medical cannabis I never knew about strains and had no idea what I was smoking. I just knew that I seemed to have these times when it made things worse rather than helping like it usually does. When I learned more and had access to a choice I started to realize the pattern. Since then I have not had any problems with adverse side effects.

Cannabis comes in 3 main varieties of strains:

  1. Cannabis indica. Indica strains are described by many as a “body high” or “couch lock” (meaning you can feel lethargic).
  2. Cannabis sativa. Sativa strains are described by many as a “head high” and are popular among artists and active folks.
  3. Strains that are bred to have genes from both varieties called hybrids. Hybrids have differing ratios of indica to sativa with wide ranging combinations of effects so people can tailor it to their specific needs.

All 3 have several active compounds including the most popular one-THC. THC is the ingredient in cannabis that makes you feel high. CBD is another ingredient and is thought to be responsible for relaxation and pain relief. It is also thought to balance out the THC so that you don’t get “too high”. Sativas have very little or no CBD so the THC is much more powerful. (I personally believe that sativas could be the cause when psychosis does develop.)

There are also several ways you can ingest cannabis.

  1. Smoking it is probably the most common and well known method, but it is far from the only one.
  2. Another way to use cannabis is to vaporize it, that is to heat it up just enough that the active ingredients vaporize for inhalation, but won’t heat it up nearly enough to actually burn the plant matter. This way no smoke is produced or inhaled, it is more like an asthma inhaler.
  3. Butter and oil can be infused with cannabis, baked or cooked into food items and eaten. This method can be difficult to regulate the dosage of as it can take several hours to feel the effects. This can lead to someone believing they need another dose to be effective before the first dose takes effect and becoming more medicated than intended. (Fortunately, you can not die from a cannabis overdose but it can make you sleep through your responsibilities the next day.)
  4. Alcohol based tinctures that absorb and produce effects more quickly when placed under the tongue.

 

All of these methods produce a slightly different and longer lasting psychoactive effect on the user than smoking does.

Many people who support cannabis think it is a perfectly safe miracle cure-all, but there are risks and limits to its abilities. Just like psychiatric medication you get at a pharmacy, cannabis has side effects. For some people they are mild and tolerable (even enjoyable). For others they are severe and disrupt their lives. I honestly believe that while cannabis can cause psychosis in certain people, for others, it can be the best thing for controlling their symptoms. Penicillin has saved millions of lives since its discovery, but it will kill me if I take it. Every person is different.

There are some side effects of cannabis that I don’t care for, but I find them more tolerable than psych drug side effects. It slows me down a bit more than I would like sometimes, but not as much as anti-anxiety drugs would. It gives me the munchies sometimes, but I don’t eat anywhere near as much (or in my sleep) as on anti-depressants or mood stabilizers. It can sometimes affect my short term memory, but at least I am fully aware of where I am and what I am doing, unlike when I was on other psych drugs. And honestly, when I am stuck in a negative thought pattern it is a good thing to forget what I was doing. 🙂

I believe that every human being should have the right to decide for themselves what is helpful to them and what is harmful. For years I was not allowed to make that choice, the “system” made my choices for me. I had to deal with the stigma and consequences of not being able to live with the choices made for me and making my own.

I believe so deeply that cannabis keeps my symptoms in check 98% of the time that I gave up everything I had and everyone I knew to be homeless in California for a year in order to move here. It was the best decision of my life. I finally got effective mental health treatment and stopped being arrested for trying to survive my condition.

My life isn’t great, not by a long shot, but it is the best it has ever been and getting better every day. I couldn’t have made it this far without the help of BOTH cannabis and effective BPD treatment. I am grateful to finally have power in choosing what is most effective for me.

 

13 Comments

  1. Thank you! This really validated a lot of feelings I had about marijuana. It actually clears my head and makes me think clearly and more rational. I have bpd quite severely, but smoking calms my mind. Therapists and doctors say it will make me feel worse but I think that’s because they have to as it’s illegal here. I always felt that it probably was making me worse but my bpd make me blind to that, but what you’ve said, except the personal facts, IS me. I’m taking it day by day and am disintegrating. I hope cannabis slows that process. Good luck and I sincerely hope you’re doing well.

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    • Hi,
      Don’t disintegrate! You can do it. My wife and I are battling hers with a consistent dosage of 1:1 the to cbd. Approximately non stop in smoking, but best is edible of any sort so that the ratio acts as a long term non-pharma mood stabilizer. Cbd is not enough alone, but thc alone or with excessive wrong terpenes is also not enough. Need to use specific high cbd strains. Think haileys hope and harlequin.
      Best of luck

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  3. Gabrielle Etesse says

    Hi read your article about marijuana for the treatment of BPD. How does one go about purchasing it as medical marijuana? I live in Ohio with my girlfriend who has BPD. She uses marijuana like you do but unfortunately it is not purchased as medical marijuana. For now, it is still illegal in Ohio. I don’t smoke it, did try it once or twice but couldn’t inhale, lol. Don’t smoke cigarettes either. My girlfriend uses both, but has a lot of medical problems in addition to her BPD. She was recently diagnosed with COPD ( Lung disorder and Congestive Heart Failure) and I worry everyday about the cigarettes. The marijuana however does the same thing for her that it does for you. I would love to find out how to help her get it medically, cause your right for some people it does wonders.

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    • If your state has not yet made medical marijuana legal then there is no avenue as of yet for you to purchase it legally. Hopefully soon your state will pass legislation to legalize medical marijuana, but for now it is best to contact your local representatives and push for new laws to be established.

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  4. Hello,
    Have you ever considered maybe it’s the CBD that gives you that calming effect and that’s all you need? My boyfriend has BPD severely. We’ve tried so many prescribed meds that just threw him off and threw our money and time out the window. He smoked weed a few times before we were together but it just made him paranoid and want to be antisocial. I’ve been doing a lot of research on BPD and last night, learned about CBD. I purchased a vial last night for him to try, but as the e-cig was charging, he had yet another episode.. Dear lord please tell me CBD is a calm down solution..

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  5. LostMyWay says

    “Smoking in your sleep”

    Wasn’t a antipsychotic by any chance was it? Olanazapine or the like?

    Been there myself, waking up with half cigarettes in my bed. If there’s a chance someone is reading this who’s still experiencing this dangerous phenomenon I need to say smoke roll ups not cigarettes. They burn themselves out very quickly. Cigarettes won’t.

    I self medicate with cannabis, it’s honestly the only time i feel “normal” and it’s took me a long time to stop believing it’s part of the problem not solution. I’m going to smoke till the day i die now, no more quitting to “see if i get better” I don’t. I get worse and become a danger to myself.

    I’m not diagnosed BPD, I’m tagged clinical depression with GAD and Agoraphobia.

    I know it’s more than that though, it’s more erratic than depression, and something more than anxiety keeps me indoors. I don’t understand the world, well people. I can’t connect, I feel alien, distant and though now I never form any kind of relationships, friend or otherwise when i did/could the closer I got to someone the more erratic my beliefs about them became. Paranoia like there was a big conspiracy against me from everyone, I always dubbed it ‘cabin fever’ but the more I learn about BPD the more I relate to it.

    It’s irrelevant really since our mental health services aren’t fit for purpose and regardless of my diagnosis I’ll get little treatment but anti depressants I lie about taking.

    11 years of my life gone, every relationship I’ve ever had evaporated. Left alone to rot.

    Weed is now the only time i can sleep, eat or not think about killing myself with any kind of ease.

    It’s funny because when i get some the first night is horrible, paranoia mainly but the next day I feel much better and then smoking weed only has positive benefits until it leaves my system again because i can’t afford an infinite supply.

    Any parents reading this who have “difficult” kids who smoke weed, don’t automatically assume it’s the drugs, obviously not all weed smokers are legitimately self medicating but i know i was labeled “difficult” and a “druggie” by everyone and only years later did they accept i had a genuine mental illness and until that time i was pushed further away and just seen as the black sheep. It didn’t help. It hindered.

    I’m just rambling. I’ll shut up.

    Like

    • Namename says

      Guy… Your comment spoke volumes to me. I am going through something VERY similar. My WHOLE life I have been tossing and turning, finding no rest in my mind, until weed came along.

      I have always felt something was off, but never had a reason to actually visit a psychiatrist or to delve deeper into researching my ‘problem’. Last year though, I got served court papers in a real-estate case which spun me into financial impotency, followed by a close family member committing manslaughter in an insane asylum during a psychotic episode. He was reacting to an imagined threat and thought he was defending himself. It took things to the next level and ended up in a five hour semi psychotic episode of my own, during which I heard auditory hallucinations and experienced an intense prolonged panic attack. Now, having to cope with the expenses of two court cases, feeling more out of control than ever, just waiting for “Jesus to take the wheel”… everything is MILES from being ok. But I know for a FACT that I wouldn’t even be here, were it not for the weed.

      I had been suspecting I had bipolar, but last night I decided to research BPD and found that it quite accurately described the tilted self perception, skewed thought patterns, antisocial behavior, suicidal ideation and paranoid fear of abandonment I have been experiencing all my life.

      Having read the comment section of this article, I find myself in a similar situation with many of you, as well as the author. Some strains DO seem to amplify the negative aspects of the disorder and even though CBD is said to have strong anti psychotic properties, it DOES seem that its more likely the Sativas that we should keep away from. Even as a child, I’d used to describe my thought process to my friends and family as having a 10 core processor in my head that I had no controll over. In that aspect, Indica strains help me calm that down. They let me “underclock” my mind and for the duration of the high I can focus on each thought and idea individually, instead of having a alphabet soup bouncing around in there.

      Having said all that, I am trying to quit weed after being a daily smoker for almost 3 years just to see what effect it would have on my psyche – would the disorder deteriorate or would some of the effects subside… thinking of taking on more exercise and giving meditation a serious go.

      Any advice?

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  6. YKCUB says

    I think I may have just found out what may be wrong with me. “BPD”
    unfortunately for me. my woman is very strongly against marijuana and she doesn’t realize that marijuana actually helped me. a lot. I love her so i will suffer for her.

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  7. Justin L says

    This article is excellent. I have not yet been diagnosed with BPD, but I have been doing some research and everything makes sense now. I understand why I feel like an outsider, no matter where I am. I understand why I can’t hold a relationship with a woman. I understand why I sometimes “snap” and get incredibly angry, and say things that are better left unsaid. I understand why sometimes I feel the need to punch myself as a sort of self punishment for things that I blame myself for. You may not have known it when writing this article, but in those paragraphs you really helped me understand why I’m the way I am, and why I can only seem to find sanctuary when I have smoked cannabis at least once in a day. People don’t understand how I can be a “functioning” stoner, and go through my daily life activities high all the time. I never understood how I could do it either. Thank you for writing such a well written article that really opened up my eyes.

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  8. David Highley says

    That was very enlightening for me, I’m just in that state myself, however I did fight it without any sort of medicating, my symptoms quickly turned into depression and anxiety.
    I learned to hold them back but it is mentally damaging. It leaves you confused and disoriented. Since I’ve started to medicate again with the proper strains like pennywise I am so much better. Thanks for that awesome story!

    Like

  9. Chloe says

    I am in absolute oar of what you have written. And you should be soo proud of yourself.

    Myself, I suffer with bpd. I’m 20 years old and I found out 2 years ago, and still learning how the hell too control me. I have had police at my house, neirbours complain, summited into hospital every suicidal attempt, the 5th time was on the 29th of June 2017, the one before that putting me in a coma for 3 days and 5 seizures. Each time blaming my family, (which deep down i think my dad has bpd aswell but will never admit he has a problem), but the rest of my family are beautiful.. and I used too blame them.

    I have been going and speaking too all sorts of “professionals” since less than 10 years old, and put on Fluoxatine at 13 years of age, abusing it with drugs, meth, hash, pills.. alsorts at about the age of 16-17. I am now absolutely clean of all drugs and have not touched a single thing since October last year. Except hash.
    I now use it ocansionally, but I’ve been told I can’t from the doctors. Yet I still do because it is the only dam thing that makes me happy, or feel the slightest bit normal. Yes I’m a bit ditsy, yes my memory goes now and then, but I’ve been learning memory strategies that actually seem too be working slowly.
    But I’m actually super active on it when I smoke it during my day off work, I will exercise, clean, take the dogs, dance, write music.. all in one day and I enjoy it. If I wearnt high I would probably do one of those things.

    Don’t even get me started on relationships! I am the most paranoid, crazy, historical, mean, bullying, and flirt! Even if I absolutely love and adore the guy.
    I love being involve but for me it is toxic.
    I have come too terms and recently broken up with my boyfriend who I wanted too spend the rest of my life with because I don’t have faith in myself that I’m going too change. I want too save later down the track of him breaking up with me! Because no man would stick this crazy gal out.

    I am not sure what too do, I’m slowly figuring it out of my own but I’ve only done abit of process in 2 years. But as soon as I loose my shit, I feel like I’m back too square one again, or life’s over.
    I can’t deal with normal life situations, that I know every person would go through, but I just have know idea how the hell too cope.

    I just want some more advice from you, and what you think I should honestly do?

    Like

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