Was Miami Face-Chewing Attack Caused by Cannabis-Induced Psychosis?

Toxicology reports released last week by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner found that there were no traces of bath salts in the body of Rudy Eugene, the "Miami Cannibal" who attacked 65-year-old Ronald Poppo under the MacArthur Causeway on May 26.

Reports show that traces of marijuana were the only drugs identified in Eugene's body at the time, ruling out the possibility of harsher drugs such as hallucinogenics or amphetamines as the cause of the 31-year-old's horrific attack.

According to Local10, Eugene had once been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the past after a misdemeanor arrest, however it is unconfirmed if treatment was ever sought. While further investigation is needed in this case, a diagnoses of schizophrenia coupled with the use of marijuana could help explain what triggered the incident.

An article published in Current Psychiatry in October of 2011 states that while a causal relationship between cannabis use and psychosis has not been firmly established, numerous longitudinal studies show that the risk of development of psychosis is three times higher in those of cannabis users when compared to non-users. In addition to increased risk, the onset of symptoms in patients with schizophrenia usually occur about two to three years earlier if they have a history of cannabis use. A 10-year study on cannabis use published in the British Medical Journal in 2011 found cannabis to be "an environmental risk factor," increasing the risk of "incident psychotic experiences", and with continued use, increases the risk of "persistent psychotic experiences." Both the article and study show that risk increases with higher dosages. Having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is possible that marijuana could have worsened any conditions that Rudy Eugene had, since cannabis use puts patients with schizophrenia at a higher risk for increased symptoms, relapse, and experiencing cannabis-induced psychosis.

Despite the uproar over this high-profile case, family members of Rudy Eugene defend his character prior to the attacks. In an interview with Local10, Ruth Charles, mother of Eugene, said that she didn't believe mental illness was a component and expressed shock and disbelief that Eugene was capable of such a violent attack. Eugene's brother Marckenson Charles said in an interview that "Anybody who knew him knows this wasn't the person we knew him to be." According to police records, Eugene was arrested 8 times since the age of 16, four of which were in connection with marijuana. In 2004, Eugene made history as the first person ever to be shocked with a Taser by a North Miami Beach officer, and was arrested for beating and threatening to kill his mother. Eugene's girlfriend Yovanka Bryant also came to his defense. In an interview with Dr. Drew on HLN, she said "There were no warning signs," and that Eugene "Was always loving and supportive" towards her children. Bryant and Eugene had been dating for approximately four months.

Investigation is still underway as to what could have caused the attack on Poppo, who is slowly recovering from losing an eye and having the majority of his face chewed off, including his nose. The three pills that were originally reported to have been found in Eugene's stomach were not identified in the report released by the Medical Examiner.