Author:Paul Gilmartin

Meth-Induced Psychosis- en Español: Fond Memoirs of an Ex East Oakland Therapist

Meth-Induced Psychosis- en Español: Fond Memoirs of an Ex East Oakland Therapist

The city of Oakland, California is famous as one of the top five most dangerous cities in the United States and is referenced in rap songs, home to the Oakland Raiders with the wildest fans, and has distinctly different neighborhoods, ranging from north Oakland that houses some of the best Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants- to Rockridge, a neighborhood of rather affluent people and expensive boutiques. In east Oakland, the neighborhood of Fruitvale is heavily populated by Latino immigrants, fruits stand on corners selling tropical fruit topped with hot chile and lime, a lady yelling out all the flavors of cream she can fill your hot churro with, and the “elote” (corn) guy with the horn and bells on his cart that people run outside just to flag down. There is a large amount of poverty, crime, highly stressed households, and low paying jobs. Due to the stressors of living in a dangerous city with frequent gun shots in the distance, robberies at gun point, and lack of mental health services, street drugs serve as the remedy for many to escape from the overwhelming environment and economic struggles.

I worked as a therapist in east Oakland for the last few years and the amount of people complaining of psychotic symptoms seems to have skyrocketed dramatically. Whenever a client reports to me that they are hearing voices, seeing moving shadows, feeling radiation, or having paranoia and delusions, I always check for meth to rule it out. Why? Meth is one of the most commonly used stimulant drugs right now due to its low price, lasting high, and abundant availability. Studies show that the use of methamphetamine can induce a psychotic break and leave someone with a lifetime of symptoms appearing very much like schizophrenia even years after stopping meth use. The majority of folks that start to show psychotic symptoms from an organically occurring psychotic illness is around age 19, give or take a couple years. When I see someone older say they just started hearing voices, I have to investigate.

A gang-affiliated Mexican female who grew up in deep east Oakland once told me in a session “What the fuck, Grace! This is bullshit! I used crystal before and it didn’t make this happen? I can’t stop these creepy ass voices telling me to do nasty shit! It makes me just wanna do it so they shut the fuck up! Then I yell back and them to shut the fuck up and then people think I’m loca.” Some people can use stimulant drugs for years and have no psychotic break but for the unlucky bunch for whom it triggers a break, antipsychotic medication and therapy for coping with psychosis are often required to alleviate symptoms.

Medication compliance can be tricky with folks who are new to taking psych meds and there is often a sense of shame around what it means about oneself to take psychiatric medication. This is particularly common in the monolingual undocumented Spanish speaking community who often report, “Pues Graciela, no me gusta tomar pastillas” (Well Grace, I don’t like taking pills). Culturally, its odd to take pills and natural remedies are preferred, not limited to doing a “limpia,” a cleansing using burning herbs performed by a traditional healer. Some try religion and church to see if they can get relief and “pray away” the radiation from the F.B.I. who, apparently, have been parked outside our therapy session for the last hour.

Methamphetamine, crystal, crank, ice…whatever you call it was referred to as “azucar amarga” (bitter sugar), by a Salvadorian male who developed psychosis after feeling intolerable sadness and abandonment after his girlfriend cheated on him and got pregnant by the other man. He stated that he was saving up for an engagement ring for her and would talk about having children together who could go to college in the U.S. and have the opportunities he didn’t have. He worked a minimum wage construction job where his boss called him a “stupid Mexican,” reminding him of the major cultural tension between his country of origin in Central America and Mexico. “Lo odio cuando me llaman Mexicano” (I hate when they call me Mexican), he commented, triggering his memory of being robbed and pistol-whipped when passing through Mexico on foot in the sweltering heat, trying to make it to California. He would share that he would sometimes hide in the “porta potty” to text her that he loved her and referred to her as “mi reina” (my queen). In Spanish he told me, “I feel like meth is comparable to my ex-girlfriend…they both were beautiful, thrilling, and seductive, but ruined my life and left my mind forever fucked.”


If you or anyone you know needs help with meth you can contact,

Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
Call 211 to ask for local substance abuse treatment resources
Phone your health insurance company to gain a referral


Grace Pacheco, MFT is a bilingual psychotherapist with a private practice in Pinole, CA and sees individuals, couples, families, and performs psychological evaluations in collaboration with immigration attorneys. You can learn more about her by visiting her website at


Andrea C

Paul’s support group friend and writer talks about weighing 95 lbs at 5 years-old, being in foster homes and psych wards, surviving incest, learning self-love and dealing with addictions to food and abusive men.

This episode is sponsored by Blue Apron.  To see this month’s menu and your first three meals free (including free delivery) go to


What is Energy Work? Why Should I Try It?: Guest Blog by Adi Shakti

Feeling Stuck? Try Energy Work!


Being raised by people who are damaged emotionally or mentally can leave you feeling lost inside and possibly repeating the same mistakes as an adult. Experiencing abandonment, shame, and betrayal, can cause you to feel that you are grasping for the straws of a “normal life”, because internally there are missing pieces. Healing starts when you are ready to let go of denial / distraction and there are many healing modalities to find your authentic, integrated self.


Some are physical ways that validate the body, like sports, walking in nature, being with animals, or giving to your body with bodywork or spa treatments. These are tools that actively let you choose how you want your body to be treated or feel.


On an emotional level there are various talk or process therapies where you can practice speaking your truth, being heard, experience emotional intimacy with appropriate boundaries, and feel what it’s like to be in a relationship with another who has your best interests in mind. [There are ways to practice managing emotions like depression or anxiety so that they don’t loom so large in life.] These emotional tools empower you to experience healthy thoughts and feelings that feed your growth and evolution.


As you go through life processing and releasing the betrayal, abandonment and shame you experienced, you may reach a point where the emotional and physical tools you relied on don’t address the nagging destructive thoughts or feelings lurking in the recesses of your mind, self sabotage tendencies, or how to be with your family of origin. That’s where energy tools become useful.


Energy work techniques are another set of tools in your arsenal that you can use to decide what thoughts-beliefs-feelings will guide your life, rather than being at the mercy of the pop up circus of infectious crazy playing in your head. Energy work is an active form of meditation using your imagination to create change in your body and life. Everything, including our thoughts and feelings are energy. Wherever our attention goes, energy follows and manifests.


When you experience abuse, it not only is an insult to your structure and emotions but a literal disturbance of your energy field. It creates an opening for foreign (someone else’s) energy (thoughts / feelings) to enter your space (body /aura).   You then operate your body or live your life based on someone else’s beliefs. This is uncomfortable, like wearing someone else’s clothes, and can lead to body pain, or mental confusion. It can be mild, like chronic depression / anxiety, or severe, like psychosis / multiple personalities.

You don’t have to believe in any of this to benefit from it, you just have to develop a practice. It’s the repeated thought / vision, backed by intent / feeling (while in a meditative state) that build new neural / energetic pathways, that literally build a new body / life.


This may sound complicated, but is actually quite simple. When you release foreign energy from your space, and fill your space back up with your own energy, that is the same thing as owning your space, which is the same thing as being present, which is the same thing as self love. If you feel that an abusive experience has taken something away from you, you’re right, it has. And energy work builds your spiritual muscles so that you can sense how to get yourself back. This is your birthright!


Adi Shakti


Doing healing work on the physical /emotional /spiritual levels since 1987.


Luke Burbank

The podcaster (Too Beautiful To Live), radio host (Live Wire Radio) and tv host (CBS Morning News) talks about his outbursts of anger that get physical, always feeling uncomfortable in his skin and being hyper vigilant to avoid criticism.

This episode is sponsored by SquareSpace. For a free trial and 10% off your first purchase go to and use offer code MENTAL

Get info on Paul’s upcoming appearances in Oakland

Follow Luke Burbank on Twitter @LukeBurbank


Dr Lauren Costine

The author (Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong) and therapist talks about love addiction especially in the lesbian community, what coming out what like for her, myths about lesbians and what makes a good therapist.

For more about her or her book go to

Follow her on Twitter @DrLaurenCostine

This episode is sponsored by BlueApron. To check out this week’s menu and get your first three meals free (with free shipping) go to

This episode is sponsored by SquareSpace. For 10% off your first purchase go to and use offer code MENTAL.

For tickets to Paul’s upcoming live podcasts in Oakland July 20 or 21 click here.


Julie L: Covert Incest Survivor

The French Canadian biologist sits down with Paul and talks about experiencing covert incest by her mother who she believes also had Borderline Personality Disorder, and her complex relationship with her safer but extremely codependent father.  Julie shares about her struggle to share intimacy with her husband and the progress she’s making in releasing some of the trauma thru somatic therapy.

For more information about Paul’s upcoming live podcasts July 20 and 21 in Oakland click here


Michael Alexander

Paul’s old comedy pal Mike shares about psych wards, not being deemed “black enough”, anxiety, depression, experiencing some classic 70’s Chicago racism and trying to be a better parent than he had.

For more info on Mike and his upcoming documentary about 80’s and 90’s Chicago comedy visit.

For tickets and info to Paul’s upcoming live podcasts in Oakland July 20 and 21 go to



Sarah & Zachary Pt 2

Zachary Goodson shares his story while his wife Sarah sits in.  He talks about losing his mother (actress Diana Hyland) to cancer when he was 3, being raised by an abusive father, learning to numb himself with sex and after bottoming out, finding help.  They also talk about how they navigate marriage and work on intimacy while working through their individual issues.

Zachary is a writer, and it’s been a huge part of his healing process.  He’s working on his first book It’s Always Worse In Your Head. For more info about him or his writing go to

The upcoming live podcast recording that Paul mentioned is July 20 $ 21 in Oakland. For tix and info go to