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Mon Jun 23, 2014, 05:22 PM

Another nonsensical editorial spin


First, the REEFER MADNESS omg headline: Candy’s Dandy, but Pot’s Scary: As Marijuana Laws Ease, the Risks Grow

This headline reflects little of what the editorial writer says, but does refer to the Maureen Dowd Experience™ of someone acting irresponsibly then blaming a bad experience on the cannabis, not the person who chose to ignore the WARNING that she was told about and that was on the candy - even tho Dowd elided this information in her editorial.

The editorial says:
Marijuana is more dangerous than many of us once thought. For one thing, cannabis use is associated with schizophrenia, an often devastating disorder in which people can hear disembodied voices that sneer, hiss and command.

This cant goes on for quite a bit before the person, in order to not totally invalidate credentials as a scientist, has to admit that correlation does not equal causation. In other words, people with schizophrenia may self-medicate.

This is an anthropologist at Stanford, so he or she is going for science since the drug warriors know how badly they come off when people cite their poor relationship with reality in regard to research. What the anthropologist talks about is increased schizophrenic diagnoses related to marijuana. Studies are cited. The editorial left out these LATEST studies, and the long-term meta analysis of marijuana and schizophrenia studies, and leaves out the remarks of Roger Pertwee - who happens to be the leading pharmacologist in the UK in regard to cannabis research and who spoke about the issue of schizophrenia in 2010 at GB's largest medical/scientific conference and noted there is no causal relationship. But don't let the expert in the field of study in this regard stop you, New York Times, from yet another reefer madness moment.

The causal arrow is complicated here. This does not prove that marijuana brings on schizophrenia. It could be that people with incipient schizophrenia are drawn to cannabis. But it is clear that cannabis can lead to passing paranoid and hallucinatory experiences, and a 2014 psychiatric overview argued that cannabis could not only cause those symptoms to persist, but to develop into a condition that looks like schizophrenia. Jim van Os, a leading European schizophrenia researcher, suggested that marijuana might be responsible for as many as one in seven or eight cases of schizophrenia in the Netherlands.

To elide a moment of passing paranoid feelings or hallucinatory experiences that only last as part of intoxication at some levels for some people with a permanent mental disorder is breathtakingly dishonest. The equivalent is to say "it is clear that alcohol can lead to disturbances in balance and disinhibition" and claim that, once someone is no longer tipsy, this is a state of being that is permanently changed in the alcohol user. If anyone made such a statement about alcohol, would anyone think this person has something worthwhile to contribute to a discussion of the issue of alcohol use?

Yet this passes the smell test for the New York Times. Shades of Judith Miller and Aspen trees when you have a war you want to promote, whether it's one on drugs or one on Iraq, I suppose.

This person cites research from 1987, when recent research, from 2013, 2009, 2006, etc, is seemingly ignored.

Harvard research from 2013 indicated no link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Iow, NYTimes, Harvard sneers in your general direction.


Harvard: Marijuana Doesn’t Cause Schizophrenia
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 10, 2013

...The new study is the first family study that, according to the researchers, “examines both non-psychotic cannabis users and non-cannabis user controls as two additional independent samples, enabling the examination of whether the risk for schizophrenia is increased in family members of cannabis users who develop schizophrenia compared with cannabis users who do not and also whether that morbid risk is similar or different from that in family members of schizophrenia patients who never used cannabis.”

...The researchers recruited 282 subjects from the New York and Boston metropolitan areas who were divided into four groups: controls with no lifetime history of psychotic illness, cannabis, or any other drug use; controls with no lifetime history of psychotic illness, and a history of heavy cannabis use during adolescence, but no other drug use; patients with no lifetime history of cannabis use or any other drug and less than 10 years of being ill; patients with a history of heavy cannabis use and no other drug use during adolescence and prior to the onset of psychosis.

Information about all first-, second-, and third-degree relatives was obtained, as well as information about any other relative who had a known psychiatric illness. This resulted in information on 1,168 first-degree relatives and a total of 4,291 relatives. The study gathered together information regarding cannabis use, and family history regarding schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and drug abuse.

...“While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness,” said the researchers, who were led by Ashley C. Proal from Harvard Medical School.

Then there's this meta-analysis


A recent systematic review concluded that cannabis use increases risk of psychotic outcomes independently of confounding and transient intoxication effects. Furthermore, a model of the association between cannabis use and schizophrenia indicated that the incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia would increase from 1990 onwards. The model is based on three factors: a) increased relative risk of psychotic outcomes for frequent cannabis users compared to those who have never used cannabis between 1.8 and 3.1, b) a substantial rise in UK cannabis use from the mid-1970s and c) elevated risk of 20 years from first use of cannabis. This paper investigates whether this has occurred in the UK by examining trends in the annual prevalence and incidence of schizophrenia and psychoses, as measured by diagnosed cases from 1996 to 2005. Retrospective analysis of the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) was conducted for 183 practices in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The study cohort comprised almost 600,000 patients each year, representing approximately 2.3% of the UK population aged 16 to 44. Between 1996 and 2005 the incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining. Explanations other than a genuine stability or decline were considered, but appeared less plausible. In conclusion, this study did not find any evidence of increasing schizophrenia or psychoses in the general population from 1996 to 2005.

Cannabis use does not cause schizophrenia

What research has found is that family members of people who have used cannabis who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia are ALSO more likely to have mood disorders themselves. This finding aligns with the research that indicates cannabis use may lead to earlier onset of schizo-affective disorders, but not the development of schizophrenia. But no one wants to legalize marijuana for children or adolescents for recreational use, and any medical use would include a cost/benefit analysis for anyone, whatever their family medical history might be, just as is the case with any other medical treatment.

Knowing the attempt to elide science and reefer madness will not pass the smell test for many who are informed about this issue, the anthropologist has to admit..

To be sure, that increased risk is pretty low: About one in 100 people will develop schizophrenia. The unnerving question is whether in this country, with its history of gun violence and its easy access to guns, a person with a paranoid reaction is more likely to act violently.

BE AFRAID. BE VEWY, VEWY AFWAID. Legalization of a substance that people have used by the millions for decades is suddenly going to change them all into psychotic Elmer Fudds.

The editorial writer draws inspiration from the Washington Times, the Rev. Moon propaganda organ, to note that, because cultures have different expectations of behaviors based upon setting, since America is a gun nut culture - we should worry that cannabis legalization will lead to shoot outs and people engaging in incidents they already engage in, such as going to an elementary school and murdering children. Or going to a movie theater and shooting people. This was the exact tact of a recent editorial in the Washington Times that disputed the meme of the "mellow stoner."

The Washington Times scooped the NY Times on this b.s. one by a week.

Then, as an anthropologist, the person does talk about a reality. How someone responds to the influence of a substance is not just physiological. Culturally-learned behavior is also part of the expression.

As Eugene Raikhel of the University of Chicago summarizes the literature, drug experience is determined not only by the body’s chemistry but also by local ideas about what those drugs should do.

Since this anthropologist acknowledges cultural expectation - is it not the height of irresponsible behavior to suggest those who use marijuana should exhibit the violence that is already epidemic in this culture?

I see no value in the editorial other than as an attempt to provide a counter-narrative to the overwhelming cultural view that marijuana mellows. Since cannabis is recognized as an anxiolytic in medical uses, this cultural narrative has a foundation. But, as with any substance, no two people respond exactly the same. The composition of the marijuana matters, as well, and marijuana with a lot of THC to the exclusion of CBD is going to be more likely to precipitate rather than ameliorate anxiety. The amount consumed in one setting matters (c.f. The Maureen Dowd Experience™). Some pharmaceutical drugs have vastly different effects for people. We don't call for the prohibition of pharmaceuticals or make claims that people who use pharmaceutical drugs under a doctor's supervision are more likely to go out and get a gun.

But for some reason (reefer madness) it makes perfect sense to imply just such a scenario as New York State has to deal with the reality that people who live there want to have medical access to marijuana - and recreational access as well - as do the majority of adults in the American population - whether they intend to actually use marijuana or not.

Here's a tip for newspapers: Publish articles that provide accurate information about marijuana related to the way it is used and the amount that is used. Explain the importance of set and setting for the experience. Note that marijuana ingestion has not been linked to any deaths... other than two related to marijuana ingested (we don't know if alcohol was as well, or anything else) and one person harmed himself while another harmed his wife. This never happens outside of marijuana use, of course...

Stop the drug warrior cant and fear mongering. You sound like abstinence-only advocates telling teenagers they will be permanently damaged if they have sex before marriage. Really. As with the issue of sex education, we know fear-mongering and false information causes more harm than good. Papers of note, such as the New York Times, would never print such b.s. uncritically. But if the issue is marijuana, apparently accurate information is less important than appeasing the positions of those in power (cough, Cuomo, cough).

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Reply Another nonsensical editorial spin (Original post)
RainDog Jun 2014 OP
GeorgeGist Jun 2014 #1

Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 23, 2014, 08:09 PM

1. kandr

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