Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The Drug Myth That Will Not Die
Brits still pushing marijuana/schizophrenia connection.
If at first you don’t succeed....
The UK Telegraph reports that scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in King's College London injected (yes, injected) 22 healthy men with high potency THC (not marijuana), and recorded the results. According to the leader of the study team, Dr. Paul Morrison, "These findings confirm that THC can induce a transient acute psychological reaction in psychiatrically well individuals."
The Telegraph article said the researchers found that the "extent of psychotic reaction" was not related to "the degree of anxiety or cognitive impairment" in the men.
Mary Brett, vice president of Europe Against Drugs, said: "This shows that anyone who is healthy can become psychotic by smoking cannabis. They don't already have to have a mental illness. Healthy people can become psychotic."
Well, no. Observant readers will no doubt find all of this familiar: More than a year ago, a national hysteria over “skunk” cannabis was sparked in Great Britain when the University College of London produced a study purporting to show that strong pot was literally driving people crazy. The lunacy peaked with Prime Minister Brown’s description of new strains of cannabis as 'lethal.' At the time, the London Guardian reported that "Whitehall's own panel of experts has concluded that increased marijuana use has not been matched by a corresponding rise in mental illness."
Against the advice of her own drug advisers, then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith restored cannabis from class C to the “harder” class B status because of mental health concerns. British health authorities maintained that "skunk" cannabis was linked to the onset of schizophrenia. Since no one knows what, exactly, causes schizophrenia, and since recent findings continue to point toward genetic causes, this was a triply astonishing claim.
Colin Blakemore, a prominent professor of neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick, tackled the issue of “pot so strong it can make you psychotic” in an article for the Guardian:
“And what of the alarming stories of horrifying powerful "skunk"? Some newspapers have told us that the level of THC, the active ingredient, in street cannabis today is 20 or 30 times higher than 10 years ago. That would be rather surprising, given that THC content was 7 per cent on average in 1995. In reality, two studies, due to be published later this year, concluded that the average THC content has doubled.”
With the latest report, King’s College has once again proven that if you inject someone with massive doses of THC, he or she will find the experience dramatically unpleasant. So do monkeys. Years ago, when researchers injected test monkeys with synthetic THC approximately one hundred times more powerful than the naturally occurring substance, the monkeys fell down and didn’t move. This was dramatic proof of... nothing in particular. But it was sensational and it made headlines.
Meanwhile, the solid fact that a minority of marijuana users experience strong withdrawal symptoms when they abstain—an important and verifiable scientific finding—remains largely unknown to the general public.
Photo Credit: http: www.healthjockey.com