My beautiful, intelligent, talented, mischievous son started using cannabis when he was 14.

We were surprised that he had started so young, but we assumed this was a consequence of drugs being easily available at the nearby University town. He had always been a risk-taker and a challenging child to bring up. He pushed boundaries to the limit. And then again, we told ourselves that teenagers experiment, don’t they? We had ourselves had smoked cannabis at university.

What we didn’t realise was that this was a type of cannabis unknown and unavailable to us in our student days. Cannabis skunk. A suitably grungy name for a horrible, bad-smelling substance. It differs from the old-fashioned cannabis in the following ways: it’s grown indoors under artificial light; it’s ten times stronger (THC); and finally, it lacks CBD, which mitigates the psychosis-inducing properties of THC

All of this means that this drug is severely harmful to teenage brains, which are still developing. And what happened to my son was that he stopped seeing his friends. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he became more and more withdrawn, then angry, and sometimes just “odd”. He dropped out of university after just six weeks.  One day he came to me and said that he didn’t know who he was any more. That was his first psychotic attack.

This was in the summer of 2010. Since then, he has continued to use various drugs. More of that in future posts. Although he has been ‘clean’ during his stays in re-hab, he has relapsed twice. And he spent the majority of the three and a half years between January 2011 and September 2014 on an NHS locked psychiatric ward.

That is a horrendous waste of a young person’s life.

I’m very angry and sad. There are days when tears well up in a public place as buried emotions surface (seemingly from nowhere), and I have to fight them back. There have been times when I’ve felt despair, exhaustion, revulsion, fear – and yes, terror. I’ll tell you more about what has created those emotions in future posts.