Nick Stimpson found relief for his bipolar depression when he consumed cannabis, but when he got his first charge for possession at age 14, it set him on a course to find the same relief through alternative substances that would not show up on a drug test or would clear his system quickly. But at age 16, he was caught with 5 grams of cannabis, for which he was given probation and frequent drug testing, increasing his resolve to find relief without facing probation violations. Since he couldn’t have cannabis in his system, Nick experimented inhaling different household chemicals and would huff computer duster spray, which ultimately caused his death.
“When he could no longer smoke cannabis, Nick’s bipolar symptoms came back. Viciously. We were desperate to stop them. He was being treated professionally by a psychiatrist at the time,” recounts his mother, Jennifer. “We eliminated all aerosol products from our house and removed the doors from his room. But we could not eliminate the gas from our cars or prevent him from acquiring duster when he was with his friends.”
His parents enrolled him in a daytime rehab program, but when they realized the program was primarily focusing on the perils of tobacco use, they pleaded with the program leaders that their son needed more intensive help. Their sense of urgency was not shared with those running the program. They were in the process of looking for more help for Nick, but it was too late. His mother was bringing Nick his morning iced coffee and wake him for school one morning to find him dead with a plastic bag over his head and computer duster can in his hand.
Nick loved life. He was gifted with a beautiful singing voice and learned guitar by ear. His mother said he would pull out a guitar and sing songs from the radio and others would sing along with him. He self-identified as gay from a very young age, something his mother was very proud of because Nick never was ashamed of who he was. Nick was accepted into the College of Charleston posthumously. He bravely wrote his entrance essay about having Bipolar. Nick had unlimited potential if not shortened by misguided law and misunderstanding of how cannabis not only helped him, but the prohibition of cannabis led him to his death.