A mother is visiting schools around the country to warn children about the dangers of using cannabis.
Janie Hamilton decided to educate youngsters about the drug following the death of her 36-year-old son, whose cannabis-induced schizophrenia contributed to his death.
James Hamilton was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014 but doctors believe his psychosis led him to refuse treatment.
Janie remembers James as a bright boy with excellent grades before becoming hooked on cannabis aged 14.
He dropped out of university after just one term and aged 20, was sectioned and diagnosed with schizophrenia.
We were naïve
After he was discharged, he stopped taking his medication and spent the next 16 years in and out of hospital.
Janie said: “I am convinced James’s psychosis began when he started smoking cannabis… It was affecting his brain. He was stony-faced and strange.
“We didn’t know at the time he was doing drugs. We were naïve, as we had never tried drugs ourselves.”
He died in 2015 after refusing chemotherapy. Doctors say he would have agreed to the potentially life-saving treatment had he been of sound mind.
Janie said: “Anyone who doesn’t believe cannabis can lead to mental health issues needs to come and watch the anguish and what it has done to families like ours.”
“A lot of youngsters think they’re indestructible. Cannabis is no safer than ecstasy”, she added.
She said that she wanted youngsters to realise that cannabis can be lethal, saying: “It’s like Russian roulette and young people don’t realise they are risking death by experimenting.”
Janie’s announcement comes just days after new research which linked cannabis use to the development of bipolar disorder in later life.
The study published by the medical journal Schizophrenia Bulletin found a prospective link between teenage cannabis use and the onset of hypomania – often a symptom of bipolar disorder – in a person’s early 20s.
It found that those who used cannabis at least two-to-three times a week aged 17 were more likely to experience these symptoms than those who did not.