Matters to a Head: Cannabis, Mental Illness and Recovery

Author(s): Kate K


This astonishing, witty and highly readable new book explores the links between cannabis and mental illness through the personal and professional experiences of New Zealand author Kate K. The book combines valuable tools for recovery from dual diagnosis disorders with an insightful look at the socio-political context of our mental health system and societal attitudes towards drug and alcohol use. The author questions the notion of cannabis as a ‘soft drug’, and challenges mental health providers to embrace the Te Whare Tapa Wha model of recovery to improve outcomes for people with co-existing addiction and mental health disorders.


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'A Paraparaumu woman, who took seven years to overcome her cannabis addiction, has questioned its notion as a soft drug in her book Matters to a Head. Kate K, who would not use her last name due to Narcotics Anonymous policy, started using cannabis when she was 13. "It was just kind of social at first, but I quite quickly developed a real liking for it." As her drug use increased Ms K became increasingly depressed, developed bi-polar disorder and in her 20s had a break-down, spending time in a psychiatric hospital. "I went on a huge manic episode. I was doing lots and lots of drugs and really I just blew my mind up." She spent seven years trying and failing repeatedly to come clean. Her book explores the link between cannabis and mental illness and challenges the mental health system. She dismisses the idea that a person cannot be addicted to a "soft drug", like cannabis and said it had her in its clutches. "My own experience was that I got completely addicted to it. I could not go three or four hours without a joint. I'd have a smoke when I woke up in the morning and then I had to top it up all through the day, and if I didn't do that I would become incredibly irritable and restless, really edgy. I'd suffer all those traits of addiction that you would expect of more hard drugs. "[My father] said to me once, 'the problem with marijuana seems to be some people can get away with smoking it and some people can't, but the problem is that you don't find out you're a 'can't' until it's too late.' And I think that's what happened to me." The first turning point came when she was challenged by a friend who had been through a similar thing. "She told me that basically I had to make the decision to live or die. I had to decide for myself that I wanted to live and that I really did want to get well. I'd been holding myself back really by still thinking I could get away with smoking here and there." However, recovery wasn't overnight and needed the second push of a family crisis. "My stepfather got cancer and my family just read me the riot act. They just weren't going to give me any more time and attention. "I'd worn them out basically. "If I wasn't going to get clean I could consider myself on my own and my sister pushed me to go back to Narcotics Anonymous." Ms K has been clean for 10 years and is free of the "burden and that craziness" from that period of her life. Ad Feedback Addiction isn't picky and anyone can have a drug problem, but poverty and lack of employment can contribute to someone dealing or using, she said. Society gives mixed messages about cannabis and it is now bleeding through into whole communities, for example in Northland. "And that cannabis economy becomes very difficult to get out of. "I don't think we'll ever get to the point where young people don't experiment with drugs, we all did it . . . what's really important in New Zealand is we start providing better treatment options for when people end up in the crap." Abstinence, not just harm reduction models, is needed. She tried to steer clear of the legalisation debate in her book and said making alcohol more easily available hasn't helped. Ms K hopes her book will reach people struggling with mental illness and addiction and people working in the field.' - Kapiti Observer

I am a writer and Registered Nurse and have both personal and professional experience of mental illness, mental health care, addiction and recovery.

General Fields

  • : 9781877572470
  • : First Edition
  • : First Edition
  • : September 2011
  • : 210x145mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : August 2011
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : 362.295
  • : 214
  • : Kate K