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Wife's substance use

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Joined: 02 Nov 2016
Relationship: Spouse (wife, husband, common-law, partner)
gender: female
Region: Lower Mainland BC
City or Region: Vancouver

Wife's substance use

Unread postby Reunion » 25 Jan 2017

I'm concerned about how much my wife smokes pot. She has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and has been told repeatedly by her team that pot use is not good for her, and can exacerbate her symptoms. She does not believe this (she does not believe she has schizophrenia) and refuses to stop smoking it. She was smoking it every day before her first psychotic episode which ended in a suicide attempt and hospitalization. It was absolutely terrifying, the worst experience I can possibly imagine, and I'm so grateful every day that she survived. When she smokes pot she becomes more agitated and paranoid, and I get incredibly nervous. Sometimes she will talk about a conspiracy against her, and say things that she did before she was hospitalized. She is able to work and is a lovely person, but I am her main support system (her family lives provinces away) and it feels sometimes like I am more of a caregiver than a wife.
Anyway, I don't know how to deal with the pot use. I am trying to use "harm reduction" and compromise with her - we spoke to her team and they said MAXIMUM two times a month, which I can accept (even if I'd rather she never smoked it at all.) Every time I am out of the house or if she has a day off she will get high - often smoking all day long. She doesn't care what her team says, she doesn't believe it's bad for her. Now she's lying to me about it - I'll come home and she'll swear that she didn't smoke pot when she obviously did, criticizing me for being paranoid and controlling, and then admit that yes, she was smoking it all day. I don't know what to do. Do I just let this go and let her make her own choices? She's an adult, she can do what she wants. Every time we try to make a compromise that I am okay with (and she agrees to in the moment) she just breaks it and then lies. There's no point in even having these conversations any more because she just does what she wants anyway. Most of our friends/family have no clue this is going on, but when I've reached out to some of them they have criticized me for letting her do it. I don't know how to stop her, I don't know how to keep her safe, and I am so worried that she is going to end up back in the hospital again. Is couples counseling an answer? Or substance use support groups? Or am I just being paranoid and controlling, like she says?

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Re: Wife's substance use

Unread postby AndrewBCSS » 25 Jan 2017

Hi Reunion,
You are right, it is completely unfair for family and friends to assume you have the ability to prevent your wife from using pot. I'm sorry they aren't more supportive.

So it sounds like your wife has no insight into her schizophrenia, a symptom which is also caused anosognosia. I'm going to recommend three resources that are a little off topic, but I hope they will give you some useful strategies.

1) A book called "I'm not sick! I don't need help!" by Xavier Amador. This book by a psychologist who specializes in researching anosognosia and has a brother with schizophrenia has been helpful to many family members. It has strategies in it for how to talk to someone who doesn't believe they are ill and how to convince them to do helpful things despite their lack of insight. You can buy it on amazon, and there is a video of the author talking which has the basics.

2) Information on the BC Mental Health Act. I'm assuming you and your wife live in BC? If so, this video is very helpful. It has information on involuntary treatment and extended leave, which are good things to know about if you have an ill wife with anosognosia.

3) Information on cannabis and psychosis - yes, I know you know and believe her pot use isn't helpful for her schizophrenia, but here is validation, and is perhaps useful to friends and relatives.
Andrew Stewart
Operations Manager
British Columbia Schizophrenia Society
A reason to hope. The means to cope.

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