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IQ and Marijuana
June 24, 2013 10:36 AM   Subscribe

A study published last year shows that teenage marijuana use can lead to decreased IQ in adulthood. According to Nature, "when their adult IQ was tested at 38 years old, the heaviest and most persistent adolescent-onset users in the study had experienced an average decline of eight IQ points from childhood to adulthood."

More recently, this research has been under attack--the same journal published a new study criticizing the original study's methodology. The critics argue that the original study did not control for effects of poverty on IQ. In other words, "[Their] statistical models are unable to distinguish between a causal effect of cannabis on IQ-development and a non-causal correlation."

Andrew Gelman has some commentary.
posted by MisantropicPainforest (173 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
In addition to not being as smart as I was when I was a teenager, I've also noticed that pop music isn't as good.
posted by box at 10:40 AM on June 24, 2013 [68 favorites]


heaviest and most persistent

If your use of almost anything can be desribed as "heaviest and most persistent", it's probably not great for you. What about normal people with normal use? Not headline-making, I'd wager.
posted by spaltavian at 10:41 AM on June 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's cool, you kids can play on my lawn.
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:41 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Great proof that the continuous use of IQ tests is bad for you /stonerlogic
posted by ouke at 10:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Seems like they'd have to correct for alcohol use as well as for other substances. I'm sure there exist people who smoke a lot of pot, starting in adolescence, and use no other drugs, but I'd bet that this type of person usually at minimum also abuses alcohol.
posted by thelonius at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


How are we still referring to adult IQ scores as though they are meaningful in any way?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [57 favorites]


Suonds about rite.
posted by Danf at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rat Spatula: keep off the grass
posted by 7segment at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013


heaviest and most persistent

I think they must mean the guys that gave into the munchies more than the other stoners.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't IQ scores lower with age anyway as the score of 100 represents the average and not an absolute number? Were this on any other subject I would assume they controlled for this, but then again there was that brain damage study done years back where they suffocated monkeys.
posted by Pseudology at 10:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, ask my wife about her few years of experience as a high school math teacher, and she'll point out a ton of anecdotal data. But the best example of marijuana-induced stupidity was an outburst from a stoner student of hers. This kid said he had a reason why marijuana wasn't bad for you, so my wife asked for him to share it.

"They medicine."

That was it. And he said it so proudly, like he had clearly defended his smoking to his classmates and his teacher. Who all then laughed at him. I'm not sure he realized there were words missing from his sentence.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:44 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


How are we still referring to adult IQ scores as though they are meaningful in any way?

Clinical psychologists generally regard them as having sufficient statistical validity for many clinical purposes.
posted by DU at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


there was that brain damage study done years back where they suffocated monkeys.

I can only assume that they were testing the hypothesis that only seriously brain damaged people could be cruel enough to suffocate a monkey.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:45 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


"They medicine."

He never medicine he didn't like.
posted by DU at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


I think the criticisms are warranted, it is worth making sure poverty and other potential factors are accounted for, but I also would not be surprised at all if regular use of marijuana does lower one's overall intelligence.
posted by edgeways at 10:47 AM on June 24, 2013


Suffocating the monkey -- is that some kind of metaphor for spectacularly poor masturbation?
posted by unSane at 10:47 AM on June 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Basically, they claimed they exposed monkeys to six months of marijuana use. Instead they gave the monkeys twice the amount of marijuana over three months. During this process the monkeys were partially deprived of oxygen. Then they pointed to the results and said, see, marijuana causes brain damage!
posted by Pseudology at 10:48 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


It sounds like this "marijuana" stuff might be nearly as bad for you as alcohol and tobacco. We should probably put some laws in place so it can't be sold to anyone under 18.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:49 AM on June 24, 2013 [30 favorites]


Here's a better summary on what happened. Second one down.
posted by Pseudology at 10:50 AM on June 24, 2013


But all the beer I drank isn't unsmart making me, right?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:51 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It should be noted this study has been answered with another study that questioned the results.

In particular, what the second study found is summed up in the following:
...the new study suggests that the original one did not account for the effects of poverty, which can affect the way IQ changes over time. Using mathematical modeling, the new research found that because education can affect the trajectory of IQ development differently in people of different socioeconomic status, the environment, and not marijuana, may be the source of the poorer cognitive development.
tl;dr - Basically, you know what else can lead to decreased IQ in adulthood? Poverty. And the original study didn't properly account for that.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:53 AM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Gelman link is really just reblogging Ole Rogeberg's to-and-fro with the authors of the original paper. It's worth reading Rogeberg's latest comment on this. It is interesting to note the the original authors have, in response to Rogeberg's criticisms, run an analysis of socio-economic status subgroups in the Dunedin longitudinal data and found no effect on IQ--which actually strikes a larger blow against his original criticism than he cares to admit. He is right, however, that they haven't fully answered his point.

Then again, one can endlessly spin out potential confounders for any large-scale statistical study of this kind. At some point you have to say "well, these results look interesting and suggestive and we've addressed the obvious confounders we could think of; it's time to publish and invite other people to pick this ball up and run with it." Both Gelman and Rogeberg seem to be overstating the defensiveness of the original researchers here given that they have, in fact, returned to their data and done further analysis in response to Rogeberg's initial criticisms.
posted by yoink at 10:54 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's a better summary on what happened. Second one down.

That link was last updated in 2000. My links were for studies published about a year ago.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2013


Oops I didn't read.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2013


I'm also not a pot smoker.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "Oh, ask my wife about her few years of experience as a high school math teacher, and she'll point out a ton of anecdotal data."

...

edgeways: "I think the criticisms are warranted, it is worth making sure poverty and other potential factors are accounted for, but I also would not be surprised at all if regular use of marijuana does lower one's overall intelligence."

Don't you folks think that, in light of the massive swirl of cultural preconceptions orbiting around marijuana and marijuana use, we should probably be even less willing than usual to accept conclusions based on anecdote and intuition? It seems like this sort of "eh sounds right!"-style response can only hurt the discourse, here.
posted by invitapriore at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2013 [21 favorites]


heaviest and most persistent

Two people come to mind here for me. One is now one a high level Production Accountant in the movie biz. The other I've lost touch with, mainly because of his pathological behavior whilst drinking and coking to excess.

What conclusion do I draw from this statistically meaningless info?

Those whom marijuana would destroy seem to be those who are looking for something/anything to destroy themselves. The issue ain't the drug. It's the issues we bring to the drug.
posted by philip-random at 10:56 AM on June 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


If 8 points on some meaningless, class- and race-slanted standardized test was the only price I had to pay to smoke pot for life, I know what I'd choose.

Oh wait, I know what I chose.
posted by Catchfire at 10:56 AM on June 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


If 8 points on some meaningless, class- and race-slanted standardized test was the only price I had to pay to smoke pot for life, I know what I'd choose.

I don't think you know how variables work.
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It should be noted this study has been answered with another study that questioned the results.

This isn't actually "another study." It's a brief statistically-based criticism of the first study which is merely posing a question about the original results. It doesn't actually generate any new data or reanalyze the original data, it merely poses a hypothetical problem which the paper's original authors failed to account for in their original study. The original authors have, since, responded to Rogeberg's criticism, although he is not fully satisfied with that response.
posted by yoink at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the researchers are interested in getting at the truth, they should have no objection to repeating the study with groups from different socioeconomic groups and educational backgrounds that have comparable usage rates to isolate the effects, if any, of use. If the effects are so subtle as to be impossible to tease out from other confounding factors, then they probably aren't significant enough to bother mentioning.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification yoink.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2013


Consistent medical marijuana usage has also totally ruined this adult's shit-giving capabilities for asinine measurements of intelligence like IQ. Put that in your survey and smoke it.
posted by carsonb at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


So both the original research report,
Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife
Recent reports show that fewer adolescents believe that regular cannabis use is harmful to health. Concomitantly, adolescents are initiating cannabis use at younger ages, and more adolescents are using cannabis on a daily basis. The purpose of the present study was to test the association between persistent cannabis use and neuropsychological decline and determine whether decline is concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Participants were members of the Dunedin Study, a prospective study of a birth cohort of 1,037 individuals followed from birth (1972/1973) to age 38 y. Cannabis use was ascertained in interviews at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 y. Neuropsychological testing was conducted at age 13 y, before initiation of cannabis use, and again at age 38 y, after a pattern of persistent cannabis use had developed. Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents.
And the only attempt at refutation worth reading,
Correlations between cannabis use and IQ change in the Dunedin cohort are consistent with confounding from socioeconomic status
Does cannabis use have substantial and permanent effects on neuropsychological functioning? Renewed and intense attention to the issue has followed recent research on the Dunedin cohort, which found a positive association between, on the one hand, adolescent-onset cannabis use and dependence and, on the other hand, a decline in IQ from childhood to adulthood [Meier et al. (2012) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109(40):E2657–E2664]. The association is given a causal interpretation by the authors, but existing research suggests an alternative confounding model based on time-varying effects of socioeconomic status on IQ. A simulation of the confounding model reproduces the reported associations from the Dunedin cohort, suggesting that the causal effects estimated in Meier et al. are likely to be overestimates, and that the true effect could be zero. Further analyses of the Dunedin cohort are proposed to distinguish between the competing interpretations. Although it would be too strong to say that the results have been discredited, the methodology is flawed and the causal inference drawn from the results premature.
And the original author's clear addressing of those concerns with their analysis,
Reply to Rogeberg and Daly: No evidence that socioeconomic status or personality differences confound the association between cannabis use and IQ decline
We reported that persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline, from adolescence to midlife (1). Two commentators suggested alternative explanations; we tested these and report the results here.

Rogeberg (2) wonders whether socioeconomic differences explain the association between cannabis and neuropsychological decline. His argument is based on his assumption that cannabis use is more common in youngsters of low socioeconomic status (SES). He also believes that the intelligence quotients (IQs) of low-SES children are temporarily boosted by schooling but that when they leave school and choose their own niches, their IQs rebound to their former low baseline. If many cannabis users were low-SES children, Rogeberg says this coincidence would create the false impression that cannabis use was responsible for their IQ drop in adulthood.

Rogeberg’s (2) idea and simulated data are interesting, but actual data exclude the possibility that the IQ drop we observed was attributable to SES differences. First, adolescent cannabis users are not concentrated in the lower classes; cannabis is used by young people from all social strata. In the Dunedin cohort, low SES did not significantly predict adolescent-onset cannabis dependence (χ2 = 1.15; P = 0.56); only 23% of the adolescent cannabis users were from low-SES families (whose breadwinners had low-skill occupations such as foodpacker), making it unlikely that low SES explains why adolescent-onset cannabis users’ IQs decline. Second, as previously reported (3), the IQ scores of children from low-SES families did not change from the beginning of schooling to adolescence, nor did they change from adolescence to adulthood (Fig. 1); in a critical test, low SES was unrelated to adolescent-to-adult IQ decline (r = −0.006; P = 0.86). These findings do not support the claim that low-SES children’s IQs are temporarily boosted while in school and subsequently decline to baseline. Third, unsurprisingly, when we statistically controlled for SES, the association between persistent cannabis use and IQ decline that we reported (β = −0.152; t = −4.45; P [less than] 0.0001) remained unaltered (β = −0.158; t = −4.58; P [less than] 0.0001). We further restricted our analysis to study members who grew up in middle class families (whose breadwinners had occupations such as building inspector, aircraft mechanic), excluding low-SES families, as well as high-SES families (professional occupations such as dentist), thus precluding potential for low-SES confounding. The association between persistent cannabis use and IQ decline remained unaltered (β = −0.155; t = −3.61; P = 0.0003) (Figs. 2 and 3). Finally, we reported many different mental functions, including executive function, memory, processing speed, perceptual reasoning, and verbal comprehension (1). Some of these abilities are more susceptible to SES-related effects than others. If decline were attributable to SES, we would expect to see worse decline in those tests. The data did not fit this pattern, further excluding the possibility that the IQ drop is attributable to SES alone.
Are all publically available online.

And sorry stoners, but no, marijuana usage in adolescance really is clearly associated with meaningful declines in projected puzzle solving skills. You should probably adjust your expectations for whether it is a good idea to light up kids accordingly.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2013 [36 favorites]


Well unless cannabis is proven to shrink your goddamned brain the way our culturally-approved drug of choice does, I still think it's less harmful.
posted by mullingitover at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2013


Are there comparable studies that look at youthful alcohol abuse?
posted by el io at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to claims that IQ is a poor measure of the nebulous thing we think of as general intelligence, but in this particular context a change in IQ over time is a notable event and it's not unreasonable to believe that the cause of such a change has its origins in the brain. Those two claims can co-exist. I think we interpret the original paper's conclusions as "weed makes you stupider" at our peril.
posted by invitapriore at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The standard deviation of the average IQ mean is 15 for Wechsler classification and 16 for Terman classification. So what they are saying in this study means nothing to me. I'd like to read some of the related articles behind the paywall.
posted by Kale Slayer at 11:07 AM on June 24, 2013


That's silly. No one is interested in "lighting up their kids" or has expressed any such interest. It's the actual scientific question that's the interesting thing here.

I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if there's an effect on adolescent brain development from smoking pot, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, watching too much tv, eating too much candy manufactured in China or Mexico, or any number of other environmental factors.

The adolescent brain is a complicated thing, undergoing a complicated process of development. It should be obvious it's not a good thing to muck around with that process.

But does this study really identify the effect that's being advertised and how can that be determined. Those remain valid and important questions. For others to study.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:08 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


If 8 points on some meaningless, class- and race-slanted standardized test was the only price I had to pay to smoke pot for life

There are all kinds of problems with IQ tests, no doubt, but in comparing like cohorts against each other they're very useful. That is, if this were comparing poor urban black kids who smoke marijuana against white suburban kids who don't, the IQ data would be pretty useless. But if we're comparing poor urban black kids who smoke marijuana against poor urban black kids who don't then the IQ data become potentially very significant; so long as we're not missing some other potential confounder at work that's driving some of these poor urban black kids to heavy marijuana use and is also affecting their IQ.

Think about it this way; if you read a study that showed that people in some small Texan town where a big Agrochemical plant was operating were scoring 10 points lower on average on IQ tests compared to towns of similar demographic make up just a few miles away would you be so quick to say "IQ tests? Pffffffft"?
posted by yoink at 11:08 AM on June 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


"I think we interpret the original paper's conclusions as "weed makes you stupider" at our peril."

Using IQ as a stand in for nebulous concept what is colloquially referred to as intelligence certainly does have its perils, but interpreting the original paper's conclusions as "weed causes very significant and very negative neurological effects in adolescents" is pretty solid and should very much have policy implications.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:10 AM on June 24, 2013


Reply to Rogeberg and Daly: No evidence that socioeconomic status or personality differences confound the association between cannabis use and IQ decline

So wait - kids in college smoke pot and people with college degrees have higher socioeconomic outcomes so wouldn't the results be the oposite?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:11 AM on June 24, 2013


"So wait - kids in college smoke pot and people with college degrees have higher socioeconomic outcomes so wouldn't the results be the oposite?"

I honestly cannot tell if this is a serious question
posted by Blasdelb at 11:12 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The standard deviation of the average IQ mean is 15 for Wechsler classification and 16 for Terman classification. So what they are saying in this study means nothing to me.

Why? Average effects would have to be more than a standard deviation to be worth caring about?

The size of the standard deviation in IQ tests has nothing to do with whether or not the reported average declines are statistically significant or not. That is, you could have an average decline of a single IQ point and that could still be statistically significant, even if the standard deviation was much higher.
posted by yoink at 11:13 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I honestly cannot tell if this is a serious question

I'm so high I can't tell either anymore.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:14 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also sympathetic to the defensive response here in the light of the current political landscape, but here are some other claims that can co-exist:

1. The supposed ill effects of pot are vastly exaggerated in the public consciousness, especially in comparison to the actual ill effects of drugs that are currently legal.

2. The benefits of pot are vastly underrated in the public consciousness.

3. Heavy pot use from adolescence has an inhibitory effect on brain development.

Now, I'm a big believer in points one and two. Not having read the relevant literature, I don't personally have an opinion on point three, but I don't think it conflicts with points one and two or that it's a stake in the heart of the movement to legalize pot.
posted by invitapriore at 11:17 AM on June 24, 2013 [25 favorites]


The standard deviation of the average IQ mean is 15 for Wechsler classification and 16 for Terman classification. So what they are saying in this study means nothing to me.

This is a ridiculously high bar to clear for statistical significance.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:18 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who all then laughed at him. I'm not sure he realized there were words missing from his sentence.

Not in some dialects of spoken English. I'm not sure the kid was the only ignorant one in that classroom.
posted by aught at 11:19 AM on June 24, 2013 [24 favorites]


"The standard deviation of the average IQ mean is 15 for Wechsler classification and 16 for Terman classification. So what they are saying in this study means nothing to me."

With a large enough sample size difference-in-differences analyses are more than capable of detecting significant effects well within a standard deviation. This comment is statistically illiterate noise.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:19 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I'd like to read some of the related articles behind the paywall."

As always if anyone would like any paper that they do not currently have access to related to this academic discussion that we are currently having, please feel free to memail me with an email address I can send a PDF to and a promise not to distribute that PDF further.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


If the illegality of marijuana in the US had anything to do with its negative health effects it wouldn't require extraordinary heroics to conduct research on those effects. Personally, I'm not terribly surprised by this, but then I didn't start smoking (well, vaporizing, but whatever) until I was an adult.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2013


I'm not sure the kid was the only ignorant one in that classroom.

Unless it was his argument rather than his dialect that they found funny.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2013


I'd imagine that gradual enstupidification in adulthood could just as likely come via tedious, unfulfilling desk jobs which turn your brain into angry pudding as it could via teenage gravity bong hits.

I feel this especially strongly on Friday afternoons around 2pm.
posted by elizardbits at 11:24 AM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


What was the question?
posted by adamvasco at 11:25 AM on June 24, 2013


Don't you folks think that, in light of the massive swirl of cultural preconceptions orbiting around marijuana and marijuana use, we should probably be even less willing than usual to accept conclusions based on anecdote and intuition? It seems like this sort of "eh sounds right!"-style response can only hurt the discourse, here.

Well, I'm not really basing any conclusions upon my remark that to me it would not be surprising if sustained use correlates with specific decreased cognitive abilities. Likewise I am sure there is a level of alcohol consumption that also decreased cognition. No I don't think alcohol should be illegal, and on balance I think marijuana should be legal.

But it is not a risk free drug. It might be less risky then alcohol in the long term, and certainly the short term effects are less risky. I tend to think though that many pro-marijuana parties seriously undervalue the risks, just as many anti-marijuana parties overvalue the risks.
posted by edgeways at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Don't IQ scores lower with age anyway as the score of 100 represents the average and not an absolute number? Were this on any other subject I would assume they controlled for this, but then again there was that brain damage study done years back where they suffocated monkeys."

While PNAS does publish some rank ass shit occassionally, you can pretty solidly trust their reviewers to not be that stupid.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2013


Well, I'm not really basing any conclusions upon my remark that to me it would not be surprising if sustained use correlates with specific decreased cognitive abilities.

Except that registering your prospective lack of surprise implies that you would be surprised were the opposite result to obtain, so you've already drawn a conclusion based on I'm not sure what.
posted by invitapriore at 11:32 AM on June 24, 2013


I'm not sure he realized there were words missing from his sentence.

Not in some dialects of spoken English.


In which dialect does, "they medicine" constitute a complete and coherent statement of why marijuana is not bad for you?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:32 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, with an acronym like PNAS they'd better be good!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:32 AM on June 24, 2013


Except that registering your prospective lack of surprise implies that you would be surprised were the opposite result to obtain, so you've already drawn a conclusion based on I'm not sure what.

eh, perhaps we are just fighting over semantics?

I am registering an opinion (A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.), subject to change in light of further information, I admit my opinion may have bias and am willing to consider that bias.

I have not drawn a conclusion (The end or finish of an event or process), as there seems to be at least a few variables left to nail down.

Anyways enough of that rabbit path. there are more interesting things to talk about then this minor derail.
posted by edgeways at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2013


Thank God I didn't really get into pot until I got to University!
posted by Hoopo at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2013


The real issue here is not scientific, per se. It's about the potential interaction of scientific output and public policy (and hence politics).

The paper in question itself is pretty clear and modest in scope, and, to the best of my limited understanding of the field, not all that shocking: most of us don't need scientific studies to convince us that putting large amounts of psychoactive chemicals willy-nilly into adolescent brains is not a great idea.

But, like most scientific studies, the paper just says what it says, and no more. It doesn't compare using pot to using anything else--like, say, alcohol, or even better, ADHD meds. It doesn't weigh in on the larger potential costs/benefits of using pot in a person's life. It in no way adequately addresses the crucial pharmacological issue of dosage, instead using a diagnostic criterion for "dependence" (if I understood correctly).

The problem arises in that I've already heard this study used by a self-described liberal--a Kennedy, no less, and a guest on Bill Maher--to justify switching his position from being for marijuana legalization, to being against it. That simply does not follow--at most, what it suggests is what we should do what we already would be doing, namely, tying legal usage to adult status.

Oh, and on final read-through: what inviapriore said.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:42 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
posted by nowhere man at 11:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


"How are we still referring to adult IQ scores as though they are meaningful in any way?"

Childhood scores are predictive of them to a high as well very statistically predictable degree and, while what exactly they are indicitive of is approprately a matter of a great deal of debate, significant negative changes to them are clearly representative of significant negative neurological effects.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: “In which dialect does, ‘they medicine’ constitute a complete and coherent statement of why marijuana is not bad for you?”

In many, many nonstandard dialects of English (which are, incidentally, now more prevalent, and hence more "correct," than standard dialects of English) "they medicine" means "it is medicine." It's common dialectically for verbs to be implied, and for pronouns like "they" to start to take on a function where they're used in place of many different pronouns. And "it is medicine" is a good argument for why marijuana is not necessarily bad for you. For some people, it's actually very beneficial.
posted by koeselitz at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


In which dialect does, "they medicine" constitute a complete and coherent statement of why marijuana is not bad for you?

AAVE (African American Vernacular English)
posted by kozad at 11:49 AM on June 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Don't IQ scores lower with age anyway as the score of 100 represents the average and not an absolute number?

I think they normalize the tests by age. So 100 means that you tested average for someone your age, but you could have gotten a different raw score than someone else with a different age who also got 100.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2013


"they medicine" means "it is medicine."

I would imagine that more people would use "that medicine" than "they medicine" in AAVE. "They medicine," like "he/she medicine," sounds more like an ESL situation.
posted by elizardbits at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


And "it is medicine" is a good argument for why marijuana is not necessarily bad for you

Yes, so much better than a peer-reviewed study.
posted by unSane at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2013


I'm not an advocate of -any- heavy use of any drugs but... isn't 8 points kind of too small to really get all worked up about? Considering all the other things in life that happens to people that can diminish intelligence.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:55 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can walk to half a dozen "medical" cannabis shops in five minutes. Sure, the stuff is good for chemo patients and glaucoma sufferers, but doesn't the fact that 92% of "patients" are male tell you something? At least here in Colorado, we are just about to just sell it to any adult, rather than keep up the "medical marijuana" crap.

It shouldn't take a scientific study to have serious doubts about the benefits of serious ganja-smoking on a developing brain. Luckily, I didn't have the money to smoke it every day as a teenager.
posted by kozad at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2013


What about industrial inhalant use? Did this (or any other) study investigate industrial inhalant use as a factor?

Because a substantial proportion of kids I knew who used pot in high school also frequently used inhalable solvents to get high--like ethyl chloride, freon, whippets, gasoline and the various forms of industrial solvent that go under the name rush when used as a recreational intoxicant.

Lots of kids who wouldn't smoke pot because of the stigma had no qualms at all about huffing gasoline, despite the latter activity being demonstrably more dangerous.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd imagine that gradual enstupidification in adulthood could just as likely come via tedious, unfulfilling desk jobs which turn your brain into angry pudding as it could via teenage gravity bong hits.

This is a perfectly cromulent hypothesis.
posted by DigDoug at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"They medicine," like "he/she medicine," sounds more like an ESL situation.

'Their medicine,' surely?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:58 AM on June 24, 2013


What are the comorbidities of adolescents who use marijuana heavily and continue to do so for years? Many adolescents use marijuana; some of them use it much, much more heavily and for longer than their peers. Why? Might those things also have an effect on IQ?
posted by rtha at 11:59 AM on June 24, 2013


I would imagine that more people would use "that medicine" than "they medicine" in AAVE. "They medicine," like "he/she medicine," sounds more like an ESL situation.

Actually use of the personal pronoun for the definite article is typical syntax in AAVE. As is dropping the copula 'be.' So 'they medicine' is actually not only perfectly acceptable but correct AAVE. Furthermore, AAVE is much more common in young people and in men than in women and adults, so this utterance is really indicative of absolutely nothing extraordinary.

I would like to suggest that we not link AAVE, which is a completely acceptable dialect of English, with marijuana-induced stupidity.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:01 PM on June 24, 2013 [21 favorites]


>What about industrial inhalant use? Did this (or any other) study investigate industrial inhalant use as a factor?

I don't think so, but it is not the job of a study to account for every possible factor, only the ones most likely to affect their findings. There will always be some factor that someone did not control for.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:02 PM on June 24, 2013


And sorry stoners, but no, marijuana usage in adolescance really is clearly associated with meaningful declines in projected puzzle solving skills.

Then I guess it's a good thing I didn't become a professional puzzle solver.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even if by "they medicine" the person in question meant "it is medicine" due to some dialectical difference (something which has not been established) it hardly counts as a "complete" defense by any measure (coherence notwithstanding).

I am also curious for references that "nonstandard dialects" of English are "now more prevalent, and hence more "correct," than standard dialects of English". Are you counting populations outside of the US?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2013


"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Jesus Christ this shit gets tedious.

The effects of prohibition are increasingly catastrophic for our country particularly in poor and black neighborhoods, use of marijuana by teenagers who will be damaged by it hit a 30-year peak in 2011 (with one out of every 15 high school students reporting they smoke most days), cartels are being made more profitable by the price differential made by prohibition and more hideously violent by its selective pressure, and this shit is all we really have to say about it? Regurgitating hollywood lines about how incapable and stupid we are?

Fuck this shit. Marijuana is not a valid lifestyle choice, stoner culture cannot really be described as much more than pathetic, and it is its own worst enemy. Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:07 PM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Even if by "they medicine" the person in question meant "it is medicine" due to some dialectical difference (something which has not been established) it hardly counts as a "complete" defense by any measure (coherence notwithstanding).

Yeah that highschooler should be ashamed at his response to this study or whatever the fuck you're talking about
posted by shakespeherian at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


They medicine.

Yes, I understood the dialect, it's just the argument itself that I find lacking. It appears to be circular logic akin to the argument why Brawndo has what plants crave (answer: it's the electrolytes).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:11 PM on June 24, 2013


I'm pretty sure marijuana made me smarter, it certainly got me through law school.
posted by smackwich at 12:11 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am also curious for references that "nonstandard dialects" of English are "now more prevalent, and hence more "correct," than standard dialects of English". Are you counting populations outside of the US?

Yes?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2013


I happen to think this is a pretty important one, because teenage drug users (in my experience) are much more likely to abuse inhalants because those tend to be more readily accessible even than pot. I had acquaintances who would visit a convenience store or head shop weekly for a new can of ethyl gas, suede spray, or fuel injection system de-gunker. Almost all the pot heads I personally knew in middle school or high school also used inhalants, more or less frequently depending on the availability of other options like pot or their parent's diet pills and liquor stash.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2013


Actually use of the personal pronoun for the definite article is typical syntax in AAVE. As is dropping the copula 'be.' So 'they medicine' is actually not only perfectly acceptable but correct AAVE.

In the context, surely, it should be "it medicine." "They" is still plural in AAVE, no? (Obviously it is sometimes used as a gender-neutral singular in reference to humans, but that surely can't apply here.)

In any case, this derail seems to have been wrung dry, no?
posted by yoink at 12:14 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb: "The effects of prohibition are increasingly catastrophic for our country particularly in poor and black neighborhoods, use of marijuana by teenagers who will be damaged by it hit a 30-year peak in 2011 (with one out of every 15 high school students reporting they smoke most days), cartels are being made more profitable by the price differential made by prohibition and more hideously violent by its selective pressure, and this shit is all we really have to say about it? Regurgitating hollywood lines about how incapable and stupid we are?

Fuck this shit. Marijuana is not a valid lifestyle choice, stoner culture cannot really be described as much more than pathetic, and it is its own worst enemy. Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke.
"

I have no idea what you're trying to argue here.
posted by invitapriore at 12:15 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: it's not that we're stoned...it's just a dialect.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2013


I worked in a stoner heavy field and this is, um, not surprising.

The question I have is whether the pot causes the crippling anxiety and nervousness all stoners over 30 seem to suffer from when not high or if they originally started smoking to self medicate.
posted by fshgrl at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke.

Hyperbolic, incoherent nonsense that isn't supported by enough science to justify it. Like most "public policy emergency" hype.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


in my early 20s i was absurdly better at tech support when i was a little high - like, measurably - call stats, coachings, first call resolutions, etc. now that i'm a housewife, cleaning is slower, but more thorough when i'm high and listening to music.
posted by nadawi at 12:18 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


the heaviest and most persistent adolescent-onset users in the study had experienced an average decline of eight IQ points from childhood to adulthood

However,
the average IQ in Western nations dropped by a staggering 14.1 points

Therefore heavy marijuana use helps counteract the effects of living in the 21st century!
but we knew that already
posted by ook at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the context, surely, it should be "it medicine." "They" is still plural in AAVE, no?

Generally, present tense verbs aren't conjugated for number or person. It and They are more or less used interchangeably.

In any case, this derail seems to have been wrung dry, no?


Yes.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]



"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Jesus Christ this shit gets tedious.


You are responding with unnecessary vitriol to a throwaway reference to The Big Lebowski.
posted by elizardbits at 12:20 PM on June 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


anecdotal for sure - but i smoke and my brother doesn't, we both have pretty high levels of anxiety - he's gone the psychiatrist route - if anything i think i'm slightly better able to handle it - but he also has a more stressful life in general, so i think it evens out in the wash.
posted by nadawi at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2013


"Yes, I understood the dialect, it's just the argument itself that I find lacking. It appears to be circular logic akin to the argument why Brawndo has what plants crave (answer: it's the electrolytes)."

All of language works this way, it changes, develops syntactically simpler pidgins when combined with other languages (A good thing!), and people with power look down on the dialects of people without it. There really isn't anything other than internalized racism and classism behind why AAV sounds stupid to most white people.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I happen to think this is a pretty important one, because teenage drug users (in my experience) are much more likely to abuse inhalants because those tend to be more readily accessible even than pot.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that inhalants are a healthy alternative to marijuana. I would be surprised if the Dunedin results were confounded by inhalant use, however. For one thing, "other drugs the kids might have abused" is such a glaringly obvious potential confounder that the study would not have been published at all if it had not made a strong good-faith effort to address that problem. There will be difficulties with any such effort, of course (dope-smoking is far more socially acceptable than glue- or gasoline-sniffing, so survey responses could be false). One thing that is very suggestive, though, is that the study's marijuana effects are invariant across social-economic status cohorts. Solvent abuse is, as I understand it (and I could be wrong about this) far more prevalent in lower socio-economic status groups in NZ than in middle-class groups. If the "real" culprit for the IQ loss was solvent abuse, I would expect that to correlate pretty strongly with SES.
posted by yoink at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Generally, present tense verbs aren't conjugated for number or person. It and They are more or less used interchangeably.

I'd be fascinated to see a citation for this if you have one.
posted by yoink at 12:24 PM on June 24, 2013


The question I have is whether the pot causes the crippling anxiety and nervousness all stoners over 30 seem to suffer from when not high or if they originally started smoking to self medicate.

Considering I've known and worked with plenty of stoners over 30 who are more well-adjusted and accomplished than this comment would reflect, I find this kind of argument from anecdote pretty dubious. In fact, many of the most accomplished people I've ever known were stoners, in fields as diverse as the IT industry, the TV industry, the restaurant industry, and the music industry. From Carl Sagan to Louis Armstrong to Richard Feynman, it'd be trivial to construct an enormous data set of overachievers who smoked pot. Oh okay, someone has done some of that here.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:25 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be fascinated to see a citation for this if you have one.

I actually happen to have this book with me, which has a good overview of the phonology, morphology and syntax of AAVE. But the wikipedia page is actually pretty thorough.

posted by Lutoslawski at 12:28 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke


What?


The only public policy crisis I see is that of prohibition and unnecessary incarceration. The rest is nonsensical Nixonian fear mongering. Pot use has demonstrably been shown to have far less deleterious public health impacts than alcohol or tobacco use, which we're all too happy to regulate, tax, and consider a-ok within mainstream society.
posted by stenseng at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Blasdelb: ""Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Jesus Christ this shit gets tedious.

The effects of prohibition are increasingly catastrophic for our country particularly in poor and black neighborhoods, use of marijuana by teenagers who will be damaged by it hit a 30-year peak in 2011 (with one out of every 15 high school students reporting they smoke most days), cartels are being made more profitable by the price differential made by prohibition and more hideously violent by its selective pressure, and this shit is all we really have to say about it? Regurgitating hollywood lines about how incapable and stupid we are?

Fuck this shit. Marijuana is not a valid lifestyle choice, stoner culture cannot really be described as much more than pathetic, and it is its own worst enemy. Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke.
"


Wait, what? I'm having a hard time reconciling the two paragraphs there. I mean, I'm with you on the first paragraph. Prohibition is catastrophic for America.

But the second paragraph? I'm not sure what you're on about there. I know plenty of people who are in their late 40s to 60s who regularly smoke pot. They also own companies, have private jets, have multiple degrees, are doctors and lawyers and plumbers and carpenters and artists and musicians and writers and librarians. Pretty much, name a profession, and I probably know someone who smokes pot and has that job. Which stoner culture are you talking about?

Because if you're riffing on stoner culture predicated by the image of a young Sean Penn wacking himself with a Vann while proclaiming that the noise was his skull...well, sure, that might seem a bit wasted. But if you mean that stoner culture where fully functional adults manage to run the universe while enjoying a nice pipe after work, then I'm going to have to disagree with you.
posted by dejah420 at 12:33 PM on June 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


I would be surprised if the Dunedin results were confounded by inhalant use, however. For one thing, "other drugs the kids might have abused" is such a glaringly obvious potential confounder that the study would not have been published at all if it had not made a strong good-faith effort to address that problem.

You may be right, but I have my doubts that there's enough awareness about how common and widespread inhalant use is/was among teenagers. At least, when I was one in the late 80's early 90s, there didn't seem to be much awareness of how common and casual inhalant use had become among teens I knew. Anecdotal, but it should be a fairly easy correction to the result. If the authors already took it into account in some meaningful way, then great. But if they didn't, my own experience would lead me to be skeptical their result demonstrates the effect they think it does.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:33 PM on June 24, 2013


From Carl Sagan to Louis Armstrong to Richard Feynman, it'd be trivial to construct an enormous data set of overachievers who smoked pot.

Well, yes, of course. It's also trivial to construct an enormous data set of overachievers who breathed air polluted by leaded gasoline, or who drank water flowing through lead pipes, or who drank laudanum, or who drank alcohol, or who smoked cigarettes etc. etc. etc. None of which tells us anything useful about, well, anything.

It seems extremely unlikely that smoking a joint now and again (say once a week?) has serious enough effects to warrant grave concern, just as having a glass or two of wine with your meal almost certainly doesn't warrant grave concern. That doesn't mean that we need to reflexively dismiss all studies out of hand that suggest that your friend who can't start the day without blazing up might have an actual problem that merits serious attention, just as your friend who gets rolling drunk every time he goes out for "a drink or two" might have an actual problem that merits serious attention.

Accepting that there's good scientific evidence that marijuana indulged to excess has negative health consequences doesn't suddenly mean that the War on Drugs is a good idea and that we should support tossing kids into prison for possession anymore than accepting that alcohol can be a very dangerous chemical means we have to be in favor of restoring Prohibition.
posted by yoink at 12:34 PM on June 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah that highschooler should be ashamed at his response to this study or whatever the fuck you're talking about

Maybe if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should refrain from answering.

I am also curious for references that "nonstandard dialects" of English are "now more prevalent, and hence more "correct," than standard dialects of English". Are you counting populations outside of the US?

Yes?


There doesn't seem to be any information there on the "prevalence" (by which I mean number of speakers) of many of these dialects, if any (including General American!).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:37 PM on June 24, 2013


I understand that yoink. I was specifically replying to the anecdotal comment about aged 30+ pot smokers all being nervous wrecks up-thread. The point was that any purely anecdotal info is suspect.

Someone working with problem drug users, for example, is only going to encounter users with a particular set of social problems. Those problems might be exacerbated by other issues--domestic abuse, dysfunctional upbringing, etc. Otherwise those folks wouldn't be seeking help. So of course someone only encountering pot users in a clinical setting wouldn't get to see a representative sample of the population of users.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:39 PM on June 24, 2013


But the wikipedia page is actually pretty thorough.

The Wikipedia page does not support the claim you made as far as I can see.
posted by yoink at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2013


Note to all: "stoner" is not a synonym for "cannibis user", any more than "alcoholic" is for "wine aficionado" or "social drinker".
posted by mondo dentro at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems like they'd have to correct for alcohol use as well as for other substances.

That was my thought as well – more broadly than alcohol as well. I would think that heavy cannabis users would be self-medicating to some degree, driven by an underlying psychological condition. If that is the case, then we would surely want to know the IQ effect of mental disorders, as well as pharma cures (like prozac).

I would chance a guess that IQ often decreases from lack of stimulation as much as anything else. If there was depression present, for example, and with it, lethargy, how much of the IQ decrease would be to lethargy as opposed to marijuana.
posted by nickrussell at 12:48 PM on June 24, 2013


Saul, that sounds like a unique experience and one that could have benefited from some basic education. Which is sort of the point here, where this study should intersect with public policy. The Nature article draws this conclusion:
Recent surveys have shown that fewer adolescents believe that regular cannabis use is harmful to health. They are starting to use cannabis at an earlier age and more of them are using it every day.

With this in mind, the authors say that their findings suggest that policy-makers should put more emphasis on attempting to delay the point at which teens start smoking cannabis.
Which I'm guessing might be Blasdelb's point, that things like abstinence-only education, that is 'science averse' education tends to exacerbate social problems because it willingly denies a realistic and pragmatic approach to particular acts. Stigmatize sex, remove education about contraception and you get teen pregnancies, STI/STD epidemics, and a lot of general anxiety regarding sex and all of the ensuing cultural products that normalize weird and traumatic behavior. Stigamtize marijuana use and you get stoner culture which seems to hold addictive personalities in high regard by emphasizing overuse (wake n bake, bong rips, etc) and may very well lead to other drug use (or inhalant usage).

You make these things the other and that leaves it in a uncontrolled, barely-funded arena of anecdote and hearsay. If you've ever been to a Cornmeal concert it's pretty obvious that scientific rigor is often traded in for emotion and instinct and pathos rules the day as much as selfishness does. Contemporary youth culture is extremely far removed from hippie culture of the 70s. Less the Buddhist practice of leaving the society you've known and loved, reevaluating your own worth, and then reapproaching it with some amount of self-actualization and more zoning out and completely and utter apathy. The former is still new age, hippie crap sure, and there are plenty of ways of finding yourself that doesn't involve implicit cultural imperialism but take a yoga-loving, koan chanting pothead from the 70s and compare her to the average user on /r/trees and you have a wholly different animal.

It may not be a public health crisis but it's at least not the best way to structure this segment of society. It could just be my twentysomething restlessness talking but stoner culture from my time is far more banal and insipid than stoner culture for you Baby Boomers, and it's hard to see your modern pothead emerging from his or her hazy skull-sized kingdom as a responsible and open-minded adult.
posted by dubusadus at 12:49 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would think that heavy cannabis users would be self-medicating to some degree, driven by an underlying psychological condition.


This is one thing that gets me - nobody wants to talk about the class and economic issues inherent in drug use any more.


Not all self medication belies an underlying psychological condition, though I'll grant that that's often a factor.

Many people are self-medicating driven by an underlying socio-economic condition. If you grow up to find that the world has no use for you, holds you in no esteem, and most doors are closed to you, that leads to a pretty constrained, miserable, hopeless existence. Getting high, stoned, drunk, etc., becomes an attractive if temporary escape.
posted by stenseng at 12:57 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


dubusadus: "Which I'm guessing might be Blasdelb's point, that things like abstinence-only education, that is 'science averse' education tends to exacerbate social problems because it willingly denies a realistic and pragmatic approach to particular acts. Stigmatize sex, remove education about contraception and you get teen pregnancies, STI/STD epidemics, and a lot of general anxiety regarding sex and all of the ensuing cultural products that normalize weird and traumatic behavior. Stigamtize marijuana use and you get stoner culture which seems to hold addictive personalities in high regard by emphasizing overuse (wake n bake, bong rips, etc) and may very well lead to other drug use (or inhalant usage)."

This is a fine point, but past that I think your cultural criticism rests on a conflation between "stoner culture" and the broader set of casual weed users that I'd like to see justified.
posted by invitapriore at 1:02 PM on June 24, 2013


Well... risking a few IQ points is only a bad thing if you get nothing useful in return. Even if the conclusions from this research turn out to be 100% accurate, that doesn't mean that nobody should ever smoke pot, or even that nobody should smoke a lot of pot. (Being a little deliberately provocative here, but also serious.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:13 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I haven't read through the study yet, but I thought this bit of the Nature News segment was interesting:
Valerie Curran, professor of psychopharmacology at University College London and a member of the UK's Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, was more sceptical, saying that other factors, such as depression, are also associated with heavy use and reduced motivation. “Although the overall sample size is excellent, the data on adolescent onset of heavy use is based on just over 50 people.”

She also noted that the findings represent a very small decline in IQ as a result of very heavy use over a number of years, “which doesn’t relate to recreational use”.
However, it does seem like they controlled for other substances, like alcohol use.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2013


Stoner culture informs casual use, doesn't it? Assuming that medicinal usage more often predicts casual use then an examination of dispensaries shows a habit of mythologizing particularly strong strains of marijuana without much qualification. Part of that mythology, too, is that potency is an indicator of medical efficacy along with much of the anecdote based assumptions that go into separating sativa from indica, heady from energetic, and so on.
posted by dubusadus at 1:18 PM on June 24, 2013


There's also been a lot of research into the question of whether or not cannabis use can trigger schizophrenia in individuals with a preexisting genetic predisposition toward schizophrenia or is otherwise implicated in schizophrenia. As one source on that subject notes:
Causality is generally thought to be plausible if studies (i) report an association between the exposure and the outcome consistently and with a strong effect size, (ii) show dose-response relationships between the exposure and the outcome, (iii) show that the exposure precedes the outcome, and (iv) show that there is a plausible biological mechanism linking the exposure and the outcome
The source admits that the science hasn't yet conclusively demonstrated a causal link in that case. It's also careful to point out that the effect if any seems to be isolated to use in early adolescence, and presumably, that's the case here, too (so the issue is about some kind of developmental disruption pot may or may not cause, not so much a general risk to users). Have those same criteria for establishing causality been satisfied yet when it comes to the conclusions of this study? Probably not yet. So it's premature to claim this study demonstrates any kind of causal relationship. All the same, it's premature to rule out a causal relationship, too.

It may not be a public health crisis but it's at least not the best way to structure this segment of society. It could just be my twentysomething restlessness talking but stoner culture from my time is far more banal and insipid than stoner culture for you Baby Boomers, and it's hard to see your modern pothead emerging from their hazy skull-sized kingdoms as a responsible and open-minded adult.

I'm a gen-xer, not a boomer (ouch! I must read older than I am), and it seems to me a lot of people are laboring under the mistaken impression that popular cultural representations of pot-smokers (or anyone for that matter) are realistic. I don't really think it's easy to generalize about pot smokers. If "pot heads" are frequent users, as opposed to the subset of users who parade around in tie-dye shirts with legalize it bumper stickers on their VW vans or whatever the stereotype is, then I'm not sure I agree.

lead to other drug use (or inhalant usage)."

In my experience, people's desire to "get fucked up" (regardless of how) is the only thing that leads them to either drink, smoke pot, huff nitrous, or whatever they do to get there. The particular poison of choice just happens to be whatever's most convenient, affordable, on-hand, etc. Except in the case of certain powerfully physically addictive substances (like nicotine or heroin), the impulses that motivate people to abuse drugs seem to arise independently of the substances abused. Whatever triggers that initial impulse to "get fucked up" frequently could just as well be the common underlying cause that leads to the diminished IQ scores, rather than the weed. Not everyone who smokes pot heavily at some point in their lives ends up with a habit for the rest of their lives--in fact, most don't. So why not look for the ultimate cause in whatever underlying psychological issues lead to the tendency toward habitual substance abuse?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The high anxiety pot users I'm thinking of are all heavy, heavy users. Using when it's caused big problems for them, so addicts I guess in a way. Unwilling to stop, even if able. And the anxiety is very real we would travel for work and if they couldn't find weed they'd come undone. I always wondered if pot was just a socially acceptable way for gen x men to deal with mental health issues since so many people my age and older have a serious aversion to psychiatric drugs. Hardly any adults with real jobs smoke a LOT of weed. Its definitely outside the norm.
posted by fshgrl at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2013


If by A LOT you mean pretty much constantly from sunup until sundown, then yes, I'd agree. If you mean daily or nearly daily but not constantly, then I'd disagree. I've known several people with daily habits who were very successful. Although that's also still anecdotal and so not particularly meaningful.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2013


Hardly any adults with real jobs smoke a LOT of weed.

What counts as "a LOT"?
posted by Greg Nog at 1:31 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, IQ has not dropped— it has been rising. Google Flynn effect.

Also, this is based on 38 subjects who smoked heavily enough to have diagnosable cannabis addiction at three different points in their lives. Not enough data to make public policy claims— though people have immediately done so.

Moreover, what this study cannot determine (nor the critique) is whether *getting thrown out of school* for smoking pot is worse for your IQ than smoking pot!!!! We know getting thrown in jail *is* worse for your IQ though.

And I suspect everyone who knows a group of marijuana smokers can point not only to someone who has stayed burned out and spacy for years, smoking heavily, but also to a brilliant person who smoked daily in high school and stayed in the 99.9 percentile. Maybe those people would have been in 99.99 otherwise, but it's very clear that if there is an effect, it is far from universal or even common.

Regarding inhalant use, it tends to *precede* marijuana because no one who can get real drugs uses inhalants (if you mean sniffing gasoline and glue). This use is prominent in junior high and poor people— no one else does because it's more of a headache than a high. It's the only "drug" that has a curve with more early users than later users (ie, most drugs you see having the lowest levels of use in the youngest kids).

Also, those who say adults with real jobs don't ever smoke a lot of pot have not hung out with programmers, who are obviously so extremely damaged by their smoking that they are in a field in which they can make no money at all.
posted by Maias at 1:33 PM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hardly any adults with real jobs smoke a LOT of weed. Its definitely outside the norm.

Not been my experience. I've actually been surprised over the years to find out just how many adults in professional careers are regular pot users. On the down low for the most part, for obvious reasons, but regular and dedicated partakers nonetheless.
posted by stenseng at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2013


so long as we're not missing some other potential confounder at work that's driving some of these poor urban black kids to heavy marijuana use and is also affecting their IQ.

Pretending that isn't a huge part of this is doing a disservice to the entire point IMO. Of course there would be.

I realize this is getting in to anecdotal evidence, but i can't think of any other way to explain this. There wasn't more than two kids i knew in highschool rich, poor, black, white, whatever who were heavy daily pot smokers who weren't in the midst of some shitty family or living situation. Those are the kids who give less of a fuck about school and would likely score lower on an IQ test anyways. The ones who somehow han solo'd that death star so to speak unilaterally had super supportive(and often affluent) families and broke out of it somewhat in college. The other ones who did hit rock bottom. Most of them just kept farting along smoking garbage bags of gangja for years.

Unless the test was going to find a bunch of kids coming from similar backgrounds, and do complete psychological studies on them to find out if they were all in a similar state of mind about their lives and the only major difference was the pot smoking... then yea, this would be a shitty preloaded study.

Oh, and it's worth noting i was one of those kids.
posted by emptythought at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2013


Not been my experience. I've actually been surprised over the years to find out just how many adults in professional careers are regular pot users. On the down low for the most part, for obvious reasons, but regular and dedicated partakers nonetheless.

Eh, this is kind of a "take it or leave it" thing for me. I too have been surprised at who ended up being a daily user, but it's not like it's every 3rd person or something.

And i live in Seattle, which outside of California is probably one of the pot smoking capitals of America.

Hardly any is a stretch, but i feel like "You'd be surprised" is as well. I don't think 1/25 would be an overly low number. But it isn't overly high either.

"Professional careers" is a bit of a misnomer too. If you get in to anything creative involved in pretty much any kind of media production or creation then yea, you do start getting back up to "every 3rd person" territory.

I get that you meant desk job, but if that desk has a mac and a wacom tablet on it there's a pretty high chance the guy sitting there got stoned in the past 24 hours.
posted by emptythought at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2013


Not been my experience. I've actually been surprised over the years to find out just how many adults in professional careers are regular pot users. On the down low for the most part, for obvious reasons, but regular and dedicated partakers nonetheless.

I am usually not surprised. It tends to explain the dumb looks and the not giving a shit about anything and the end of the day anxiety.

Pot might not make people dumber, but it makes them think they are smarter than they are, which has the same effect. In my experience.
posted by gjc at 1:41 PM on June 24, 2013


I live in Seattle as well. For sure, any creative venture, the numbers skyrocket, but even in government and private not for profits, the numbers have been surprising to me.
posted by stenseng at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2013


Yeah, Richard Feynman was a big dummy known for his late afternoon vacant-staring ways. I think you might be letting your personal feelings about a colleague muddle your thinking a bit, gjc.

Seconding emptythoughts remarks about creative industry types. The usage rates seem to be a lot higher among people in the creative fields.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm rather surprised at the level of ignorance and hate there is in this thread. The "nobody with a real job" and "pathetic culture" bits especially. I guess we're a lot further away from sane pot policies than I'd imagined. Bummer.
posted by 0 at 1:50 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


They way people are wielding meaningless anecdata and personal opinion like clubs in this thread makes my eyes bleed.
posted by Dark Messiah at 1:50 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Richard Feynman was a big dummy known for his late afternoon vacant-staring ways.

Feynman loved to get juiced up. Here's some sordid, grainy footage of one of his strung-out benders.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


it seems to me a lot of people are laboring under the mistaken impression that popular cultural representations of pot-smokers (or anyone for that matter) are realistic. I don't really think it's easy to generalize about pot smokers. If "pot heads" are frequent users, as opposed to the subset of users who parade around in tie-dye shirts with legalize it bumper stickers on their VW vans or whatever the stereotype is, then I'm not sure I agree.

Yeah, and I guess I was speaking way more from that hated perspective of anecdote than anything else. It seems like modern weed culture (the kind represented by Apatow & Co.) was aped a lot by most of the potheads I've met to varying degrees of success. I've known only two relatively successful casual to daily users and both have been immersed in and then felt compelled to explicitly reject stoner culture. We all still find Pineapple Express hilarious but more because of the satire than the hero worship, which seems to be a lot of what goes on in /r/trees. The Ents are self-selected representations of the weed-smoking population though it seems every person my age I've run into who smokes marijuana either subscribes to that subreddit or has adopted some aspect of the aforementioned culture. Again, anecdotal so whatever.

In my experience, people's desire to "get fucked up" (regardless of how) is the only thing that leads them to either drink, smoke pot, huff nitrous, or whatever they do to get there

Right, and I agree, I'm just talking about the habits that seem to be explicitly endorsed by the culture less than the personal decisions that people take that gets them into it. Top-down versus bottom-up and I'd admit that my perspective has a much smaller chance of predicting use because it's so broad. I'm beginning to suspect that my general assumption in a lot of my understanding of pot culture is that I'm equating neoliberal tendencies with stoner culture which just makes me feel like shit.
posted by dubusadus at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2013


But the biggest question for me is this: We know that the vast majority of people who use pot heavily at some point in their lives don't go on to be regular heavy users their whole lives.

That suggests there's something different about the subset who do. I suspect that most of that subset end up being chronic pot users because otherwise they'd be tempted to engage in even more dangerous, higher-risk behaviors instead (like alcoholism or various other unhealthy compulsions). Willie Nelson, famously, claims pot has saved him from dying of alcoholism. But whatever the case, what if it's the underlying difference that makes those folks more likely to become lifelong heavy users that also explains these results? A lot of mental problems are degenerative. And there's already evidence from other results of a link between OCD and lower IQ performance. So maybe it's an underlying form of undiagnosed OCD that explains both the heavy pot use and the lower IQ performance.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am usually not surprised. It tends to explain the dumb looks and the not giving a shit about anything and the end of the day anxiety.

Couldn't possibly be a skewed sample. Nope.
posted by rtha at 2:05 PM on June 24, 2013


In my anecdotal experience, dope is pretty damn benign, but makes for an easy out from personality and intellectual development in early years. I'd support it being illegal under 18, seems to cover that off.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:12 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It might be less risky then alcohol in the long term, and certainly the short term effects are less risky. I tend to think though that many pro-marijuana parties seriously undervalue the risks, just as many anti-marijuana parties overvalue the risks.
---
Accepting that there's good scientific evidence that marijuana indulged to excess has negative health consequences doesn't suddenly mean that the War on Drugs is a good idea and that we should support tossing kids into prison for possession anymore than accepting that alcohol can be a very dangerous chemical means we have to be in favor of restoring Prohibition.


The thing about comparisons to alcohol that a lot of people who make it seem to forget is that alcohol is legal and pot (generally) is not. I have little trouble believing pot is bad for teens' mental development but I still have trouble accepting this study at face value because it took place in a context of oppression. I'm wary of anything "proving" pot's harmful effects, not because I can't believe such harm exists, but because the proof will inevitably be used to further a repressive status quo. Restoring Prohibition is not actually a thing that will happen in the U.S. in any foreseeable future. Anti-Pot laws OTOH have very real world consequences. In that context, it's understandable to me when people affected by these laws have a bit of a kneejerk reaction to studies like this one.
posted by 0 at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Please critique the study on the basis of its methodologies and statistical validity, not whether not it is implicated in a culture of oppression.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm personally have no qualifications to provide such a critique and am not intending to make one. I'm critiquing some of the reaction to it here since it affects my life.
posted by 0 at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone on this thread either sounds high or like they need some weed to mellow out. I'd rather hang with the high ones.
posted by Kokopuff at 2:22 PM on June 24, 2013


I know lots of people are going to come in here and make jokes, but I want some Cheetos, man. We cool?
posted by Mister_A at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2013


Sure, the stuff is good for chemo patients and glaucoma sufferers, but doesn't the fact that 92% of "patients" are male tell you something?

67%, actually. What tells *me* something is when people invent statistics to make a point.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


True fact: 48.3% of all invented statistics feature words or phrases in "scare quotes".

I know it feels good. I know we've all read the "scientific" studies that say it's not addictive and that there are no side effects. But scientists don't smoke pot. We do. And that's the difference. Look, all I'm saying is if you still wanna smoke pot, then be prepared to spend a lot of time laughing with your friends. Think about it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This seems like a pretty sane study, with some clear experimental benefits over other attempts to get at the long term effects of pot.

First, it is longitudinal, taking measures over a long time in a real population. Secondly, it is nicely controlled, especially around some of the difficult issues surrounding social economic status and education, which are usually hard to account for in these studies. Third, population size is large enough to isolate effects. Fourth, the researchers seem to do a good job listing limitations and taking critics seriously. Finally, the underlying trends all support the study (lower usage is related to lower IQ losses, IQ losses seem age related, etc.) This is something that is a good indicator that effects may be "real" rather than statistical artifacts.

Some of the objections on the thread are problematic. First, anecdotes are not data, as many people have pointed out. Second, the results are about mean effects - some people may have no IQ impact from pot, some people may have more - we have no idea what the mechanism is, here. There are certainly lots of people who may have benefited from pot, but that doesn't mean that there are no side effects. Third, what I worry about on the thread is the prima facia rejection of the evidence in the face of people's underlying views, which is a pretty common phenomena.

There are still many flaws, but there always will be in studies - it is suggestive, not conclusive. Even given that, the potential conclusion, as stated in the Nature summary, is reasonable as well: "The findings hint at neurotoxic effects from cannabis at a critical age for brain development, although the authors leave it for other researchers to isolate what the underlying mechanism may be." Even for those in favor of complete legalization, neurotoxic effects are worth considering. It certainly suggests that perhaps marijuana use by younger folk may be riskier than we may have thought.
posted by blahblahblah at 2:49 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blasdelb: "Are all publically available online."

Are you sure about that? At least the last link brings me to a paywall. (I have other ways of getting that article, but thanks for your offer.) Maybe it was only public temporarily?
posted by vasi at 2:55 PM on June 24, 2013


There are still many flaws, but there always will be in studies - it is suggestive, not conclusive. Even given that, the potential conclusion, as stated in the Nature summary, is reasonable as well: "The findings hint at neurotoxic effects from cannabis at a critical age for brain development, although the authors leave it for other researchers to isolate what the underlying mechanism may be." Even for those in favor of complete legalization, neurotoxic effects are worth considering. It certainly suggests that perhaps marijuana use by younger folk may be riskier than we may have thought.

Okay, fine. But so what? I haven't seen any proponents of legalization/decriminalization advocating for kids being able to toke up, any more than kids should be able to buy cigarettes and alcohol. Will it happen to a certain extent? Yes. It does now. I think legalization and regulation is ultimately likely to reduce access for minors in the long run. The kid with the dreads and backpack slinging eighths of the ol American Doobsack doesn't ask for ID.
posted by stenseng at 3:38 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


fshgrl: "The question I have is whether the pot causes the crippling anxiety and nervousness all stoners over 30 seem to suffer from when not high or if they originally started smoking to self medicate."

Marijuana always helped me with anxiety, which in my case is due to PTSD and ADHD. In California I had a prescription. Here in NM I can get a prescription for anxiety due to PTSD, but it's a hassle compared to going through the black market. I was self-medicating for a long time, because I wasn't diagnosed for these conditions until recently, but I have valid medical reasons for use if not exactly the full endorsement of the federal law. I don't think that really matters as far as whether it should be legal. Criminalizing it doesn't benefit anyone.

I think you'll find similar issues among many people who continue to smoke or use marijuana regularly throughout their lives. I'm not sure whether you were asking in a backhanded way deliberately, but I don't have any shame about it. Shame and guilt never helped me deal with my life, but certain medications do. I do have more anxiety without it, but I can deal OK. This is also true of my ADHD medication, which is fully legal.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:42 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


saulgoodman: "The source admits that the science hasn't yet conclusively demonstrated a causal link in that case"

Most research shows that schizophrenia may be triggered by drug use, in particular marijuana and psychedelics, but an individual must be genetically predisposed in order to be triggered, and that individuals who are predisposed will inevitably be triggered by something, even if they never use drugs. In other words, there may be causality, but only in people who will end up with schizophrenia regardless. Anecdotally, I have never known this to happen among anyone I know, and I've known hundreds of stoners for decades.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:00 PM on June 24, 2013


Instead of thinking there is something wrong with people who are harmed by pot, what if it's that people who aren't harmed by it have specific buffers in their lives?

Meaning it's still a negative force, but the impact is more negligible for people who have good physical health or supportive family or scholastic capacity and drive---

I dislike that the people use resiliency to say "Well if some people are resilient it means the others were ill or inferior".

It's a frustrating way to look at resiliency and research doesn't really indicate that is how resiliency works. What I mean to say is leading kids to believe that in healthy individuals regular pot use is harmless unless you're one of those mentally ill people who ill anyway so who cares-- is really bad way to explain this to kids. And by policy implication that includes how we explain this to kids so it matters. I get so annoyed with people who haven't been harmed by pot and get so defensive about talking honestly about people who have without dismissing their experience as being irrelevant or unimportant or unrelated to pot itself. People who already have a lot of harmful variables in their lives could probably use some protection from pot and they matter as human beings too but because they don't fit into the standard pot empowerment trope.

I think it should be permitted and regulated so I'm not a fan of the war on drugs, I believe in harm reduction for use of substances that lessen life pain or physical pain. That doesn't mean that regular pot use is a great idea for everyone.

"Most research shows that schizophrenia may be triggered by drug use, in particular marijuana and psychedelics, but an individual must be genetically predisposed in order to be triggered, and that individuals who are predisposed will inevitably be triggered by something, even if they never use drugs. In other words, there may be causality, but only in people who will end up with schizophrenia regardless."

Schizophrenia cases are fortunately a small portion of the mentally ill but I don't know which stoners you know because almost all of them I know have had experience with some form of mental illness whether panic attacks, anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma issues, or other. The relationship with pot, whether it causes, worsens, or lessens symptoms in various people is pretty important and anecdata is not an accurate way to figure out the answers.

A lot of research into epigenetics is really finding the opposite of what you're claiming-- that predisposition plus environment will equal phenotype. Meaning-- the environment matters and in a good environment many people with predispositions won't have mental illness. It's a pretty big deal if you're telling people that a substance is safe for them unless they were going to get ill anyway-- and you're wrong.
posted by xarnop at 4:10 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Third, what I worry about on the thread is the prima facia rejection of the evidence in the face of people's underlying views, which is a pretty common phenomena.

Sure, that's never a good thing, and a very human problem. But just to make sure we're on the same page: this has happened in both the nominally "pro" and "anti" pot comments. This study simply says that heavy use by adolescents appears to be neurologically problematic. Full stop.

It doesn't conclude that kids should never smoke pot. It doesn't try to assess proper dosage to avoid these effects. It doesn't say heavy use by adults is problematic. It doesn't try to correlate pot use with some measure of success in later life. And it certainly says absolutely nothing about "stoner culture" or any other such nonsense. If we want to talk about science, I think it's accurate to say that cannabis has been pretty heavily studied, and the literature in aggregate seems to show that it's pretty benign under normal use. Do any of those here who know this literature deeply care to set me straight on this overall assessment?

I get it that some people here have been annoyed talking to or otherwise interacting with stoned people. But this study doesn't really speak to that one way or the other.
posted by mondo dentro at 4:12 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


"schizophrenia may be triggered by drug use, in particular marijuana and psychedelics, but an individual must be genetically predisposed in order to be triggered"

BTW, this is what happened to Kurt Vonnegut's son, Mark Vonnegut, and in his case it was mescaline that triggered his psychotic episodes. He wrote about his experience in The Eden Express. His descriptions of his mental state as he cycled in and out of sanity is unlike anything I've encountered, a subjective account of a schizophrenic state that really puts you inside his head and helps explain why, for instance, people suffering from these delusional states tend to reject help.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:57 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


xarnop: "The relationship with pot, whether it causes, worsens, or lessens symptoms in various people is pretty important and anecdata is not an accurate way to figure out the answers."

I haven't seen any research to suggest that drug use has been found to cause schizophrenia, but only trigger it in people who are predisposed.

As far as my own marijuana use and anxiety due to my conditions, I'll go with what my therapist and psychiatrist are telling me and my own experiences.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:01 PM on June 24, 2013


What I don't get is how some sub-par outcomes paper with several holes easily punched through its methods got published in Nature, one of the worlds foremost scientific publications.
posted by SounderCoo at 5:04 PM on June 24, 2013


xarnop: "Schizophrenia cases are fortunately a small portion of the mentally ill but I don't know which stoners you know because almost all of them I know have had experience with some form of mental illness "

To be clear - That is not what I said. In fact I said that in my case it was true, and in my experience many people who use marijuana regularly throughout their lives do suffer from some sort of mental illness. However, I have never known anyone who smoked regularly who ended up schizophrenic, nor have I heard anyone mention it in conversation, and that includes a lot of people who smoke regularly. That's all I said about that.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:05 PM on June 24, 2013


What I don't get is how some sub-par outcomes paper with several holes easily punched through its methods got published in Nature, one of the worlds foremost scientific publications.

I don't know about this characterization of the paper, but it was actually published in PNAS - Nature just wrote a "News & Views" about it.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:09 PM on June 24, 2013


It doesn't conclude that kids should never smoke pot. It doesn't try to assess proper dosage to avoid these effects. It doesn't say heavy use by adults is problematic. It doesn't try to correlate pot use with some measure of success in later life. And it certainly says absolutely nothing about "stoner culture" or any other such nonsense.

No disagreement here. The study is limited in what it tries to say. I know nothing about the literature on marijuana, I do know something about study design. I commented because the discussion on the study itself was often knee-jerk, not because I am taking a side on the debate.

What I don't get is how some sub-par outcomes paper with several holes easily punched through its methods got published in Nature, one of the worlds foremost scientific publications.

It was in PNAS, which is the ninth most influential journal (Nature is #1, but PNAS is extremely important). I am not sure why you consider it a sub-par paper. When doing social science, it is really hard to get a paper without concerns about endogenous results or other methodological problems - the world is too messy, compared to a lab bench or a simulation. This seems like a really solid study, with limitations on interpretation, of course, but not sub-par.
posted by blahblahblah at 5:42 PM on June 24, 2013


Blasdelb said: And sorry stoners, but no, marijuana usage in adolescance really is clearly associated with meaningful declines in projected puzzle solving skills.

Oh, I think you missed a few words in that sentence, let me correct that for you:

And sorry stoners, but no, the heaviest and most persistent marijuana usage in adolescance really is clearly associated with meaningful declines in projected puzzle solving skills.

Occasional marijuana usage in adolescence? It has not been shown to be "clearly associated with meaningful declines in projected puzzle solving skills."

Here's an easy way to figure out if a study like this is worth reading: Did they randomly choose some kids and force them to get really high, while also preventing another randomly selected group of kids from the same population from smoking any pot EVER? If not, flag and move on.

and then smoke some pot.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:09 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know which stoners you know because almost all of them I know have had experience with some form of mental illness whether panic attacks, anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma issues, or other.

Nearly every human being I know has had experiences like these, never mind the stoners.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:24 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Science - it works, bitches! Unless it's dissing pot, in which case, you know, whatever.
posted by unSane at 6:32 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Science - it works, bitches! Unless it's dissing pot, in which case, you know, whatever.

Did you read the articles in question? Or for that matter, the FPP?
posted by Wordwoman at 6:38 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone's disputing the science here. Even the study authors are pretty explicit their results are limited and subject to some interpretive dispute. They also acknowledge that similar studies have found no serious ill effects in general cognitive performance to obtain in adults. It's not the hard science but the theory behind it that people have mostly been debating here. And no one has said "Hey kids, go smoke as much pot as you possibly can while your brain's still forming!"

A lot of people have, on the other hand, sort of lazily misrepresented the results of the study, completely ignoring the author's caveats about the results only seeming to hold for the most persistent and heavy smokers. Those who smoked small to moderate amounts showed no evidence of any effect. Similar studies on the effects of alcohol have found that heavy alcohol use during adolescence can likewise negatively effect brain development. So yeah. There's a reason people say "Pick your poison." Although some poisons are less poisonous than others.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:40 PM on June 24, 2013


In other words, a more accurate and more flame-repellent version of the FPP would read (my additions in bold): "A study published last year shows that heavy and persistent teenage marijuana use can lead to decreased IQ in adulthood."
posted by saulgoodman at 6:46 PM on June 24, 2013


It was in PNAS, which is the ninth most influential journal

Well, it has really high metrics. Whether those metrics are any good at all is continually debated.

PNAS has a high impact factor because it publishes. A lot. Some of those papers are bound to actually be impactful and further cited. Oh, btw, even wrong papers are sometimes cited as, well, a wrong paper.

The thing with PNAS is that it has a bad reputation of being pretty slack about doing a rigorous peer review if the last author (principle investigator) is a member. It looks bad if you have too many PNAS papers and not enough in other high ranking journals, or if your PNAS papers aren't cited lots a few years after publication.
posted by porpoise at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2013


Did you read the articles in question? Or for that matter, the FPP?

Yes.
posted by unSane at 6:54 PM on June 24, 2013


I am always skeptical about these sorts of reports. I can believe it could be prone to socioeconomic bias or a number of any other factors.

Anyway, this sort of "research" that somehow manages to confirm the conventional preconceptions always reminds me of a report I saw back in the 1970s. It was called something like "Doping and Driving" and I think it was in Motor Trend or some popular auto magazine. It got a lot of controversy for what it found out. They got a fairly wide assortment of people, and tested their driving performance in a car full of sensors on a test track, while straight, drinking, and smoking pot (not at the same time, on separate days). They got an assortment of drivers, from non-smokers and teetotallers to potheads and alcoholics. It was not surprising that the drunken driving performance degraded as they became intoxicated. And it wasn't surprising that as more marijuana was consumed, driving performance was impaired.. but only for the people who weren't experienced pot smokers. On the people who smoked at least a few times monthly, their driving skills were not impaired, and for a small group of the most chronic smokers, their performance stoned was way improved over their straight driving, and reaction times and other measurements were way above the skills of average drivers, close to the performance level of highly skilled professional drivers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:25 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The effects of prohibition are increasingly catastrophic for our country particularly in poor and black neighborhoods, use of marijuana by teenagers who will be damaged by it hit a 30-year peak in 2011 (with one out of every 15 high school students reporting they smoke most days), cartels are being made more profitable by the price differential made by prohibition and more hideously violent by its selective pressure, and this shit is all we really have to say about it? Regurgitating hollywood lines about how incapable and stupid we are?
How is that a different response than our reactions to our racist justice system, the disintegration of our basic civil liberties, and the other numerous ways in which America is becoming a failed state?

Also, you're conflating two different issues: the effects of drug use, and the effects of the institution that was formed to try and prevent what is typical behavior for humans. Just imagine if we sent out SWAT teams to make sure none of those kids smoked cigarettes or drank a beer, and threw them in jail for breaking that law? You'd have the same result: a bunch of people in jail guilty of harming no one, a bunch of police doing the impossible task of enforcing morality through law and wasting stupendous amounts of money, and a bunch of gangsters profiting off of a drug that is in demand. (Does every Thatcherite forget about alcohol prohibition?) There are many reasons why tobacco and alcohol are legal and cannabis is not, but they have nothing to do with the relative danger of the drugs. Cannabis is demonized mostly because it is illegal, and a societal ill solely because it is illegal.
Fuck this shit. Marijuana is not a valid lifestyle choice, stoner culture cannot really be described as much more than pathetic, and it is its own worst enemy. Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke.
First of all, who the fuck are you to declare what lifestyle choices are valid and invalid? Has there been a rash of cannabis junkies murdering people lately? Does Seth Rogen piss you off? Did the hippies destroy the world economy with their greed and hubris? Are potheads creating private prisons and filling them with minorities? (Fuck me, I thought those were straight-laced, politically connected, greedy coke-sniffing businessmen). Were the drug-fueled counter-culture movements of the 60s and 70s "not much more than pathetic?" Considering the staggering amount of good art and good work that has been either inspired or induced by drug use, I find this irrational attitude towards non-corporate drugs to be a little confusing.

You could pick any societal ill at random, and go up to any person on the street in one of the neighborhoods you so desperately want to save, and ask them: should we address X, or the problem of teenagers smoking weed?

If you don't get outright laughter, you'll get the sensible, reasonable, obvious answer: there are hundreds of issues more important to those neighborhoods than keeping teenagers off of cannabis. Sticking to drug use alone, cannabis is the least problematic of all abusable drugs, if long-term health is a consideration.

The worst potheads I know are far more likely to have maintained a job and been pretty good about paying their bills on time when compared to middle-of-the-road abusers that prefer other drugs. Some of the potheads I know do amazing work, often working more hours than non-drug users, and some of them are lazy and lack initiative, but that's just people.

In which dialect does, "they medicine" constitute a complete and coherent statement of why marijuana is not bad for you?

You'd have to understand the context. Let's say you live in a disadvantaged community with close to zero hope of making it out. Your friends and your relatives are regularly profiled, arrested, and harassed by local law enforcement. It's run by gangs who allow the police to make big bust photo ops so they don't look like complete idiots, but the police are more or less irrelevant.

In this ecosystem of rank inequality and injustice, when you're just a teenager with no political capital, no monetary capital, and no proven way out except for joining the military, life can be stressful. Especially when you lack basic securities in food, shelter, healthcare (including access to mental health resources), and education.

When a teenager with access to those resources faces similar stresses, they can be taken to mental health professional and treated properly, often with potentially dangerous drugs. Even that doesn't work all of the time, especially if the parents are trying to force their child to be something they don't want to be. The child may get some Valium or some Xanax or Welbutrin, along with some Adderral or whatever kid-speed they are feeding those with healthcare. Tens of thousands of those people in the direct care of professionals will still die from side effects of those drugs. In fact, many of them are no longer prescribed because more people were killing themselves when they were on those drugs in their teen years. But strangely, there was no public outcry about "the children" and a "public health crisis" when pharmaceutical companies and doctors were responsible for those deaths and still making a profit.

Meanwhile, the death toll from THC overdose in the known world for all of known history is still zero.

Anyway, you don't have gas money or a parent that has the will or the time to take you to a doctor. The school's resources are probably strained already. But tonight, $5 or $10 will allow you to stop thinking about the certainty of the difficulties you will be facing for the rest of your life. All of the darkness of the everyday walls around you will disappear. The small things become interesting again, and you can take a full breath because the weight of knowing that you're the part of society that gets thrown away won't be so undeniably true.

Possible side effects: munchies, falling asleep, making music, and someone may claim your IQ is lower. Possible side effects of every other drug: almost instantaneous death, frying your brain with badly manufactured compounds, unforeseen reactions with other drugs, psychosis, chemical dependence, paranoia, violence, depression... and those side effects are common with prescribed drugs as well.

If I was confronted about my choices concerning all of that -- in front of a class instead of behind closed doors, no less -- I'm not sure I would have the time or the inclination to explain the context, either. I'd probably doubt their sincerity in asking the question. In any case, "they medicine" is absolutely a correct answer for cannabis in a lot of situations. Just ask a doctor.

Blaming our societal and familial failures on the habits people form to cope with them is a bizarre and useless reaction. If you want to end the effects of prohibition, end prohibition. Put all the drugs back on the market that were there in 1910. Take all of the money thrown away on the drug war, and use it to fund treatment for those who are addicted. That will immediately end gang warfare since territory will be comparably worthless, and it will put drugs, regular users, and addicts back in the hands of the medical professions that have the knowledge and the resources to reasonably address the problems associated with drug abuse.

The only problem I foresee is the unemployment spike when all of those individuals are no longer thrown in prison. Perhaps the government will see the value of investing a fraction of their former incarceration cost into education, training, and community development. However, that may just be wishful thinking inspired by the helpful, safe, and productive effects of the handle of bourbon I just bought for $20. I hope someone comes and saves me from this habit by blowing my door off the hinges, invading my home, and then taking me to jail for a few years. That would really turn things around for me.
posted by tripping daisy at 9:01 PM on June 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


(footnote: Thatcherite is probably an inexact pejorative, since she had some decent fact based policies, but I was referring to irrational fears of drug use)
posted by tripping daisy at 9:08 PM on June 24, 2013


Blasdelb: "Fuck this shit. Marijuana is not a valid lifestyle choice, stoner culture cannot really be described as much more than pathetic, and it is its own worst enemy. Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency that is among other things not a fucking joke."

Best abuse of Metafilter's lack of a downvote button that I've seen this year. Bravo.
posted by mullingitover at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being a boy (f* shy), looking up to my parents, watching foreign (American and English) TV series, trying to fit in, reading lots of 19th century novels, falling in love, listening to hundreds of jazz records, surfing the Internet for hours, working in education, and now this ! (I can feel it in my brain).
posted by nicolin at 5:23 AM on June 25, 2013


Mari fucking Juana is not a valid lifestyle choice?

It goes in, it goes out. I believe that consenting adults can stick what they like in any of their orifices to gain pleasure so long as children are kept out of the mix.
posted by phoque at 5:38 AM on June 25, 2013


Here's an easy way to figure out if a study like this is worth reading: Did they randomly choose some kids and force them to get really high, while also preventing another randomly selected group of kids from the same population from smoking any pot EVER? If not, flag and move on.

So no study about marijuana is ever worth reading, unless it is unethically conducted, then it may be worth reading?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:45 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hardly any adults with real jobs smoke a LOT of weed.

.
posted by rosswald at 9:46 AM on June 25, 2013


>>Here's an easy way to figure out if a study like this is worth reading: Did they randomly choose some kids and force them to get really high, while also preventing another randomly selected group of kids from the same population from smoking any pot EVER? If not, flag and move on.

>So no study about marijuana is ever worth reading, unless it is unethically conducted, then it may be worth reading?


I think what they're saying is that hardcore potheads might have got that way for reasons, and maybe the reasons matter.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:19 PM on June 25, 2013


So no study about marijuana is ever worth reading, unless it is unethically conducted, then it may be worth reading?

because of so many other things influencing long-term outcomes that could mediate, be spuriously correlated with, or be the cause of both the outcome and marijuana use, an experimental design is the best way to figure out what is really going on.

and that's setting aside the issue of people miss-reporting their marijuana use. consider this: a person is highly socialized to follow rules, yet likes to smoke marijuana, so they under report their marijuana use. later in life their high socialization has paid off: because it encouraged them to get good grades in school, go to college, and get the kind of job where you have to exercise your problem solving skills. as a result they can get high scores on IQ tests.

all they've really shown is that teens who reported heavy and persistent marijuana use ....

the larger picture is that anti-marijuana people see this as proof it should remain illegal, but that's a poor argument. alcohol is legal, and i'm sure it has bad long-term effects for teens who are the "heaviest and most persistent" users. the anti-'s response to that would be "we can't make it legal, because then more teens will use it, and that's bad." i would respond to that by asking "so do you also propose making alcohol and tobacco illegal?"

ironically, it would probably be easier decrease alcohol consumption through prohibition than marijuana. making alcohol, especially in large quantities and efficiently, takes a lot of capital. on the other side, marijuana takes relatively little capital.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One interesting study that came up today (on CBC Morning show) showed that childhood concussions and associated mild TBI were associated with elevated use of marijuana and alcohol. It was correlative not causative but it certainly suggests another possible mechanism for the correlation observed here, beyond 'dope makes you a dope'.
posted by unSane at 10:00 AM on June 26, 2013


Marijuana is a public health crisis that, through abject racism and callous neglect, has turned into a public policy emergency

Actually it's a plant, that when smoked, makes some people feel happy, and makes some sick people feel better. If you smoke too much of it, it might not be good for you. What's worse for you, though, is the people who will grab you, and put you into a cell for smoking it.

We should probably tell the people who grab people and put them into cells to stop doing that.
posted by spaltavian at 10:35 AM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


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