It’s end-of-year retrospective time! While my colleagues on the NORML Blog (go check out the new look that matches the new site) are going to bring you the biggest marijuana news stories of 2011, here at The Daily Stash Blog we’re going to bring you stories that may have fallen through the cracks of other drug policy 2011 remembrances.
Today we bring you the Top Ten “Reefer Madness” Stories of 2011. ”Reefer Madness”, of course, is the 1936 anti-pot propaganda film showing young people becoming crazed and violent on the effects of “reefer”. Today, we use “Reefer Madness” as shorthand to describe the hysterical warnings by the anti-drug zealots as reported unchallenged by a complacent media.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the Top Ten Cannabis Science Stories of 2011. Thursday we’ll cover the Top Ten “Stupid Stoner Stories” of 2011. Friday we’ll cover the Top Ten People in Marijuana of 2011.
(The Oregonian – “Seeing through the smoke” editorial) It’s about time someone took action on the increasing number of medical marijuana dispensaries. … Right now, anyone, including teenagers, can apply [for a medical marijuana card]. A study done by Oregon Partnership found, for example, that 35 percent of students at Wilson High School and 46 percent at Marshall High School knew someone with a card.
Unlike the Oregonian editorial board, I check sources (I work for NORML: I have to.) The survey they refer to was addressed at a Marshall High community town hall meeting. The poll was conducted by students as part of a project called “SMASH” in a “confidential, random, peer-to-peer” survey – meaning one high school kid asking another high school kid. We have no control group, no control for confounding variables, not even a mention of the survey size or the randomness of those polled (maybe the SMASH kids are more likely to “randomly” speak to their friend, for instance, or stood in the hall and talked to anyone passing by who would answer.)
But besides all the methodological issues arising from trusting the polling data of high school kids talking to their friends, it’s important to note what their survey actually said:
PERCEPTION: Students surveyed believed that 8 out of 10 students smoke marijuana
REALITY: 7 out of 10 students DO NOT smoke marijuana
Kids surveyed thought 77.3% of others were smoking marijuana. 76.07% of kids never smoked marijuana, another 12.27% smoked it once or twice a month. So, kids think 3 out of 4 other kids smoke pot when 3 out of 4 kids actually don’t. Where, oh, where could the kids be getting the message that youth cannabis smoking is out of control, when, in fact, Oregon’s 12th grade monthly cannabis use rates have declined 14% (before | after) since 1999, when medical marijuana got underway in Oregon?
You would think that pizza delivery companies would understand who their customers are and that a great number of them smoke marijuana. If you’re a pizza delivery company in Colorado, you’d understand that many of the marijuana smokers in your delivery area may be legally using cannabis for medicinal purposes. But apparently Papa John’s pizza in Colorado doesn’t care too much about its drivers violating the privacy of its customers who are medical marijuana patients.
(9News) The man was smoking medical marijuana just before the pizza arrived on Friday evening. The delivery driver smelled the marijuana and called the cops. The Papa John’s employee, who was not identified, was concerned because the customer’s 9-year-old daughter was in the house.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Glen Walsh said parents should definitely inspect the candy their children bring home after trick-or-treating.
Walsh said a pungent smell or an odd taste can serve as indicators on whether the food contains marijuana. As for the potency of the marijuana-laced prodcuts, Walsh said the level of THC, the chemical found in marijuana, can vary from zero to over 90 percent.
OK, so watch closely, parents. You don’t want your kid getting a candy with 0% THC in it. But if you find any of that 90% THC stuff, you can send it my way for proper disposal.
How stupid is this? First off, if there is a person out there who would intentionally hand THC-laden treats to children, they are a criminal. They’d be just as likely to poison Halloween treats or put pins or razor blades in them.. which is an urban legend with no truth to it whatsoever.
Second, if you are a person who uses THC-laden treats for medical or recreational purposes, why are you handing out a $20 “Buddafinger” when you could pass out a 20-cent “Butterfinger”? You want to be so sure some kid you don’t know and won’t see gets high that you’ll spend 10 times more on Halloween candy?
[Oregon Sheriff's Association President] Tom Bergin said at the rate Oregon is going, he believes Oregon is three times sicker than California. Why? Well, more than 90 percent of cardholders say they’re using pot to treat pain — not glaucoma or cancer — as the bill was initially marketed.
Here are the facts from the state’s medical marijuana program registry:
So Canzano, Bergin, and every prohibitionist who scoffs at people in serious pain treating it with a non-toxic herb pull out their calculators and exclaim “90% of cardholders are using it for pain, not glaucoma or cancer!” (The number is actually 90.9%.)
What Canzano distorts lies in the word “not”. Under Oregon law, a registry cardholder can qualify under more than one condition. The state even puts “A patient may have more than one diagnosed qualifying medical condition” right there on the website where you got the numbers to crunch. Are we to believe people with cancer and glaucoma don’t suffer chronic pain as well?
A woman in Florida who was arrested for felony marijuana possession is suing for wrongful arrest. She might just have a case, she was charged with marijuana possession even though the bag they caught her with turned out to be Sage. 49 year old, Robin Brown says a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy caught her while she was bird watching back in March of 2009. He used his field kit on the herb she had in a bag, and said that in the field it tested positive for marijuana. The deputy sent the 50 grams of substance to a state crime lab.
Her lawsuit says that she was arrested before the test was performed. Her arrest was ordered by the Assistant State Attorney, Mark Horn, in June of 2009. She was arrested at her place of business, Massage Envy in Weston. She said that she was arrested in front of co-workers and her customers and subjected to a full body cavity search during her overnight stay in jail. When her lawyer discovered the herbs had not been tested a second time, he used the courts to force the tests which determined what Ms. Brown was contending all along, her sage was completely marijuana free.
The boy smoked the fake marijuana out of a plastic PEZ candy dispenser. The chemicals in the drugs caused extensive damage to his lungs. Brandon was put on a respirator in June and had a double lung transplant in September.
So, we’re to assume here it was the K2 that scarred the boys lungs and not the freakin’ fumes from the melting plastic of a PEZ dispenser?!?
Tonya Rice told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper Brandon was put on a respirator in June after smoking Spice fake cannabis, which is said to be ten times more dangerous than cocaine.
Not to be cruel or insensitive about the boy’s death, but he didn’t suddenly die from the acute effects of K2 use. He used it in June, fell very ill, was given a double lung transplant, and died from an infection because of his lowered immune system in October. So, to compare, we have cocaine, which can give you a heart attack by overdose and kill you the minute you snort / smoke / inject it, versus a synthetic cannabinoid smoked through plastic, requiring a double lung transplant, leading to a fatal infection four months later in the hospital that kills one boy. We’re not trying to say K2 is safe – it isn’t – but it’s not “ten times more dangerous than cocaine”.
I haven’t seen press reports or talking heads discuss their concern about how easy it has been for this mentally ill young man to get marijuana. And there has been no mention of the potential of marijuana to spark latent psychosis and exacerbate schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
So as we continue to think about this killer and his deranged mind, we should be asking this question: Is Jared Loughner an individual whose psychosis was prompted or exacerbated by the use of marijuana?
Gee, Joe, what do you think we ought to do? Make marijuana illegal? Lock up people who use it? Break down their doors at night and shoot their dogs? Use helicopters and infrared to eradicate the plant wherever it’s grown? Throw billions at American and Mexican law enforcement for armor and weapons to fight its traffickers? Train dogs to sniff it out? Drug test employees, high schoolers, even middle schoolers to detect its use?
The facts are that 1% of the population exhibits schizophrenia, whether it is 1979 and 60% of high school seniors have tried marijuana or it is 1992 and 33% have tried it. A study of 186 UK mental hospitals found no increase in schizophrenia or psychosis admissions, despite use rates of cannabis increasing greatly during that decade.
Cannabis ‘kills 30,000 a year’
Oh, dear. From zero deaths* in 5,000 years of human use to ’30,000 a year’. That sounds serious. Let’s read on…
More than 30,000 cannabis smokers could die every year, doctors warn today.
Wait, “could die”? We’ve gone from the active headline verb “kills” to the lede adverb “could”? Usually you bury that wiggle room somewhere in paragraph umpteen. Continue…
Professor John Henry, a leading authority on the drug, said the change – due to take place this summer – had undermined doctors’ efforts to highlight the risks.
He said: “Cannabis is as dangerous as cigarette smoking – in fact, it may be even worse – and downgrading its legal status has simply confused people.”
“May be” worse? Where are the wards full of cannabis smokers? Britain actually has some level of health care worthy of a civilized (civilised) people. You’d think the National Health Service would bring these figures up. It sounds like quite a cost to the government.
Although it is rare, severe shutdown of blood circulation to the arms or legs has been reported in young people who smoked marijuana. In some cases, it was so severe that amputation was required.
In all my years beating back reefer madness, this is a first. I have never heard a story of someone’s marijuana use leading to amputation. I have covered stories of people who use marijuana for their already-existing amputation, since it is a superior medication for “phantom” pain, and I’ve covered one double-amputee diabetic’s eviction for her medical marijuana use, though.
(KPHO) [School Resource Officer Chris] Thomas spends his days patrolling the halls of a Valley high school. He’s heard first hand how kids are getting tipsy.
“What we’re hearing about is teenagers utilizing tampons, soak them in vodka first before using them,” Thomas said.
“This is definitely not just girls,” Thomas said. “Guys will also use it and they’ll insert it into their rectums.”
Rather than the traditional beer bong you’d find at a college party, kids are sticking the tube elsewhere to get wasted.
They’re calling it “butt chugging.”
Rrrighttt… young teenage males, typically the most homophobic and self-conscious creatures on the planet, are dropping trou in front of their peers and inserting plastic tubes up their ass to chug beer. And the vodka tampons? Huffington Post reports that “the practice remains unverified despite multiple reports of incidents in the U.S. and elsewhere” and that a blogger “conducted her own informal trial to see whether the purported method worked“, where she notes the alcohol dissolves the glue and consistency of the tampon so much it couldn’t be inserted and that even if it were inserted, the burn you’d feel on your sensitive lady parts would not make this an enjoyable drunk. Plus, the idea that it would help teens avoid detection with no alcohol on their breath is false, as alcohol metabolizes in your breath no matter how you ingest it.
We’ve heard so many studies predicting that cannabis use leads to or exacerbates psychoses. This study out of South Africa appears to predict just the opposite – that cannabis use may shorten and decrease episodes of psychoses!
Department of Psychiatry, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
OBJECTIVE: Cannabis use/abuse is a common co-morbid problem in patients experiencing a first episode of psychotic illness (FEP). The relationship between the clinical presentation of FEP and cannabis abuse is complex and warrants further investigation, especially within the South African context.
METHOD: We tested associations between recent/current cannabis use and duration of untreated psychosis (DUP), age of onset (AO), PANSS-rated (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale) positive, negative and general psychopathology symptoms and depressive symptoms (Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia) in a sample of 54 patients with FEP.
RESULTS: Mean DUP was 34.4 weeks, while mean AO was 24.7 years. Co-morbid cannabis use occurred in 35% of the sample and was significantly associated with shorter DUP (Mann-Whitney U, p=0.026). While not significant, there was also a trend association between cannabis use and lower negative symptoms (Mann-Whitney U, p=0.051).
CONCLUSION: Current/recent cannabis use was associated with clinical features of psychosis onset that previously have been associated with better outcome. Medium and long-term outcome for cannabis users however, is likely to depend on whether or not cannabis use is ongoing.
Every Wednesday on NORML SHOW LIVE, Dr. Mitch Earleywine joins us to discuss the latest research in cannabis and to take live calls and chat questions from listeners on marijuana culture, history, medicine, and science. He is a member of the NORML Advisory Board and his research has been published in over fifty scientific journals on drugs and addiction. He is the author of Understanding Marijuana, Pot Politics, and Parents’ Guide to Marijuana, and a professor of psychology at SUNY Albany. We asked Dr. Mitch his opinions of the latest meta-analysis on cannabis and schizophrenia.
Download audio file (Dr. Mitch Earleywine – Latest Cannabis Psychoses Bunk.mp3)
NORML SHOW LIVE: The headlines are out there – CNN, WebMD, NPR, every little bit of alphabet soup out there on the cable channels and the news – is trumpeting this headline, this study – Matthew Large, I believe, is the lead researcher on this – from Prince of Wales Hospital in New South Wales Australia says quote:
“It is increasingly clear that marijuana is a cause of schizophrenia and that schizophrenia caused by cannabis starts earlier than schizophrenia with other causes.”
DR. MITCH EARLEYWINE: Alas, no. There are no new data – I want to emphasize that – this is a meta-analysis, which means it takes the studies that were already out there and tries to combine them mathematically to make sense of it all. What you’re not hearing in the media is that in fact, this is probably early-onset folks self-medicating.
You can imagine somebody who is experiencing some symptoms of psychosis, particularly folks with less access to medical care, or folks who are already a little bit paranoid because of the disorder and they’re unwilling to go to a physician. They hear their friends are using cannabis and enjoying it. They do it, too, they notice some mild improvements in their symptoms, they turn to it later when they have a psychotic break. What a surprise, [the researchers] say, “they smoked cannabis first, that’s the big issue.”
What burns my ass is that this same journal a month before had another article failing to replicate this data where we find folks with a special genetic risk and if they’re heavily involved with cannabis early in life they’re more likely to develop schizophrenia. So all this malarkey about, “oh, if you’re a genetic risk then you’re really gonna get it” isn’t showing up in other data sets. The media isn’t covering that in the least.
The other finding in this big meta-analysis is that early onset of psychosis showed up for folks who were using drugs more generally – not just cannabis – and this makes much more sense pharmacologically. When you think about cocaine, amphetamine, and other drugs that work directly in the dopamine system, that’s the system that schizophrenia is all about. And what a surprise, these folks are more likely to have an early onset.
I’m concerned that the cannabis-related studies are really spurious and they’re compounded by use of amphetamines, Ritalin, Adderall, all these other stimulant drugs that people were – particularly in Australia – unwilling to fess up to, but more than willing to say they used cannabis. We’ve got a big problem here.
As we’ve seen time and again none of us want children to have access to cannabis. And the way to get that access limited is, of course, not an underground market that never cards anybody, but a taxed and regulated one, where folks that are too young to be experimenting with this and folks who have psychosis in the family can be markedly more advised and essentially educated before they even purchase the plant.
NSL: Matthew Large, this researcher here, even addressed what we just discussed about the self-medication; he said, quote:
“There is not so much evidence for the widely-held view those patients self-medicate with marijuana. Marijuana smoking almost always comes before psychosis and few patients with psychosis start smoking marijuana for the first time.”
Is this a case then where they’re just defining psychosis as their starting point of looking at these people rather than the onset of symptoms that would pre-date or pre-sage the psychosis that’s about to come?
DR. MITCH: That’s it exactly, Russ, and as we’ve mentioned in the past what often happens is they find a big record of people who’ve had psychotic breaks and then go back and see if they’ve reported cannabis earlier. But we have very poor assessments of these potential psychotic symptoms before these people used cannabis and the few studies that do do that, the measures are slightly biased against cannabis users.
I’ve pointed out in the past one of the big questionnaires for this – a schizotypal personality questionnaire – has an item that says “I use words in strange and unusual ways.” Well, sure, schizophrenics certainly do that. They make words up; that’s part of the way that you manifest the diagnosis. But we also have a whole subculture here where people are “kickin’ back with the chronic at 420.” Well, what a surprise, people who do that may say “I use words in a strange and unusual ways.” In my dataset when you drop that item out, suddenly the link between schizotypy and cannabis use disappears. I’m concerned there are comparable problems in these other datasets.
NSL: One of the things we’ve always said in these pieces with you and I talking about this is how worldwide the rates of schizophrenia and psychosis seemed to stay stable at about 1% of the population, even if that population starts smoking a whole lot of weed – if a lot of them start smoking or if they start smoking a lot of it – doesn’t matter is still stays the same.
But one of the hypotheses they have here is that, “Yeah, sure, there’s a certain 1% that are gonna get psychosis but these 1% are gonna get it earlier and then they’d have these extra two or three years of psychosis-free functioning that they would be losing out of because of their use of marijuana.”
My first thought on that is if this were the case, wouldn’t we see a lowering of the median age of psychosis onset when we have higher use of cannabis in a society?
DR. MITCH: In fact, Wayne Hall in Australia has made this same suggestion and they have yet to detect this change in the median age of first onset. But he’s suggesting that some new data are going to reveal that in the current younger cohort, this is the case. I haven’t seen those data yet and I’m a little concerned. In part we go to so much effort now to try to identify psychosis earlier that it seems like if that is the case, it may be simply that we are better at identifying psychotic disorders than we were 20 years ago, so we have this other potential confound. And as Paul [Armentano] has emphasized time and again, we do have a subset of folks who really respond well to cannabis-based medicines in controlling psychotic episodes, and I think it may be a cannabidiol issue where Project CBD may be able to help us isolate who might be helped and who might not from this.
And then, of course, that fits that self-medication hypothesis better. I feel like the critique of that self-medication that they offer in this meta-analysis is premature, in part because of how poorly we assess psychotic symptoms prior to anyone’s cannabis use.
NSL: What is the actual risk to people who have a history of mental illness or who feel they may have a certain mental illness and how they should entertain the notion of using cannabis to treat themselves?
DR. MITCH: In fact, cannabis is rarely my first choice for any of the more common mental illnesses. So we’ve talked before about depression, anxiety, and PTSD. With depression, cannabis may help a subset of folks. A number of my friends who’re in clinical practice say that the people who are using it are having more troubles in their practice. But that may be a different subset.
But my first line of defense – it really sounds corny – but kind of a bibliotherapy. Educate yourself about depression. If you have a mental health center that you appreciate, 12 weeks of good hard work, of taking a look at your own faults, how you behave during the day, the way you frame the events in your life; that can last a lifetime in the treatment of depression. And then cannabis is just to enjoy, not something you have to lean on in order to make sure you have a happy day.
With anxiety, I’ve done this both on Facebook to some of our friends and repeatedly in emails and my published work. Anxiety is one of the psychological disorders that psychology really has mastered. If folks again are willing to go see a therapist for a good couple of months and really put some effort in, you can literally tame this kind of thing and make it so anxiety is no longer debilitating, and then suddenly your cannabis again is just for fun. The idea that cannabis is actually going to help anxiety is very dose-dependent, very strain-dependent, and not the most efficient way to get at this.
PTSD, I just got those new data on that. A ton of people think that cannabis helps some of the symptoms of PTSD. I completely believe them. But compared to these exposure-based treatments – which I know are a drag – [cannabis] is not going to last a lifetime the way that that kind of treatment can, and then again cannabis is just for fun. It doesn’t have to be for medication and you’re less likely to have these lingering symptoms of the emotional numbing, the distancing from your family, or these kind of freaking-out experiences when you’re in a big crowd. And then, what a surprise, you basically worked hard for three months and kicked this disorder rather than felt like “I have to lean on cannabis for the rest of my life.”
But while the drug warriors were busy sounding the alarm about the new super-potent, wildly-addictive “Pot 2.0: It’s Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed!”, according to Martha Rosenberg at CounterPunch, drug manufacturers were making billions in 2010 selling to Americans the following ten drugs that mimic some of marijuana’s medical effects yet are far more dangerous:
All three drugs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors according to their mandated labels, in addition to the memory and hair loss patients report.
In addition to 4,200 published reports of SSRI-related violence, including the Columbine, Red Lake and NIU shootings, SSRIs can cause serotonin syndrome and gastrointestinal bleeding when taken with certain drugs. Paxil is linked to birth defects.
SNRI’s are also harder to quit than SSRIs. 739,000 web sites address “Effexor” and “withdrawal.”
After 397 FDA cases of possible psychosis, 227 domestic reports of suicidal behaviors and 28 actual suicides, the government banned pilots, air-traffic controllers and interstate truck and bus drivers from taking the antismoking drug Chantix in 2008.
Law enforcement officials say it has increased traffic accidents from people who drive in a black out and don’t even recognize arresting officers.
As a breast cancer prevention drug, an American Journal of Medicine study found the average life expectancy increase from Tamoxifen was nine days. Public Citizen says for every case of breast cancer prevented on Tamoxifen there is a life-threatening case of blood clots, stroke or endometrial cancer.
ADHD drugs rob “kids of their right to be kids, their right to grow, their right to experience their full range of emotions, and their right to experience the world in its full hue of colors,” says Anatomy of an Epidemic author Robert Whitaker.
Studies link them to an increase in asthma deaths, especially in African-Americans and children. They may have contributed to 5,000 deaths said Dr. David Graham at FDA hearings about the controversial asthma drugs.
Original FDA reviewers said asthma control “deteriorates” on Singulair and it may not be safe in children. Last month, Fox TV reported Singulair, Merck’s top selling drug, is suspected of producing aggression, hostility, irritability, anxiety, hallucinations and night-terrors in kids, symptoms that are being diagnosed as ADHD.
Arthritis - Increases risk of gouty arthritis
Cancer - Increases the risk of cancer in the liver, pancreas, rectum, breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – Causes physical and behavioral abnormalities in the fetus
Heart Disease – Raises blood pressure, blood lipids and the risk of stroke and heart disease in heavy drinkers. Heart disease is generally lower in light to moderate drinkers.
Hyperglycermia - Raises blood glucose
Hypoglycemia - Lowers blood glucose, especially for people with diabetes
Kidney Disease - Enlarges the kidneys, alters hormone functions, and increases the risk of kidney failure
Liver Disease – Causes fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis
Malnutrition - Increases the risk of protein-energy malnutrition,; low intakes of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6 and riboflavin, and impaired absorption of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and zinc.
Nervous Disorders – Causes neuropathy and dementia; impairs balance and memory
Obesity – Increases energy intake, but not a primary cause of obesity
Psychological disturbances – Causes depression, anxiety and insomnia
So why in the world would we prevent people from using the safe, natural, effective, non-toxic herb cannabis with so many proven benefits and so little risk of side effects? Why would we force people to take a plethora of pills with proven dangerous side effects? Why would we celebrate the use of poisonous alcohol and demonize the smoking of a benign weed?
2010 Reported Corporate Revenues:
Johnson & Johnson = $61.90 billion
Pfizer= $50.01 billion
GlaxoSmithKline = $45.83 billion
Novartis = $44.27 billion
Sanofi-Aventis = $41.99 billion
AstraZeneca = $32.81 billion
Merck & Co. = $27.43 billion
Eli Lilly = $21.84 billion
Anheuser-Busch InBev (2007) = $16.70 billion
MillerCoors = $3.03 billion
Pabst = $0.50 billion
Boston Beer Company = $0.46 billion
Every legal cannabis producing company combined = $0
Oh, wait, I remember…
LIVESTRONG, as most people know, is the foundation set up by cancer survivor and 7-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. It boasts “Dare to Change Your Life”, but based on their article The Health Risks of Smoking Pot, it seems like they’re just recycling old material from D.A.R.E. (the program that brings cops into schools to introduce kids to drugs and encourage them to turn in their pot growing parents.)
The short-term health risks from smoking marijuana are well established. According to both the National Institute on DrugAbuse.com and DiscoveryHealth.com, short-term risks include memory loss, coordination problems, learning and problem solving difficulties, accelerated heart rate, anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks.
Memory “loss” is a bit much – it’s more that you have difficulty with short-term recall, learning, and problem-solving while high. However, afterwards you suffer no ill-effects to memory and cognition, even with long-term, heavy use. There are numerous studies backing this up.
You can become uncoordinated while high, which is why we don’t suggest driving or complicated physical tasks while high. A minority of those who use cannabis experience anxiety, paranoia, and panic, which is why we suggest that marijuana may not be for everyone. (Some people can die from exposure to peanut dust, but nobody advocates locking people up over a Snickers bar. If marijuana makes you paranoid, don’t smoke it.)
An accelerated heart rate, which can last for up to three hours, may increase the risk of heart attack, although the evidence is inconclusive.
That accelerated heart rate is about equal to how much climbing a flight of stairs might cause your heart rate to increase. The evidence that pot causes heart attacks is inconclusive because it isn’t there.
There is some evidence of a connection between pot and schizophrenia. The NIDA believes high doses of marijuana can produce acute psychotic reactions to trigger schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals.
The pot = schizophrenia claim is being debunked more and more every month. A ten-year look at mental hospitals in the UK found no increase in schizophrenia and psychosis even as cannabis use skyrocketed. Another study shows that schizophrenics who use cannabis have better cognitive functioning. These supposed causal relationships between pot and schizophrenia are difficult to interpret, as you can’t tell whether pot caused the schizophrenia, or the schizophrenia caused someone to seek out pot to self-medicate.
Pot smoke contains carcinogens and irritates the lungs.
But does it cause cancer? No, in fact, long-term pot smokers have lower incidence of head, neck, and lung cancers than non-smokers. Previous preclinical studies assessing the anticancer properties of cannabinoids have shown that they inhibit the proliferation of a wide range of cancers, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, oral cancers, lung cancer, skin cancer,pancreatic cancer, biliary tract cancers, and lymphoma.
This is something a cancer survivor like Armstrong and his LIVESTRONG foundation should be promoting. You know, instead of Michelob beer, use of which the Los Angeles Times reports causes cancer:
Compared with people who had less than one drink per week, those who drank daily were nearly three times as likely to get esophageal cancer. Moderate drinkers (who consumed between one and six drinks per week) were 67% more likely to get stomach cancer, according to results published in the new issue of Cancer Epidemiology.
Heavy beer drinkers had a 53% increased risk of developing rectal cancer and were 46% times more likely to get lung cancer. People who imbibed spirits daily had more than three times the risk of liver cancer, more than twice the risk of pancreatic cancer, and a 66% increased risk of rectal cancer. Despite mounting evidence of the benefits of drinking wine, moderate wine drinkers had elevated odds of rectal and bladder cancer.
Most tellingly, the researchers also found a dose-response relationship – that is, the heaviest drinkers were most at risk. Among people who consumed the most drinks for the most years, the risk of liver cancer was nearly eight times higher, and the risk of esophageal cancer was more than seven times as high. The biggest drinkers also had more than double the risk of pancreatic and rectal cancer and a more than 80% increased risk of prostate and colon cancer.
The LIVESTRONG website links to many other sets of mythology about marijuana. Reasons to Stop Smoking Pot tells us that “Those who smoke pot daily operate at subpar levels at all times”. (Wow, imagine how many more stories, podcasts, live shows, presentations, websites, and gigs I could produce if only I weren’t operating at a subpar level! Imagine how much better the Cosmos series would have been if Carl Sagan hadn’t been operating at a subpar level at all times!)
What Are the Side Effects of Pot? warns us that “disruption in career, social and family functioning occurs because of a loss of interest in daily activities” and “reproductive problems may occur, including lower sperm count for men.” (I’d tell that to Willie Nelson, but his career in country music, touring at age 77, and doting on his seven children and many grandchildren, makes contacting him difficult.)
What Are the Effects of Smoking Pot? tells us “it is possible to become physically dependent on marijuana.” It’s so darn physically addicting that if you quit cold turkey, you “may experience cravings, insomnia and anxiety.”
Effects from Smoking Pot warns that “high doses of marijuana can lead to paranoia, image distortion or psychosis. Such effects may last several days or weeks….” Where do I find me some of that pot?
Now it seems these articles are submitted to LIVESTRONG and perhaps not well-edited by their staff. But Lance Armstrong endorsing alcohol is not an accident. If he is going to endorse a recreational substance, shouldn’t he endorse one that doesn’t cause – and might even cure – cancer?
Her colleagues razzed (as did I) and asked why marijuana should remain illegal while alcohol and tobacco, which she admits is more “noxious in its effects in the general public”, are legal. Two reasons: history and economics, she argues:
The use of alcohol stretches back over the millennia as an integral part of human civilization and remains, when used properly, a prime ingredient of civilized conviviality and positive social bonding. Alcohol in moderation is not only a social lubricant, it is good for one’s health.
It’s the old Art Linkletter / Richard Nixon argument:
The transcripts show Linkletter telling Nixon, “There’s a great difference between alcohol and marijuana.”
Nixon replies: “What is it?” The president wants to know!
“When people smoke marijuana,” Linkletter explains, “they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable.”
“That’s right, that’s right,” Nixon says. “A person does not drink to get drunk. . . . A person drinks to have fun.”
A year later, however, Linkletter changed his tune. According to the New York Times, “After much thought and study he had concluded that the drug was relatively harmless.”
Nixon and Kay are wrong, of course: plenty of people are drinking to get drunk, most particularly the young people she’s so concerned would suffer from “marijuana-induced psychosis”. According to SAMSHA, 8% of youth aged 12-17 engaged in binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row, or as I used to call it, Friday night) in the past thirty days. Twice as many (16%) teens report experiencing a blackout from alcohol use.
I’m not arguing that we prohibit responsible use of alcohol for adults in order to protect the children from irresponsible use, but that’s exactly what Kay is supporting for marijuana. Yet everything she praises about alcohol – thousands of years of human use, integral to civilization, social bonding, good for health – are praises tenfold for cannabis use.
It is rather kooky to criminally prohibit marijuana and then claim its lack of social integration is reason to keep it prohibited. It is ghoulish to support the legality of alcohol and tobacco with economic arguments, as Kay continues:
As for tobacco, if we knew hundreds of years ago what we know now about its effects – never good, only bad – I would have argued against legalizing it as well. But as with alcohol, it’s not so easy to disband an industry as huge and profitable as tobacco on the grounds that it is unhealthy. There is too much at stake economically. So we’re stuck with it.
So if a substance makes government a ton of money and creates a ton of jobs, it really doesn’t matter that it kills 400,000 North Americans a year, does it? See, if marijuana wanted Barbara Kay’s support, all the money it generates and jobs it creates would need to be legal and taxed, then she wouldn’t mind being “stuck with it”. But since marijuana’s effects are “usually good, rarely bad”, Kay sticks with her support of criminal prohibition of cannabis.
The latest studies confirm that the risk of marijuana-induced psychosis is real, and the most at-risk users are teenagers; regular teenage pot smokers seem to have double the risk of developing paranoia, hallucinations and psychotic breaks five years later.
These studies she links to are referenced in an article that features the story of Don Corbeil:
Corbeil had been smoking pot since he was 14, a habit that escalated to about 10 joints a day.
He started hearing voices and, at one point, Corbeil thought he was the Messiah. Police found him one day talking incoherently, and brought him to hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis.
Corbeil had dabbled in other drugs, such as acid and ecstasy. But marijuana was his mainstay.
Of course, the article does note that “who exactly is at risk remains hazy” and “the study, however, did not determine whether the drug prompted symptoms or was used to self-medicate.” It also noted “the vast majority of pot smokers will not go psychotic.” But the warnings that the small subset of young teenagers already susceptible to mental illness that smoke ten joints a day might have an increased risk of psychoses is enough for Kay to support locking adults in cages for smoking a joint at home.
According to CAMH, more than thirty percent of Onrtario’s Grade 10 students reported cannabis use in the past year. Add to that the worries about the vastly increased strength of today’s marijuana. Since the 1970s mainstream marijuana has seen a 25-fold increase in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabis’s psychoactive ingredient.
“Pot 2.0! It’s Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed!” Look, I’ve seen the clothes, hairstyles, and listened to the music of the 1970s… there is no way our parents’ weed was 25 times weaker than what we’re smoking now. In fact, even the article from which Kay cribs the “Ontrario” high school sophomore data knows better:
And what they’re smoking is not their hippie dad’s doobie. Growers have bred more potent pot, more than doubling the amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient, and decreasing the cannabidiol, a protective ingredient.
Eh, “doubling”, “25-fold increase”, it’s all the same to a prohibitionist.
Now if Kay were really worried about those kids and their access to pot, maybe she should explain how what we’re doing now is working when 3-in-10 Ontario sophomores have smoked it this year? According to the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, the number of tobacco smokers aged 15-19 works out to aboot 3-in-20 (14%), eh? They also find that only aboot 1-in-20 (5.6%) 15-19-year-olds have an unhealthy dependence on alcohol.
It’s not that marijuana is harmless and that’s why we should legalize it. We’ve found that prohibition of a very harmful substance, alcohol, was a worse problem than the minority of people who use it irresponsibly or unhealthily. We’ve found that strict regulation of an addictive substance, tobacco, has had remarkable success in reducing its use. So why wouldn’t we try that solution with a substance that is far less harmful and addictive than those two?
Barbara Kay tries to straddle the fence, because even she knows the truth about cannabis, but is still reluctant to give up on prohibition:
Clearly the actual statistical negatives of pot are very small. But what seems to emerge is that for a very small subset of the population, the risk for psychosis is high. One of these days it may be possible to test for that susceptibility as we do for allergies. What we know is that the health facts on marijuana use are not all in, and until researchers are as familiar with the effects of marijuana as they are with those of alcohol and tobacco, there should be no rush to make pot available in local handy stores.
Read more: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/07/09/barabara-kay-more-warnings-about-the-dangers-of-pot/#ixzz0vBvpu4L2
We are still learning plenty about alcohol and tobacco and their effects on health and behavior. It wasn’t that long ago that “Doctors Smoke Chesterfield” ads were on our TV sets and nobody had ever heard of “fetal alcohol syndrome”. Yet discovery of tobacco and alcohol’s previously unknown health dangers never prompted Barbara Kay to pull those products from local handy stores (is that Canadian for “convenience store”?) And day after day here at NORML we report study after study that shows heretofore unknown benefits of cannabis use, like this one that shows schizophrenics who use cannabis demonstrate better cognitive functioning… the same people whose susceptibility to cannabis Kay is using to frighten us into caging adults over cannabis.
As for allergies – there are people on this continent who are deathly allergic to peanuts. Some of them are even children. For the rest of us, peanuts are nice plant product we consume for nourishment, enjoyment, and occasionally while socializing. The fact that peanuts can kill a tiny subset of people with an allergy didn’t lead us to laws banning all peanut use for adults. Instead we did the sensible thing and required confectioners, bakers, and snack food manufacturers to label their products not only if they contain peanuts, but even if their non-peanut snacks are made with equipment that has touched peanuts.
So legalize it already and slap on a warning label: “This product contains cannabinoids. Discuss cannabinoid use with your doctor. Cannabinoids should not be used by pregnant women, children, and those susceptible to psychoses or with a family history of mental illness.”
The Impact of Cannabis Use on Cognitive Functioning in Patients With Schizophrenia: A Meta-analysis of Existing Findings and New Data in a First-Episode Sample.
Yücel M, Bora E, Lubman DI, Solowij N, Brewer WJ, Cotton SM, Conus P, Takagi MJ, Fornito A, Wood SJ, McGorry PD, Pantelis C.
Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne and Melbourne Health, National Neuroscience Facility, Alan Gilbert Building, 161 Barry Street, Carlton South, Victoria 3053, Australia.
Cannabis use is highly prevalent among people with schizophrenia, and coupled with impaired cognition, is thought to heighten the risk of illness onset. However, while heavy cannabis use has been associated with cognitive deficits in long-term users, studies among patients with schizophrenia have been contradictory.
This article consists of 2 studies. In Study I, a meta-analysis of 10 studies comprising 572 patients with established schizophrenia (with and without comorbid cannabis use) was conducted. Patients with a history of cannabis use were found to have superior neuropsychological functioning. This finding was largely driven by studies that included patients with a lifetime history of cannabis use rather than current or recent use.
In Study II, we examined the neuropsychological performance of 85 patients with first-episode psychosis (FEP) and 43 healthy nonusing controls. Relative to controls, FEP patients with a history of cannabis use (FEP + CANN; n = 59) displayed only selective neuropsychological impairments while those without a history (FEP – CANN; n = 26) displayed generalized deficits. When directly compared, FEP + CANN patients performed better on tests of visual memory, working memory, and executive functioning. Patients with early onset cannabis use had less neuropsychological impairment than patients with later onset use.
Together, these findings suggest that patients with schizophrenia or FEP with a history of cannabis use have superior neuropsychological functioning compared with nonusing patients. This association between better cognitive performance and cannabis use in schizophrenia may be driven by a subgroup of “neurocognitively less impaired” patients, who only developed psychosis after a relatively early initiation into cannabis use.
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To add insult to injury, this latest dose of reefer rhetoric comes only days after investigators in the United Kingdom reported in the prestigious scientific journal Addiction that the available evidence in support of this theory is “neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling.” (Predictably, the conclusions of that study went all together unnoticed by the mainstream press.)
Yet today’s latest alarmist report, like those studies touting similar claims before it, fails to account for the following: If, as the authors of this latest study suggest, cannabis use is a cause of mental illness (and schizophrenia in particular), then why have diagnosed incidences of schizophrenia not paralleled rising trends in cannabis use over time?
In fact, it was only in September when investigators at the Keele University Medical School in Britain smashed the pot = schizophrenia theory to smithereens. Writing in the journal Schizophrenia Research, the team compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Researchers reported that the “incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” during this period, even the use of cannabis among the general population was rising.
That said, none of this is to suggest that there may not be some association between marijuana use and certain psychiatric ailments. Cannabis use can correlate with mental illness for many reasons. People often turn to cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of distress. One study performed in Germany showed that cannabis offsets certain cognitive declines in schizophrenic patients. Another study demonstrated that psychotic symptoms predict later use of cannabis, suggesting that people might turn to the plant for help rather than become ill after use.
Of course, even if one takes the MSM’s latest ‘sky is falling’ scenario at face value, health risks connected with pot use — when scientifically documented — should not be seen as legitimate reasons for criminal prohibition, but instead, as reasons for the plant’s legal regulation.
For instance, as I told AOL News earlier today: “We don’t outlaw peanuts because a small percentage of people have allergic reactions. We educate the community, we regulate where and when peanuts can be exchanged. That seems like it ought to apply to marijuana, too.”
To draw another real world comparison, millions of Americans safely use ibuprofen as an effective pain reliever. However, among a minority of the population who suffer from liver and kidney problems, ibuprofen presents a legitimate and substantial health risk. However, this fact no more calls for the criminalization of ibuprofen among adults than do these latest anti-pot allegations, even if true, call for the current prohibition of cannabis.
Placed in this context, today’s warnings latest do little to advance the government’s position in favor of tightening prohibition, and provide ample ammunition to wage for its repeal.
(OnMedica) Smoking marijuana is unlikely to increase a person’s risk of killing themselves later on, according to a study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry.
UK researchers came to the conclusion following their analysis of more than three decades worth of death records on more than 50,000 Swedish military recruits.
Dr Stanley Zammit of the department of psychological medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine and colleagues had previously found a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia while looking at the same group of 50,087 men drafted into the Swedish military in 1969-1970.
Nearly all were 18 to 20 years old at the time and in that first analysis, the researchers had also found a “much less consistent and overall weaker” relationship between cannabis use and depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and suicide.
To investigate further, Dr Zammit and his team identified suicides among the recruits over the next 33 years in Sweden’s National Cause of Death Registry. During that time, there were 600 suicides or deaths from unknown causes.
At the time they were drafted, about one in 10 of the men admitted to ever using cannabis. These men were 62% more likely to have killed themselves during the follow-up period than men who had never used marijuana.
However, once the researchers adjusted for factors that could influence both cannabis use and suicide risk, such as behavior problems in childhood, psychological adjustment, psychiatric diagnoses, drinking, smoking, and parental drug use, the increased risk of suicide associated with marijuana disappeared.
As with all these studies, they are nice to have, but a little bit of common sense can bring you to the same conclusion. If marijuana use led to increased suicides, don’t you think there would be a whole lot fewer aging baby boomers around these days?
When I was a youngster, I faced a crossroads where I could decide between continuing in school band or committing to playing football. “What should I do, Dad,” I asked my father, “I really like being in band and I’m pretty good at it. But I love playing football, too, and I think I could be a great tight-end someday. What should I do?”
“Well, son, I’ll tell you what. Go find yourself some stories from old men who made those choices. Go read about some musicians in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Then go read stories about old football players.”
Turns out, there aren’t a whole lot of old football players in their 60s, 70s, and 80s to find stories about. The average life expectancy for an NFL player is 55 years old. Meanwhile, B.B. King is 85-years-old and is playing the Hard Rock in Florida this coming Groundhog Day.
The point is that when we look around these days, we don’t see a whole lot of elderly folks who’ve used alcohol, heroin, cocaine, tobacco, or meth all of their lives. But Willie Nelson is 77-years-old and has been smoking weed all the livelong day and the dope-smoking bra-burners and Vietnam-protesters of the 60s who still smoke a joint from time to time are now the majority of the AARP.