Tuesday, August 14, 2007

pot propaganda


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Chances are good you read one of the recent news reports that pot smokers have higher rates of psychotic disorder than the general population. Even infrequent pot use was purported to raise the lifetime risk of experiencing a mental disorder by as much as 40%. Here are a few such links:

Pot and Psychosis: Possible Link?, CBS News
Marijuana May Increase Psychosis Risk, CNN
Pot Smoking Linked to Psychotic Disorders, Los Angeles Times

I'm openly in favor of making medical marijuana available for use as a treatment for a whole host of medical conditions. I believe it should be a legal option for doctors and patients to explore. But this information gave me pause. I questioned the study's notion that there is a cause-and-effect relationship because I already knew that mental illness and drug use often go hand in hand. However, the accuracy of the correlation between pot use and psychosis is being called into question.

Interpreting Hazy Warnings about Pot and Mental Illness, The Huffington Post
the British medical journal The Lancet reports that smoking cannabis ­- even occasionally ­- can increase one's risk of becoming psychotic. It sounds alarming at first, but a closer look at the evidence reveals that there's less here than the headlines imply.

First, there is no new study. The paper published in The Lancet is a meta-analysis -- a summary of seven studies that previously appeared in other journals, including some that were published decades ago. Second, the touted association between cannabis and mental illness is small--about the same size as the link between head injury and psychosis. Finally, despite what some new sources suggest, this association is hardly proof of a cause-and-effect relationship between cannabis and psychosis.

These authors speculate this recent article show a (in my opinion unsuprising) political bias against marijuana use. More than a particular agenda or intent to mislead, though, is what I believe to be an unwillingness to go behind the story and examine the facts on the part of most mainstream news outlets.

I don't understand the hatred and fear of marijuana. I've never followed the rationale behind lumping it in with truly dangerous, addictive, life-ruining drugs like meth or heroin. Certainly, marijuana can become addictive and lead to other problems in the lives of those addicted to it. The same is true of liquor, yet as adults, we are trusted to know our own limits and use it responsibly and safely.

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