Psychosis, Hype And Baloney

Psychosis, Hype And Baloney
Posted by CN Staff on March 07, 2005 at 17:48:34 PT
By Bruce Mirken and Mitch Earleywine 
Source: AlterNet
The mainstream media is eating it up, but a new study claiming a link between marijuana use and psychosis should be approached with great caution. As the month began, the worldwide press jumped all over a study in the March issue of the journal Addiction purporting to show a causal link between marijuana use and psychosis. "Drug Doubles Mental Health Risk," the BBC reported. "Marijuana Increases Risk of Psychosis," the Washington Times chimed in.
Such purported links have lately become the darling of prohibitionists, but a close look at the new study reveals gaping holes unmentioned in those definitive-sounding headlines.Before we look at the study itself, let's consider some basics: If X causes Y, it's reasonable to expect a huge increase in X to cause at least a modest increase in Y, but this has not been the case with marijuana and psychosis. Private and government surveys have documented a massive increase in marijuana use, particularly by young people, during the 1960s and '70s, but no corresponding increase in psychosis was ever reported. This strongly suggests that if marijuana use plays any role in triggering psychosis, that effect is weak, rare, or both.For this reason, researchers should approach "proof" that marijuana causes serious mental illness with great caution. The researchers in this case, a New Zealand team led by David M. Fergusson of the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, seem to have done just the reverse.Fergusson's team looked at a group of 1,265 New Zealand kids who were followed from birth to age 25 and assessed at various points along the way for a variety of physical, mental and social problems and issues. At ages 18, 21 and 25 they were assessed for both marijuana use and supposed psychotic symptoms. Having found a correlation, with daily users reporting the highest frequency of psychotic symptoms, they then applied a series of mathematical models. These models are designed to adjust for possible variables that might confound the results and to assess whether the marijuana use caused the symptoms or vice versa.Whatever model was applied, the correlation held up. But the reported "growing evidence" that "regular use of cannabis may increase risks of psychosis" depends completely on the validity of the underlying data, and those data raise some screamingly obvious questions.Psychotic symptoms were measured using 10 items from something called Symptom Checklist 90. Participants were asked if they had certain ideas, feelings or beliefs that commonly accompany psychotic states. The researchers did not look at actual diagnoses, and the symptom checklist is not identical to the formal diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM-IV manual. Perhaps most important, they only used 10 "representative" items from a much larger questionnaire.These 10 items focus heavily on paranoid thoughts or feelings, such as "feeling other people cannot be trusted," "feeling you are being watched or talked about by others," "having ideas or beliefs that others do not share." This presents a big methodological problem, because it is well known that paranoid feelings are a fairly common effect of being high on marijuana.But the article gives no indication that respondents were asked to distinguish between feelings experienced while high and feelings experienced at other times. Thus, we are left with no indication at all as to whether these supposed psychotic symptoms are long-term effects or simply the normal, passing effects of marijuana intoxication. While it's possible the researchers had these data and didn't see a need to report them, the failure to do so is downright bizarre. It's like reporting that people who go to bars are more erratic drivers than people who don't, without bothering to look at whether they'd been drinking at the time their driving skills were assessed.Even if these were long-term effects, the researchers seem not to have considered that what might be an indication of psychosis in other circumstances could be an entirely normal reaction for people who use marijuana. Consider: Someone using a substance that is both illegal and socially frowned-upon almost by definition has "ideas or beliefs that others do not share." This is not a sign of mental illness. It's a sign of a rational person realistically assessing his or her situation.The same goes for "feeling other people cannot be trusted." Just ask Robin Prosser, the Montana medical marijuana patient arrested last summer on possession charges by the cops who came to save her life after she'd attempted suicide because she was in unbearable pain after running out of medicine.Fergusson reports very little raw data, so we don't know which symptoms came up most often, or whether the differences in average levels of symptoms between users and non-users came from a few people having a lot of symptoms or a lot of people having a couple symptoms. The heavy-user group, with the highest levels of supposed psychosis, reported an average of less than two symptoms each. So it is entirely possible that the entire case for marijuana "causing" psychosis is based on marijuana smokers having the completely reasonable feelings that they have beliefs different from mainstream society and thus should be a tad suspicious of others."Proof" that marijuana makes you psychotic? No. Not even close. But don't expect the mainstream media to figure this out. Bruce Mirken is communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., is associate professor of psychology at the University of Southern California and author of "Understanding Marijuana" (Oxford University Press, 2002). Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Bruce Mirken and Mitch EarleywinePublished: March 07, 2005Copyright: 2005 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Raises Risk of Psychosis of Dr. Mitch Earleywine Interview on NPR
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Comment #20 posted by observer on May 29, 2010 at 13:36:39 PT
creativity mimics schizophrenia
Marijuana stimulates creativity; creativity mimics schizophrenia. (29 May 2010)
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Comment #19 posted by Hope on March 09, 2005 at 07:20:07 PT
worth checking out
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Comment #18 posted by potpal on March 09, 2005 at 04:53:15 PT
Television anti ads...ot
It hit me last night after having viewing a anti-tobacco ad that you never, ever, ever see an anti-alcohol ad, there doesn't seem to be any groups, other than AA, that are pointing out the dangers and pitfalls of alcoholism and preaching prevention. You know, like a commercial with someone sleeping in a disshoveled room with a backdrop of empty beer cans and overflowing cigarette ashtrays, a clock in the background showing 10:45am...this could be fun...!Give pot a chance. Peace.
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Comment #17 posted by mayan on March 08, 2005 at 17:33:54 PT
Mainstream Dinosaurs
"Proof" that marijuana makes you psychotic? No. Not even close. But don't expect the mainstream media to figure this out.The mainstream media, by omitting and spinning the truth, is quickly going the way of the dinosaur.I just saw two "USA Today" ads on cable tv within five minutes. I don't recall seeing many mainstream papers(besides the WSJ) advertise on tv. They must be losing readership like most mainstream sources. The internet is becoming the dominant source of news and information!
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Comment #16 posted by ekim on March 08, 2005 at 16:14:43 PT
Virtually no one in America other than a handful 
Self-Perpetuating Lies
In fact, FBI statistics, had Anslinger bothered to check, showed at least 65-75% of all murders in the U.S. were then - and still are - alcohol related. As an example of his racist statements, Anslinger read into U.S. Congressional testimony (without objection) stories about "coloreds" with big lips, luring white women with jazz music and marijuana. He read an account of two black students at the University of Minnesota doing this to a white coed "with the result of pregnancy." The congressmen of 1937 gasped at this and at the fact that this drug seemingly caused white women to touch or even look at a "Negro."Virtually no one in America other than a handful of rich industrialists and their hired cops knew that their chief potential competitor - hemp - was being outlawed under the name "marijuana."That's right. Marijuana was most likely just a pretext for hemp prohibition and economic suppression. The water was further muddied by the confusion of marijuana with "loco weed" (Jimson Weed). The situation was not clarified by the press, which continued to print the misinformation into the 1960s. At the dawn of the 1990s, the most extravagant and ridiculous attacks on the hemp plant drew national media attention - such as a study widely reported by health journals* in 1989 that claimed marijuana smokers put on about a half a pound of weight per day. Now in 1998, they just want to duck the issue. *American Health, July/August 1989. Meanwhile, serious discussions of the health, civil liberties and economic aspects of the hemp issue are frequently dismissed as being nothing but an "excuse so that people can smoke pot" - as if people need an excuse to state the facts about any matter. One must concede that, as a tactic, lying to the public about the beneficial nature of hemp and confusing them as to its relationship with "marijuana" has been very successful.
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Comment #15 posted by potpal on March 08, 2005 at 12:03:06 PT
...didn't notice that but now I do. That was worth a laugh all by itself!
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Comment #14 posted by Richard Paul Zuckerm on March 08, 2005 at 08:51:10 PT:
Better to abuse Cannabis than Heroin, Crack, Methamphetamine, and other DANGEROUS drugs, though!
It reminds me of the History Channel show I saw a couple of weeks ago about the Methamphetamine injections Adolph Hitler received from his personal physician, which they claim was a substantial contributing reason why Hitler lost his wars in the end. If Uncle Adolph had been smoking pot, exclusively, he probable would not have lost the wars, assuming he would have gone to war in the first place!!!
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Comment #13 posted by siege on March 08, 2005 at 08:43:53 PT
O T 
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Comment #12 posted by Hope on March 08, 2005 at 08:43:19 PT
Apparently, BBC thought we might think something like that. I almost posted the article, myself, from another source, thinking like you are thinking.Sooo...BBC thinking that a thinking person might think that posted up in the right hand corner a "See also" box with reference to the cannabis/blood vessel story they had a few weeks ago.I'd like to laugh fifteen minutes a day. Wouldn't that be something?
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Comment #11 posted by potpal on March 08, 2005 at 07:36:58 PT
Lil' OT... are friend, Cannabis, factors in here!Yes Sirree...
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on March 08, 2005 at 07:14:34 PT
The GCW 
You're very welcome.
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Comment #9 posted by The GCW on March 08, 2005 at 05:06:48 PT
Thanks for posting the Denver info. 
Another notch... 
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Comment #8 posted by Robbie on March 07, 2005 at 23:16:50 PT
I really appreciate seeing this article...
a major article debunking the myth of increased psychosis, especially among youth, because of marijuana. Only one problem...notice the source? "ALTER" "ALTERNATE" alternative media which means the debunking will get much less play than the disinformation has. Of course, this is true of most issues, but it's sad nonetheless.
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on March 07, 2005 at 22:58:24 PT
Reading about Thomas Lawrence
I found a link to this.'s an interview with a DEA agent. It's quite interesting.
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Comment #6 posted by Taylor121 on March 07, 2005 at 22:42:20 PT
Things like this
It is reports like this that make fighting in this movement well worth it."To comply with a court order, the department returned a bag of marijuana to Thomas Lawrence, a medical patient licensed to use the drug under Colorado law. 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 07, 2005 at 20:57:52 PT
Denver Police Return Medical Marijuana
By Ari ArmstrongMarch 4, 2005"This is the first time that drugs have been released to anyone" by the Denver Police Department, Detective Teresa Garcia said today. To comply with a court order, the department returned a bag of marijuana to Thomas Lawrence, a medical patient licensed to use the drug under Colorado law. Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2000 allowing medical use of marijuana.Robert Corry, Lawrence's lawyer, said, "The state government has no right to take his medicine from him... The police need an education on Colorado law. There are certain people who have a right to use medical marijuana," if they get a doctor's recommendation and a state license.Complete Article with Pictures:
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Comment #4 posted by observer on March 07, 2005 at 19:53:21 PT
ideas others do not share - witch test
they only used 10 "representative" items from a much larger questionnaire ... [the] 10 items focus heavily on paranoid thoughts or feelings, such as "feeling other people cannot be trusted," "feeling you are being watched or talked about by others," "having ideas or beliefs that others do not share."
Jewish neurologist Arnold Merzbach studied hundreds of Jewish children during the first eighteen months of the Nazi regime. In the first half of 1933 he found "restlessness, irritability, and increased squabbling. Some youths were refusing to eat; the more intelligent ones were sleeping fitfully and given to brooding." Similar behavior continued throughout the year, "as well as many neurotic symptoms." He noted, "older children thought themselves objects of special attention when outdoors." We typically find Jewish adults, too, drawing into themselves, exhibiting despair, and developing problems in relating with people as one formerly supportive group after another (employers, insurers, landlords, police) prevented them from living normally in society. These sorts of Jewish behavior mimic the "drug user personality," suggesting that the behavior may be a response to persecution from society rather than an expression of someone's inherent personality -- particularly since most users of socially approved drugs such as alcohol and nicotine do not exhibit "drug user symptoms" despite those drugs' potency and danger. In many cases, the proper course of treatment of drug users may simply be to cease persecuting them.
Drug Warriors and their Prey, Richard Miller, pgs.173-174 "Ideas others do not share," indeed. What person doesn't have "ideas others do not share"? What a ridiculous cherry-picking witch test.
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on March 07, 2005 at 18:53:39 PT
Psychosis, Hype And Baloney & the ball and book.
Did anyone mention this? Barkley admitted to FOX SPORTS RADIO that he smoked marijuana during his NBA playing days. Barkley, the outspoken broadcaster for TNT, was a guest on "The Drive with Chris Myers and guest-host Ben Maller," which can be heard Monday through Friday from 3 - 7 p.m. EST/ 12 - 4 p.m. PST.Sir Charles touched on a number of issues during the interview including his dislike of Jose Canseco: “I was so disappointed in Jose Canseco. Number one for screwing up his career. And if he doesn’t have any money left, that’s his fault.”Barkley also talked about the situation at Temple with suspended coach John Chaney: “I love John Chaney. And I respect John Chaney. But he was wrong, he broke a kid's arm.”Barkley also talked about his book "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" that will be published in April.Ben Maller asked Barkley if steroids are an issue in the NBA:Barkley – “I’m assuming that some guys smoke pot and it wouldn’t surprise me if some guys are doing coke. But in my 16 years, a couple of guys, myself included smoked some pot. But I never saw cocaine. I smoked pot with a couple of guys who were my friends. I’m pretty sure that a couple of other guys were doing it.Chris Myers – “Did you say that you smoked pot?”Barkley – “Yeah.”Chris Myers – “When you were playing?”Barkley – “Yeah, a couple of times.”
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Comment #2 posted by Taylor121 on March 07, 2005 at 18:42:12 PT
MPP *thumbs up*
I'm glad we have people that understand the concept of logic in our movement.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 07, 2005 at 17:59:56 PT
Good Article
When I hear good radio programs and read good articles they always give me hope. I sure appreciate them.
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