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The Downside of High
January 27, 2010 9:52 PM   Subscribe

THE DOWNSIDE OF HIGH (trailer) tells the stories of three young people from British Columbia who believe – along with their doctors – that their mental illness was triggered by marijuana use.

The Downside of High airs on Thursday on CBC's The Nature of Things. It's...not some hysterical Reefer Madness piece of work. Bruce Mohun (the filmmaker) is not a marijuana prohibitionist. He decided to make the documentary after... his nephew became seriously ill.

Experts estimate that between 8% and 13% of all schizophrenia cases are linked to marijuna / cannabis use during teen years.

Today's pot is a different drug, with five to eight times more psychoactive Tetrahydrocannibinol (THC) than good old Acapulco Gold. And 130% more potent than marijuana produced just a decade ago. Despite what some of its advocates might claim, any "medicinal" qualities are bred right out of the stuff that's sold on the streets. It's not wacky anymore. It's dangerous...

London-based schizophrenia and cannabis expert Robin Murray describes how scientists in Europe have been able to connect marijuana use to mental illness.


Several studies (pdf) from the Downside of High site
posted by KokuRyu (167 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I keep seeing everything in italics! ;)

Supporting text link #2 notes that MJ containes - or used to - cannabinidol, an anti-psychotic possibly useful in treating schizophrenia.

My schizophrenic roommate back in college was a desperate weed hound, absolutely driven to find even the twiggiest of stale shake. I would describe his behavior as possibly supporting the contention.
posted by mwhybark at 9:59 PM on January 27, 2010


That doesn't look like much fun to watch stoned.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:11 PM on January 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


Schizophrenia + pot movies, and the absurd potency claims are nothing new. Pretty lame boilerplate DARE stuff.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:16 PM on January 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


All the studies cited in the last link are old news. The basic picture is this: if a person uses marijuana frequently starting in early teens, then there are alterations in how their brains develop. Among that segment of the population which is predisposed to psychosis, regular cannabis use can precipitate a more severe form of the illness. For the bulk of the population with no history of regular use in early/mid-teens, pot doesn't pose a serious mental-illness risk. And there's still no firm link, despite many studies, to suggest that cannabis leads to schizophreniform spectrum disorders de novo in those without a predisposition. Off the top of my head, 95% of the population are exempt.
posted by daksya at 10:19 PM on January 27, 2010 [29 favorites]


with five to eight times more psychoactive Tetrahydrocannibinol (THC) than good old Acapulco Gold. [...] any "medicinal" qualities are bred right out of the stuff that's sold on the streets

What? How can you completely contradict yourself in the space of two sentences and still sleep at night? THC is what is responsible for a great deal of the medicinal qualities.
posted by Justinian at 10:20 PM on January 27, 2010 [14 favorites]


Didn't anyone teach these kids/doctors that correlation /= causation?
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:23 PM on January 27, 2010 [12 favorites]


Perhaps the documentary is intended more for a Canadian audience, specifically in British Columbia, where pot is very much accepted as a great recreational drug, and growing pot contributes about $10B to the local economy in a province with just 4 million people. As well, the sheer potency of the pot is startling. BC bud was powerful 15 years ago when I was in uni, but it gotten even more powerful, which is frightening in some ways (especially if "John Carpenter's The Thing" was one of your favourite movies to watch stoned).
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 PM on January 27, 2010


Didn't anyone teach these kids/doctors that correlation /= causation?You have some reason to believe that the scientists and researchers cited in various studies that do, indeed, seem to indicate at least a tenuous link between heavy pot use in the early teens and blah blah blah don't understand correlation and causation? Can you point to the errors in their research?

I think this is a bunch of scare-mongering BS but every time there is a thread about pretty much anything where scientific research is involved somebody pops in with CORRELATION ISNT CAUSATION AMIRITE? Except that sometimes it is, and we actually have ways to determine that.
posted by Justinian at 10:28 PM on January 27, 2010 [20 favorites]



Perhaps the documentary is intended more for a Canadian audience, specifically in British Columbia, where pot is very much accepted as a great recreational drug, and growing pot contributes about $10B to the local economy in a province with just 4 million people. As well, the sheer potency of the pot is startling. BC bud was powerful 15 years ago when I was in uni, but it gotten even more powerful, which is frightening in some ways (especially if "John Carpenter's The Thing" was one of your favourite movies to watch stoned).


No, it's not. It's the same exact drug, and even if it is more potent it's not like you can OD on it.

It doesn't matter who the doc is aimed at it, it is very old news. The schizophrenia scare tactic has been in use for years, and is nothing but prohibitionist claptrap. Ask the next schizophrenic you see if he smokes cigarettes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:28 PM on January 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


The few people I know with serious mental disorders have a desperate need to self-medicate, and for many of them, marijuana and other drugs play some role in that. I suspect - long before an illness such as schizophrenia is diagnosed - that many sufferers have smoked marijuana for reasons of self-medication. Some of the links above are quite hysterical, and the very superficial digging I did leads me to believe that they're often both overstated and misleading. I think it's entirely possible that sufferers of mental illness may simply be more likely to use drugs, alcohol and tobacco than other people, before their diseases become manifest to the rest of the world. It's the old maxim of corrolation is not causation. And yes, marijuana may be stronger than ever, but most people I know deal with this simply by smoking less of it.

The link which states "their mental illness was triggered by marijuana use" goes on to say that "marijuana cannot cause mental illness on its own."

I found the following passage by clicking on the one about "8% and 13% of all schizophrenia cases are linked to marijuana / cannabis use . . ."

Q. What’s your view on cannabis? Do you believe that people can have just a discreet cannabis psychosis?

A. I think it’s possible to have a toxic psychosis, but that’s not typically what we see. You know what we see is people who are using heavily who have a persistent psychosis, which usually responds to anti-psychotic treatment actually. The cannabis probably has played some role in the onset of the psychosis. It’s the literature shows that it’s a weak risk factor for onset, so about eight per cent of the ethology is estimated to be related to cannabis - so that’s not a huge amount but it it is significant. What we see more commonly though is the effect of continuing cannabis use on the course. There’s definitely a negative interaction between continuing heavy cannabis use and the course of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.


It's a "weak factor" and even then only "related to cannabis."

Similarly, the main points in the link to Robin Murray is that continued use of cannabis among patients with mental illness exacerbates mental health problems, and that those with "vulnerability" to mental illness are made *more* vulnerable to it if they smoke marijuana (or "take cannabis" in the hip lingo of the article.) This isn't any different than what could be said of how alcohol affects alcoholics or where alcohol use can lead to those with alcoholism in their families, or how one's smoking or use of birth control pills can lead to problems disproportionately for people with a greater hereditary risk of certain cancers.

I suppose it's good advice to not pick up the chronic if you've got a history of mental illness in your family, and inhaling any form of smoke is probably - on some level - an inherently dangerous thing. But the vast, vast majority of pot smokers don't suffer unduly from the practice, and sadly, I can just see this collection of links being used to support "hysterical Reefer Madness." It's been done before with less.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:30 PM on January 27, 2010 [23 favorites]


Yes, we all know pot is so much more dangerous than alcohol. That's why pot needs to be illegal, and alcohol should stay legal. Think of all the people who die from pot overdose every year! All the wives beaten! All the fights gotten into! Oh, the life-cripplingly addictive nature of pot, they need to put recovering potheads on schwag programs to slowly ween them off the kind bud, otherwise they might just get DTs and die in their sleep.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is sweet and innocent as a daisy. Innocent little old alcohol, would never hurt a fly! It should be free, free I say! Free as a bird!

OH WE SO HAVE OUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT, OH I COULD JUST HUG US ALL AND GIVE US ALL A BIG WET SLOPPY KISS.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:41 PM on January 27, 2010 [19 favorites]


BC bud was powerful 15 years ago when I was in uni, but it gotten even more powerful, which is frightening in some ways

Why? "More powerful" just means it contains a greater quantity of psychoactive material relative to filler. Hence you just need to inhale less smoke to get the same effect. How is this a bad thing?
posted by decagon at 10:48 PM on January 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Read Cannabis by Martin Booth if you want a well-balanced history of the weed.

Not a chronic user myself, though of course I tried it in my youth. Don't see any need to start now, but then again, as cancer runs in the family, might be useful if I ever get sick.

Because then mental illness will be the least of my concerns.
posted by bwg at 10:51 PM on January 27, 2010


As well, the sheer potency of the pot is startling. BC bud was powerful 15 years ago when I was in uni, but it gotten even more powerful, which is frightening in some ways (especially if "John Carpenter's The Thing" was one of your favourite movies to watch stoned).

ah, finally something I can be an expert on here on MetaFilter - I live in BC, smoke weed daily, and The Thing is in my top five movies all time. I can confidently testify that both the local pot and subsequent viewings of that movie have improved at a pace consistent with one another.
posted by mannequito at 10:52 PM on January 27, 2010 [34 favorites]


Justinian: I think this is a bunch of scare-mongering BS but every time there is a thread about pretty much anything where scientific research is involved somebody pops in with CORRELATION ISNT CAUSATION AMIRITE? Except that sometimes it is, and we actually have ways to determine that.

Realistically, it seems particularly difficult to determine causation with regard to these results. Schizophrenics are absolutely notorious for trying to self-medicate with drugs, and I don't think schizophrenia is well enough understood to claim that they were necessarily acting the same as their healthy peers before the obvious symptoms started. Honestly, barring unethical studies (i.e. give study group A pot and B a placebo, and see who goes crazy) I'm not sure how you could ever figure it out.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:53 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


The schizophrenics that I worked with would take any drug that came to them. Crank was pretty clearly bad for them, alcohol not much better, but honestly the weed seemed to have less negative effects than the anti-psychotics they were prescribed.

I would love to see the work done to track people who smoked pot and ones who abstained. A true large sale study should be able to be done. I don't know how you would make a placebo, seems that I have tried placebo pot before and it didn't really fool me.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:10 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I personally know of people who had major and lasting schizophrenic breakdowns in the midst of being habitual smokers of marijuana. One was 17 at the time of his breakdown and had been smoking for a few years prior and has been clearly schizophrenic for 30 years since.
The other was a heavy smoker in his 30s but had smoked to varying degrees since his teens. He had a breakdown in his late 30s and has been not quite right for about 7 years now. His Psy Doc told him the heavy use triggered his breakdown. Feel free to draw your conclusions about these two persons. I myself continue to smoke it frequently, as I have for 3 decades now. I can wholeheartedly agree with the part about how marijuana is much improved these days.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:20 PM on January 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, so tired of this "marijuana today is far more potent and dangerous than the cute and cuddly stuff we were smoking back in the day" canard. Does anyone know what evidence exists to support these 'uberweed' claims? I don't doubt that potency has gone up, I'd just like to know what the actual facts being hopelessly abused are.

This is now one of the most frequently-used rhetorical devices in the War on (Some) Drugs, and it seems fine-tuned to appeal to people who like to view themselves as liberal despite increasingly paranoid and conservative tendencies. "Why we should be iron-fisted about marijuana and keep it away from my kids, even though I smoked loads and did plenty worse when I was young".

Nevermind the fact that regular smokers self-titrate once they've gauged the potency of what they've got...
posted by blackberet at 11:20 PM on January 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


OH WE SO HAVE OUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT, OH I COULD JUST HUG US ALL AND GIVE US ALL A BIG WET SLOPPY KISS.

Are you drunk high kidding me?
posted by davejay at 11:26 PM on January 27, 2010


Flagged as "of dubious rhetorical integrity."
posted by invitapriore at 11:28 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I absolutely support the right of people to smoke pot.

I back medical marijuana because it's the right, humane thing to do. I also acknowledge that with medical marijuana having its foot in the door, you might as well legalize it, because anyone who isn't stoned stoopid is going to find a medical justification for their pot smoking anyways.

That said, anyone who says that there isn't a long-term effect to pot smoking is stoned out of their gourd.

There's this whole cult of dogma around cannabis, as if it's always a completely benign substance that could single-handedly save the economy, with zero longterm negative effects on its users. (Note to people compelled to argue such rosy statements: You're on drugs... and you probably would like to get stoned more often, legally, for less money. )

The truth is that there are very few "miracle drugs" in this world. Overuse or persistent use almost invariably leads to negative long-term consequences. That doesn't mean that such drugs should be illegal. It does, however, mean that the public needs to be aware of the risks involved, and what constitutes safer, more responsible usage.

I had a friend who went psychotic. He was fine -- if perhaps a bit excitable and enthusiastic -- as a teen and wanted to become a world-class marathon runner. He was tall, fast, lean, and a *really* good runner ... a dual citizen of the United States and India, who wanted to run on the Indian team in the Olympics and who probably could've made it.

Unfortunately, he wasn't serious enough about his training... largely because he smoked way too much pot most of the time, after a friend introduced him to it.

I would like to say that he's still my friend, but in truth, the mental illness took my friend away from me. Even in the off-chance that cannabis didn't contribute to his problem, it certainly did a great job in masking the problem and preventing early, responsive treatment... because he was stoned all the time. There were warning signs, and some referrals to a psychiatrist, but he was never an active partner in his own treatment. Trying to properly diagnose and treat an addict with a mental disorder is like trying to remove an assload of spyware and viruses from an infected PC without starting in Safe Mode.

Eventually, he didn't want to do anything other than get high. He became a homeless saxophone player on the streets of San Francisco, and eventually started doing anything for money... oftentimes to get high. Inevitably, he was committed, diagnosed as a psychotic, and put on suicide watch. I visited him a few times, but he was disturbing and terrifying... and it kept getting worse.

Either he's still in there... or perhaps he was released on medication, only to lapse on his meds as most outpatients do, finding his way out on the streets... again.
posted by markkraft at 11:29 PM on January 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


I live in BC, and about half of people I know smoke weed on a regular basis. I know a couple people who have developed mental illness - a couple bipolar, who were rapidly treated and are now fully functional. These all developed in the late teens, a common time for mental illness. The one that continues to haunt me was my best friend in elementary school, who developed a vaguely defined "schizo-affective disorder." His parents believed that his marijuana use was correlated to his mental illness, but I never knew him to be a big pot smoker before this - his father was, though. In a dark twist, mostly due to massive healthcare cuts, the only way for him to be entered into an assisted living building was to admit to, and accept treatment for, marijuana addiction. Unfortunately his doctors could not find an effective prescription cocktail to treat his debilitating delusions and he continued to self-medicate with marijuana, resulting in him being expelled from that institution. He is still being cared for by his family, who receive no assistance beyond tax credits for dependents. There is literally no alternative, other than living on the street.

Completely anecdotally, I've also met a number of very friendly schizophrenics, often in emergency rooms. Typically there because they ran out of weed and need to renew their prescriptions ASAP lest they descend into madness. Self-confessed schizophrenics are somehow some of the most lucid individuals I ever chat with. It infuriates me when people fear or slander the mentally ill, as they are the most innocent among us.

All that said, "marijuana psychosis" is mythical. Correlation is not causation. Hundreds of studies have been done on the subject, and the evidence is conclusive. The mentally ill are often mis-treated or un-treated and self-medicate with illegal narcotics, but this is no proof of marijuana psychosis. It is the exact opposite: marijuana is helpful in treating mental illness.
posted by mek at 11:35 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, so tired of this "marijuana today is far more potent and dangerous than the cute and cuddly stuff we were smoking back in the day"

back in the day in BC (say, 1977) it would take me at least a cigarette-sized joint-and-a-half of marijuana (usually from Mexico) to get a respectable buzz going. Nowadays, still in BC, it takes me maybe three good tokes of smoke (usually from the guy upstairs) to achieve the same end.

The comparison that comes to mind is beer versus whiskey (ie: eight times the alcohol in one as the other). But so? It's the same active ingredient in both, and it's not as if when I sit down to drink some whiskey, I drink a six pack in an evening. That's just dumb. Kind of like the inferences being made (in the trailer at least) of the DOWNSIDE OF HIGH.

What an insult to anyone who's seriously invested in any of the issues it touches upon!
posted by philip-random at 11:41 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


i do think there is a point in this: people under a certain age of development shouldn't be using psychoactives. in an ideal world, education and honesty would help more people wait until their systems had matured enough to process the substances they were curious about.
posted by batmonkey at 11:43 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


in an ideal world, education and honesty would help more people wait until their systems had matured enough to process the substances they were curious about.

But it's not an ideal world.

It's like the anti-drug-disclaimer a fellow DJ used to throw into his radio show, usually while introducing a prolonged set of dub. "The producers of this program are in no way in favor of young people doing drugs and listening to music like this. But they're doing it anyway."
posted by philip-random at 11:48 PM on January 27, 2010


That's an odd statement, too, though. Being teenagers ourselves once, we know it's that age when we seek out new experiences and are willing to ingest just about anything. Well, at least I was. And there's no proof that did us wrong, apart from this histrionic pseudo-scientific documentary.
posted by mek at 11:48 PM on January 27, 2010


yeah, i know it's not an ideal world. that's why i specified it would only be possible in an ideal world.
posted by batmonkey at 11:53 PM on January 27, 2010


I was a crazy person when I smoked pot. I liked it, but it was no way to live and by 20 I had quite altogether.

It makes sense that pot would be cultivated to produce a strong effect, it's the market-place: this pot is 'better' than this. Though I will say that the whole "Pot today is much stronger than back in the day" canard was in play twenty+ years ago when I smoked it. I tried it again a couple years ago and it was pretty much the same for me as ever, I lost my cool - which was not unpleasant but was kind of well, disabling.

That said, I think pot should be legal and controlled by the Dep. of Agr. or some similar government body. Just like booze.

Some things are just no good for some people - I have a friend who can't drink coffee. Believe me, you want to keep that demon bean away from her.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:58 PM on January 27, 2010


So, so tired of this "marijuana today is far more potent and dangerous than the cute and cuddly stuff we were smoking back in the day" canard. Does anyone know what evidence exists to support these 'uberweed' claims?.

Ben Goldacre looked into the 'today's cannabis is much stronger than in the past' claim a few years back.

Looking at the original data, he concludes that 'the rising trend of cannabis potency is gradual, fairly unspectacular, and driven largely by the increased availability of intensively UK grown indoor herbal cannabis.'

Looking at a specific claim that it's '25 times stronger' than a decade ago, he points out that this figure was arrived at by comparing 'the worst cannabis from the past with the best cannabis of today.'

It would be astonishing if the cannabis available in Canada is dramatically chemically different from that available in the UK, so it's reasonable to assume that the claim made in the National Post article is as flawed as the one Goldacre examines. Whether the facts were misrepresented using the same methods is not possible to tell, since there is no information in the article about the source of the claim.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 12:00 AM on January 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Today's pot is a different drug because hauling a bale of weak marijuana around is incredibly risky so they've worked out ways to reduce the necessary dosing and make it easier to transport.

If they hadn't outlawed hemp as a fiber crop back in the day, that would be diluting out the potency and we wouldn't have this super potent death weed. (And could be farming hemp rather than timber cutting for things like paper.)

It's like there's some kind of law that says any time to you do something there are unintended consequences.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:02 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The mentally ill are often mistreated or untreated and self-medicate with illegal narcotics, but this is no proof of marijuana psychosis. It is the exact opposite: marijuana is helpful in treating mental illness."

So, what you're saying is that it functions like an illegal narcotic... like alcohol or heroin, right?! And that heroin is a helpful treatment too?

If you have mental illness, getting high is hardly an effective treatment regimen. It's a bit like suggesting that a medically-induced coma is a great solution for frequent narcolepsy.
posted by markkraft at 12:25 AM on January 28, 2010



So, what you're saying is that it functions like an illegal narcotic... like alcohol or heroin, right?! And that heroin is a helpful treatment too?

If you have mental illness, getting high is hardly an effective treatment regimen. It's a bit like suggesting that a medically-induced coma is a great solution for frequent narcolepsy.


How exactly did you get any of that out of that quote?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:38 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a bit like suggesting that medicine is medicine. Oh wait, medicine is prescribed, like Marinol or Oxycodone or Diamorphine, as opposed to marijuana, opium, and heroin which are of course, the exact same things, but illegal.
posted by mek at 12:39 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


the exact same things, but illegal.

ILLEGAL NARCOTICS!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:50 AM on January 28, 2010


" It's the same active ingredient in both"

As someone noted upthread, there is a theory that some modern strains are deficient in cannabidiol, which has antipsychotic effects.

Certainly I've noticed distinct differences in the quality, as opposed to the intensity, of the stone from different varieties, and many other people do too. It seems pretty plausible to me that there might be certain strains that actually do have more detrimental effects on mental health, because of their composition, than others.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:02 AM on January 28, 2010


Mark "Rent-boy" Renton: The downside of coming off junk was I knew I would need to mix with my friends again in a state of full consciousness. It was awful. They reminded me so much of myself, I could hardly bear to look at them.
posted by bwg at 1:04 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]



As someone noted upthread, there is a theory that some modern strains are deficient in cannabidiol, which has antipsychotic effects.


The lack of the various other substances has been suggested as a reason why Marinol is such a poor substitute for the real thing, and I can believe it.

Synthetic cannabinoids have been shown to have similar recreational potential as THC, so I don't see why they would need to be breeded out for high grade bud.

You certainly get a different high from an Indica than you get from a Sativa, it is well known there is a lot of variety in how various strains of pot can work on the brain. I think it would be interesting to do a more indepth study on how various strains of pot work on the brain, instead of just saying pot does this or pot does that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:14 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe marijuana isn't a cause for schizophrenia, but it's certainly a potential trigger for those who might be predisposed to it. I lost more than a few friends to pot-activated craziness through high school and college.

People act as if pot is just some fun, lazy drug. And maybe it is for 70%(?) of the population, but it's very uncomfortable to be around someone who pretty much goes permanently off the deep end while smoking it.

Obviously the other problem is that pot will affect you differently as you get older. I'm sure everyone knows somebody who used to love pot up to their early 20s, then stopped smoking it after the social anxiety started creeping in to their high.

I haven't personally smoked the stuff in about 10 years just because I was a lazy sack of crap when I smoked it. I wasted my freshman year of college on Soul Calibur and Pizza Hut. (Gateway drug indeed.) It makes it too easy not to do anything productive and just settle for mediocrity.
posted by Telf at 1:48 AM on January 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


It is certainly a potential trigger. I don't know anyone who stopped because of anxiety, mostly because of drug tests for employment and fear of arrest. I wasted my freshmen year of college on Counterstrike with no pharmacological help at all, even alcohol. Young people are often just lazy.

Anyway, there are valid concerns, but the purity bullshit and the movies like in the OP are just for prohibitionist purposes, not real valid information.

You may be a lazy dropout on pot, or you may be Sagan or Phelps.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:33 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


People act as if pot is cigarettes/alcohol/painkillers are just some fun, lazy drug.

And this is the problem. Anyone who thinks intoxicant legislation is evidence rather than history based really has some 'splaining to do.

Pot is not the devil. It's not jesus, either, but we are legally allowed to ingest a whole bunch of other stuff that fits into this category - and from a harm minimisation perspective (imho, the best way to develop drug policy, and I've worked for the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of my country, so I'm not just talking out my arse, here), marijuana is lags significantly behind alcohol.
posted by smoke at 2:34 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also saw several cases of cannabis-related psychosis in my teens, including a family member. I smoked lots and still do intermittently, so I'm no drug warrior, it just annoys me to see people reflexively opposed to the notion that pot can be dangerous.
posted by Onanist at 2:39 AM on January 28, 2010


.....it just annoys me to see people reflexively opposed to the notion that pot can be dangerous.

I don't think most (maybe all but I'm not going to review every comment) posters in this thread are opposed to the notion that pot can be dangerous. Pretty much most posters recognise quite clearly that there is a class of person that can have a negative reaction .... see the comments relating to pre dispoistion etc.

That said there are also some very compelling positions stated that argue against the refelxively accepted position that you have stated, which is that the several cases of psychosis you saw were cannabis related.

They might not have been. It might have been correlation and not causation. Your own words are 'cannabis related' . Can you promise that all of those cases were completely alcohol free, nicotine free, genetically predisposed free because until you can you can't be sure that the casual factor was cannabis.

Thats why there is a reflex. The position for causation has not been proved. I am stopping short of denying the possibilty of causation because the drugs legal status has completely derailed and interfered with accurate scientific assessment. The work has not been done.

In this situation, and considering that some people have problems with coffee (as mentioned in a post above), the outrage you reflect is a mirror to the relative assessment of harm. And its a fair assessment to be outraged by the demonisation of this particualar drug in comparison to others that are legal and do not attract similar illegal status and moral qaundry.

I really think you have seen denials that don't exist (not in this thread anyway). Certainly the argument that one pyschosis outweighs the millions of harmless uses is scientifically daft.

When you consider that toxicity is only ever a matter of dosage, even when we talk of salt (which is somewhat neccesary and indicates that everything can cause harm), the singular anecdotes (or multiple anecdotes as in your case) of harm, are both tiny in statistical terms and can be potentially disregarded as a factor in the social control of pot.
posted by Boslowski at 3:38 AM on January 28, 2010 [9 favorites]


People are indeed offering some anecdotal evidence, but that's on top of this post's links to solid-looking studies indicating that pot may significantly increase the odds that certain youthful users will develop mental problems in adulthood. The studies might turn out to be as solid as they appear, but we should conduct further studies, not ignore past studies, because it's not, just, like, some dude's opinion, man.
posted by pracowity at 4:08 AM on January 28, 2010


Question about the schizophrenia statistics-- the first link says:

One in a hundred people will become schizophrenic in their lifetime. There are over 230,000 people in Canada with schizophrenia.

- Schizophrenia in Canada: a National Report (Schizophrenia Society of Canada)


Given that there are about 33 million Canadians, if the incidence of schizophrenia is really about 1%, wouldn't the absolute number of schizophrenics be much higher?

More on topic...I lost some college friends too. Some to MUDs (am I dating myself?), some to mental illness, and some to alcohol. I know it's fun for everyone to bring up all sorts of anecdotes of so-and-so who smoked tons of pot and never got his shit together, but you do realize there's no single factor that causes that, right? The linked studies, moreover, are not about laggards but about the mentally ill. The evidence seems equivocal at best that these individuals whose schizophrenia is 'triggered' by pot would never have become ill if they had not smoked it at the "vulnerable" age.

I'm not sure what help this type of fear-mongering is. Perhaps rather than trying to get people afraid of the demon weed we could try to help parents understand the warning signs of mental illness in their children in order to help them quickly if they do start showing schizo-affective or psychotic symptoms.
posted by miss tea at 4:09 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Today's pot is a different drug, with five to eight times more psychoactive Tetrahydrocannibinol (THC) than good old Acapulco Gold.

Oh, that fucking old canard again. Don't they just love to drag this shitty, stupid, inaccurate statement? "Today's pot is not your father's pot, kids!" Of course it's not, if you compare old ditchweed from the 70s and measure the potency of buds, stems, leaves and everything, and then take the most potent breeds today and measure the potency of buds only. It's just lying through statistics, and fearmongering besides.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/373/marijuanapotency.shtml
http://stash.norml.org/not-your-fathers-pot-the-myth-of-cannabis-potency
http://www.slate.com/id/2074151

Let's see now...
STUDY: Poulsen and Sutherland New Zealand (1976–96) = 1,066 seizures measured; 57.5% leaf, 42.5% bud; THC Average Leaf 1.6% (1978–82)–1.0% (1994–96), Buds 3.8% (1976–82)–3.4 (1994–96); Leaf Minimum 0.2%, Maximum 4.2%, Bud Minimum 0.7%, Maximum 9.7%

STUDY: EMCDDA Austria (1997–2003) = 2,268 seizures measured; 100% Marijuana; THC Average ~2% (1997)–~2% (2003);
Oh fuck, how is it that we get essentially no increase in average potency between 1976 and 1996, or 1997 to 2003? Where's my 30% THC pot? Or have the anti-drug zealots been lying through their teeth all this time without giving a shit about all the harm they're causing to peaceful tokers everywhere?

It's a wonderful world.
posted by splice at 4:12 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I had a friend in high school who would fall into a very paranoid and agitated state when he smoked weed. It would get so bad as to reduce him to a quivering fetal ball on the floor. Eventually, he gave up trying to smoke.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:15 AM on January 28, 2010


Schizophrenia + pot movies, and the absurd potency claims are nothing new. Pretty lame boilerplate DARE stuff.

uhm... I have a paranoid schizophrenic brothers who is currently locked up in a psych ward. there is speculation from the docs that it might be related to his insane pot use but as with most things medical there is no conclusive proof, just "we have seen this before" talk.

but you just passing it off as "boilerplate dare stuff" makes me want to stick you with him into a room for an hour.
posted by krautland at 4:18 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


brother, singular. typo.
posted by krautland at 4:19 AM on January 28, 2010


What you're saying reminds me of something..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3M3glJzK7c
posted by nervousfritz at 4:19 AM on January 28, 2010


If they hadn't outlawed hemp as a fiber crop back in the day, that would be diluting out the potency and we wouldn't have this super potent death weed.

That's simply not true. You'd just have two strains. The super-duper fiber plant (think corn here) and the super-intoxicant. We still have Silver Queen corn which bears absolutely no relationship to the thing called corn which is grown as a raw ingredient.
posted by fixedgear at 4:20 AM on January 28, 2010


Your own words are 'cannabis related' . Can you promise that all of those cases were completely alcohol free, nicotine free, genetically predisposed free because until you can you can't be sure that the casual factor was cannabis.


Alcohol free? Yes.
Nicotine free? Yes.
Genetic predisposition? Don't be silly.

Just because genetic predisposition might play an element in this, doesn't make the potential danger any less. Maybe 1% of the population has the potential to have a really bad reaction to pot. (I have no ideas what the numbers are.) This is still a real danger of pot. It's like back in the day when microwaves could fuck with pacemakers. Sure, most people would be fine standing next to the microwave but some poor dude walks in to the staff lounge at the wrong time, and BAM. Do you blame the guy with the pacemaker? Or do you maybe acknowledge that microwaves are dangerous to a small subset of the population?

Look all I'm saying is that I saw my best friend turn into a totally different person almost instantly. He was never quite the same afterward. Although correlation may not equal causation, you'd have to be pretty obtuse not to make a connection to smoking your first joint and having your first acute schizophrenic episode.

I just don't think that warning people about the dangers of cannabis can be waved away as reactionary scare tactics if there is some truth behind it. (Even if it only affects a small minority.)
posted by Telf at 4:21 AM on January 28, 2010


When we consider the drugs that drug companies advertise to us and our family every day and every night on television and all of their horrid side effects it blows me away that people who are potentially already on the verge of mental illness veer off with cannabis use isn't an epidemic it's an exception to the rule.

This is just another attempt another scare tactic to keep a drug that has so many benefits from becoming legal and useful. It has less harmful side effects than any of the anti depressants as well as drugs used for appetite stimulation and pain relief...but they don't make docu's about that with any serious advertising now do they!

If someone has mental illness...anything can trigger it...a relationship, alcohol, an injury, a trauma, a birth, a death, an illness, prescription drugs etc....There is a much broader picture here... don't' be sheeple.
posted by gypseefire at 4:26 AM on January 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Given that there are about 33 million Canadians, if the incidence of schizophrenia is really about 1%, wouldn't the absolute number of schizophrenics be much higher?

Several million of those Canadians are children and unlikely to be schizophrenics right now. One in a hundred people will become schizophrenic in their lifetime.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:35 AM on January 28, 2010


don't' be sheeple

Damn, you're right! Thanks for giving me the red pill and letting me go through the rabbit hole. Now my eyes are totally opened! The corporations are behind this! Shit, I NEED to run down to Hot Topic and get my Che shirt. Where is my old Rage Against the Machine CD?

Did you know that back in the 1970s this dude totally invented an engine that could run 100 miles off of one gallon of hemp oil? But the corporations bought the patents to it because they wanted to keep up dependent on oil?
posted by Telf at 4:37 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


No Telf, corporations are your friend, they give you Zanax and Zoloft and Marinol and Oxycontin, you know, the safe drugs that don't give anyone adverse reactions.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:52 AM on January 28, 2010


And corporations would never give you a drug like Ambien that might cause you to murder someone.


Newsflash: Anything you put in your body, from food to drugs to tequila, just might make you insane. However, we weigh the risks and benefits in a scientific manner. My anecdote, I've seen way more people go crazy on Ambien than pot. I'll take my supplier, you take yours.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:58 AM on January 28, 2010


Do you believe that people can have just a discreet cannabis psychosis?

I'm having a discreet psychosis right now. But please don't tell anyone; it would be tacky to draw attention to it.

posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:04 AM on January 28, 2010


Obviously caused by Metafilter use. I think we all need to leave now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:05 AM on January 28, 2010


Despite what some of its advocates might claim, any "medicinal" qualities are bred right out of the stuff that's sold on the streets. It's not wacky anymore. It's dangerous...

That doesn't make any sense at all. How could you "breed out the medicinal qualities"? I'm pretty sure every medical marijuana advocate is claiming that the active ingredient is THC.
posted by delmoi at 5:12 AM on January 28, 2010



That doesn't make any sense at all. How could you "breed out the medicinal qualities"? I'm pretty sure every medical marijuana advocate is claiming that the active ingredient is THC.


Nope, if that was the case Marinol would be a good substitute. There are various cannabinoid substances in pot that give it the medicinal power. These substances are not well understood because studies are REALLY HARD to pull together because the feds don't want to allow real research to happen.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:15 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just don't think that warning people about the dangers of cannabis can be waved away as reactionary scare tactics if there is some truth behind it. (Even if it only affects a small minority.)

Well, I think you're wrong. Unless of course, you want to pretty much outlaw and demonise every single drug that people take, medicated or otherwise, assessment of the net benefits disregarded.

Because we know that the authorities DO want to scare people from using pot (hence its legal status) and because the negative reactions are limited to tiny percentages of users, and because we know that the allusions to linkage are anecdotal and not proven science it is very reasonable to consider this kind of coverage as reactionary scare tactics.

Also If you'd bothered to read my post you'll see I pointed out that most people do acknowledge the dangers that pot creates for some people. There is very little ignorance of that fact in this thread, its just that the people affected are tiny tiny numbers.


Maybe 1% of the population has the potential to have a really bad reaction to pot. (I have no ideas what the numbers are.)


You see its the ability to tell us what you think the number is 'maybe 1%' at exactly the same time that you acknowledge that you have NO IDEA what the numbers are that help us move you into the reactionary box. You have clearly admitted that your position is not based on rational analysis.

Look all I'm saying is that I saw my best friend turn into a totally different person almost instantly

Well ok. I am sincerely sorry that you had this experience. It is not, however, a sound basis for public policy. It is not scientific and there is absolutely no context regarding the prevalence of similar occurence. Set against the average smokers experience, which will be that the vast majority of people that smoke DO NOT develop these experiences you can again understand why your position seems to be emotional and reactionary, not rational and scientific.

Would you be comfortable if pot were legal, and the scientific information regarding the possibility of psychosis was made available, even overt, for certain types of usage... ie those with high risk of pre disposition etc (whatever the rational analysis concluded) ?

I would. I'd be very happy if that were the case. I'm happy with good information.

If you would be happy with such an outcome then we must be on crossed wires and it would be good to examine why ?
posted by Boslowski at 5:18 AM on January 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Despite what some of its advocates might claim, any "medicinal" qualities are bred right out of the stuff that's sold on the streets. It's not wacky anymore. It's dangerous...


Why would breeders bother to do this? "Let's see if we can make a more potent strain, and while we're at it let's remove any possible beneficial medicinal properties just for spite."
posted by fixedgear at 5:33 AM on January 28, 2010


Pot growers are terrorists fixedgear, they hate us for our freedoms and such,
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:37 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I turned me into a newt!

I got better.
posted by RussHy at 5:40 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least pot doesn't mess up your chromosomes like LSD or drain your spinal fluid like ecstasy.
posted by TedW at 5:41 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


There is a lot going on in cannabis, chemically speaking:
At least 66 other cannabinoids are also present in cannabis, including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) among many others, which are believed to result in different effects than those of THC alone.
Smoking pot is the sum of all those cannabinoids, and no-one knows which mixture is most 'medicinal'.

Some argue that modern strains of pot are high in THC, but low in CBD, and claim that this causes greater mental health problems because CBD is the 'anti-psychotic' bit. But no-one really knows yet.

Should something along these lines turn out to be true, however, the blame for changing the balance can be placed squarely on prohibition. Simple market pressures force growers to focus on strains which obviously get you high quickly, from small quantities, to the detriment of all other concerns.

Anyone who has visited Amsterdam will know that in a more permissive environment, many varieties are available, such that users are able to choose the strain which works best for them - or in other words is the most 'medicinal', rather than that which gives the most 'high' per gram.
posted by MetaMonkey at 5:44 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reefer madness lives. This is utter propaganda.

Face it, morality police. You couldn't stop alcohol, and you're not stopping the gradual acceptance of ganja as a normal recreational drug that is a) completely safe for adults; b) accepted, tolerated, or even beloved by a majority. Scare tactics won't do it. They've been tried already.

Now I'm going to roll a fattie.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:46 AM on January 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


And yo, you might as well outlaw corn in Iowa if you're going to dream of stopping pot cultivation in BC.

If that shit caused schizophrenia, half of Seattle would be talking to itself right now.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:47 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


And that heroin is a helpful treatment too?

I've been prescribed a heroin derivative on a dozen different occasions. My doctor has also advised me to stay away from slippery slopes.

As for the "I know people who wasted a year on...." meme; I know people who have wasted their entire lives pursuing degrees, high paying jobs, big televisions and mcmansions in suburban sprawl hell. If my other option is the chronically depressed and soulless kind of existence that seems to define our modern lifestyle, is that really that much worse that psychotic?

I can't think of a better advertisement for drugs than the gold standard for "what you kids should be doing with your life" that always gets held up in these kind of debates. If you really want kids to stay away from drugs, stop marketing quiet desperation as the healthy choice.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:50 AM on January 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


Now I'm going to roll a fattie.

Hey now, that's not cool. Skinny people have money too.

Sorry.
posted by bwg at 5:52 AM on January 28, 2010


I think all the anecdotal evidence of a pot - schizophrenia correlation serves to prove that anecdotes cause schizophrenia.
posted by srboisvert at 5:53 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


If that shit caused schizophrenia, half of Seattle would be talking to itself right now.

Well... Maybe this deserves some research funding, after all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:53 AM on January 28, 2010


furiousxgeorge: Nope, if that was the case Marinol would be a good substitute.

Marinol sucks because it passes through the GI tract which results in differential processing and greater time for onset of effect. And unlike the US, other countries do allow research & use of MMJ. Sativex, a THC/CBD spray, developed in the UK, "has been exported from the UK to a total of 21 countries to date".
posted by daksya at 5:57 AM on January 28, 2010


One reason we need to stop politicizing drugs and their use is to enable rational, evidence based approaches to issues such as these. The USA's policies have entrenched dogmatic thinking on both sides of the issue.

I think it's quite likely that cannabis has a significant if not profound effect on mental health and stability. Many substances do, but cannabis is treated uniquely. As long as the plant is demonized we will be incapable of rational discourse on the subject.
posted by polyhedron at 6:06 AM on January 28, 2010


miss tea: "Given that there are about 33 million Canadians, if the incidence of schizophrenia is really about 1%, wouldn't the absolute number of schizophrenics be much higher?"

Schizophrenics tend to die younger than average.
posted by idiopath at 6:11 AM on January 28, 2010


I was at an epidemiology guy's talk on schizophrenia last week. I'll try and find a link for the slides, but off the top of my head the risk factors included: genetic ~70%, cannabis use 2-3%, living in a city 2-3%, migration 2-3%.
posted by kersplunk at 6:11 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cannabis

"People want to hang out with each other, but they talk a lot less on cannabis than on meth, cocaine, alcohol - all the other drugs. The main downside is lung toxicity if you're smoking. Novice users are more likely to experience paranoia at large doses. The average potency has risen a little bit, but this isn't new; humans have always known how to increase the potency of cannabis."
posted by rtha at 6:12 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best evidence to show how all this is total bs is that the consumption of cannabis nearly doubled in the UK between 1980 and 1996, but the rate of psychosis / schizophrenia remained the same.
First they said it makes you kill people....
Until this was shown to be lies.
Then they said it makes you kill yourself...
Until this was shown to be lies.
THen they said it makes you go mad...
Until this was shown to be lies.
Then they said it makes you rob and steal....
Until this was shown to be lies.
Then they said it makes you lazy and subversive...
Until this was shown to be lies.
Then they said it makes you take other drugs..
Until this was shown to be lies.
Now we're back to 'it makes you go mad'.
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:12 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the post's links cites a study which says that "alcohol abuse is a stronger predictor of psychotic symptoms than regular cannabis use by a factor of four".

Strange that this is never mentioned by the press.

Perhaps we should be prescribing cannabis to alcohol abusing teens, in order to reduce their alcohol consumption - if the study is correct, this would result in a far lower chance of them developing psychosis.

I don't mean to be flippant, I also know people who have developed mental health problems (all of whom took a variety of drugs, including alcohol, caffeine, cannabis and stimulants), and I would very much like to minimize the risks of such psychosis in others.

But the framing of the debate in the media is so skewed by the assumption that pot is evil (or at least that it is the dominant factor) that it drowns out all other concerns, such as the dangers of alcohol and caffeine and the possibility that legalization of cannabis could improve the situation.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:13 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ooops sorry there's more...

The OP uses this text for his link: "Experts estimate that between 8% and 13% of all schizophrenia cases are linked to marijuna / cannabis use during teen years."

Ummm there's no experts it's just one expert - a certain 'Dr van Os'.
posted by Monkeymoo at 6:15 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Being born in winter was a significant risk too. It was an interesting but depressing talk. The things they did to rats to get them to develop schizophrenia in order to measure epigenetic changes in the brain were slightly unsettling.
posted by kersplunk at 6:17 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The pot/"medical mj" thing -- is pretty much like the abortion/right to choose thing.

IN FAVOR: Look at the benefits!
OPPOSED: Look at the risks! Not just to you, but to society!

And: I am pro-choice and anti-pot. I guess that is because a body belongs to the person who owns it full-stop, while pot [insert my reasons here, which will get shot down from the pro-pot playbook].
posted by andreaazure at 6:23 AM on January 28, 2010


It is also notable that heavy caffeine use is strongly associated with schizophrenia and other mental health issues, "Among caffeine consumers, heavy caffeine intake (≥200 mg/day) was significantly associated with schizophrenia (64%, 94/147 in schizophrenia versus 36%, 73/204 in controls)... Daily amount of caffeine intake and smoked cigarettes correlated significantly in the schizophrenia group but not in the control group".

Lots more here.
posted by MetaMonkey at 6:26 AM on January 28, 2010


The pot/"medical mj" thing -- is pretty much like the abortion/right to choose thing.

IN FAVOR: Look at the benefits!
OPPOSED: Look at the risks! Not just to you, but to society!


Wow. What a completely whacked-out way to frame the debates. How about this instead:

IN FAVOR: It's my choice!
OPPOSED: I KNOW BETTER THAN YOU!
posted by splice at 6:28 AM on January 28, 2010 [11 favorites]


And: I am pro-choice and anti-pot. I guess that is because a body belongs to the person who owns it full-stop, while pot [insert my reasons here, which will get shot down from the pro-pot playbook].

At least have the courage of your convictions.

If you have an emotional dislike of the drug, a bad experience that affected you or a friend, then fine. I won't tell you you should change your mind. If its an emotional position and you are comfortable with that I'll defend your right to hold that opinion.

If you have rational reasons then they can be debated. This is quite a friendly place truth be known.

If on the other hand you want to frame an emotional position as rational, based on dodgy data then yes, the pro pot (and incidently, pro finding a scientific objective status) will shoot you down.

Come on, you sound so pathetic right now.
posted by Boslowski at 6:45 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


and inhaling any form of smoke is probably - on some level - an inherently dangerous thing.

All one has to do to see that confirmed is look to the parts of the world where wood is still used for cooking. There is a reason charcoal is prefered and why the NGOs push smokeless stoves.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:51 AM on January 28, 2010


"Let's see if we can make a more potent strain, and while we're at it let's remove any possible beneficial medicinal properties just for spite."

That's like the old "pot-laced-with-PCP" scare tactic. As if Mr. Drug Producer is saying to themselves, "How can I make this drug suck and simultaneously cost more to produce?"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:06 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everything ain't for everybody.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:22 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Katt Williams has noticed the rising THC content in pot as well [NSFW]:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJMvPU1a1vI
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 7:27 AM on January 28, 2010


[insert my reasons here, which will get shot down from the pro-pot playbook].

If your arguments are so poor that they have already been refuted, and anybody who disagrees with you already knows how to refute them, I'd get some new ones. Just sayin'.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:36 AM on January 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


The non-hysterical version of the FPP argument would be something like this: "People who have a fragility for mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia in the family, traumatic childhood, early-onset mood disorders) are generally at risk for having a psychotic break under extreme conditions, which can include emotional stress, traumatizing events, psychoactive drug use, alcohol use, distant travel/culture shock, and sudden change."

In other words, part of what makes psychoactive drugs psychoactive is that they temporarily alter, disorganize, and derail your psyche. It pulls you open a little bit—which is where a lot of its pleasure comes from, IMHO—but if your mental state is robust, you snap back into shape afterwards. If you're barely holding things together as it is, this sort of experience can break you.

So…the risk of THC is low for most people, but they shoot up real quick if you already have a history of mental illness. And you can say the same thing for a whole spectrum of substances that we put in our bodies, legally or illegally.
posted by LMGM at 8:04 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a medicine cabinet full of medications prescribed by my doctors to alleviate a number of chronic issues (but not chronic issues, if you catch my drift). Every one of those medications comes with pages full of possible side effects up to and including death. Which means that some non-zero percent of the population will get permanently fucked over by taking these substances. Yet, they are still considered worth prescribing, and I still take most of them. Point being that I don't really think that some non-zero percent of people having a bad reaction to potent street drugs is much of a disincentive. Hell, my sister can die if you slip a bit of apple or the wrong type of nut into her dessert. But I say, bring on the fucking strudel!
posted by False Dichotomy at 8:13 AM on January 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't have time to read all of the above comments. I have close relatives, including my mother, with schizophrenia. when my kids were in their early teens -they're all in their thirties now- I told them that I believed that marijuana and other recreational drugs, including alcohol, might precipitate or trigger mental illness in people who have a genetic predispostion, and that our family medical history suggested that they might have such a predispostion.

I was just visiting another family member whose brother had schizophrenia and urged him to give the same lecture to his teenagers.
posted by mareli at 8:15 AM on January 28, 2010


Trying to properly diagnose and treat an addict with a mental disorder is like trying to remove an assload of spyware and viruses from an infected PC without starting in Safe Mode.

Speaking as someone who is both, I can attest that weed is the least of my issues and has been beneficial in many ways. Of course, depends on the disorder. But self-medicating isn't so much causative of mental illness as it is correlative in many cases like schizophrenia. It can be a catalyst but not a primary cause - in other words the condition has to be latent already and will be triggered eventually by something, marijuana or otherwise, even an event.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:19 AM on January 28, 2010


I don't have time to read all of the above comments.

And yet you had time to post a comment with basically no useful content at all!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:23 AM on January 28, 2010


Why would breeders bother to do this? "Let's see if we can make a more potent strain, and while we're at it let's remove any possible beneficial medicinal properties just for spite."

Not only that, but potency and medicinal benefits are closely related, but not the only factor.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:25 AM on January 28, 2010


I'm a little late on the rebuttal, but...

You have some reason to believe that the scientists and researchers cited in various studies that do, indeed, seem to indicate at least a tenuous link between heavy pot use in the early teens and blah blah blah don't understand correlation and causation? Can you point to the errors in their research?

I said doctors/kids, not researchers. I was referring to the three subjects of the documentary. That said, I have a passing familiarity with this research. IIRC, they presented their findings as correlation and proposed a causal link as a potential explanation. You can't make causal inferences without internal validity, anyway, which in this case would require a randomized controlled study, which is not going to be approved by any review board I've ever heard of.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:31 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


But self-medicating isn't so much causative of mental illness as it is correlative in many cases like schizophrenia.

Self-medicating itself is a specious concept that has no basis in evidence and I always find it ironic that it's so casually thrown about as if it's an evidence based concept in drug and mental health threads by the same people who are claiming that their position on drugs and mental health is totally driven by evidence. The cite, which I've provided previously, that walks through the data on mentally ill substance abusers, the types of drugs they abuse, and how those drugs generally do not approximate the effects of therapeutic medications typically prescribed for their disorders:

"The mentally ill substance abuser" In M. Galanter & H. Kleber (Eds.), Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment (4th ed.) (pp. 537-554). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Press.

I don't have an electronic copy, sorry. This text was recommended to me by the big brains at drug think tank the Treatment Research Institute who assisted me with the development of a dual diagnosis docket for the drug court I work for.

Trying to properly diagnose and treat an addict with a mental disorder is like trying to remove an assload of spyware and viruses from an infected PC without starting in Safe Mode.

I wish people wouldn't do this. Mentally ill substance abusers should not be compared to faulty, virus ridden computer hardware. And to properly treat an addict with a mental health disorder, the first step is to detox the addict off of street drugs, THC included. This I know from conversations with multiple psychiatrists who do this work. They don't prescribe psychotropics to someone they know is still using, the possibility for toxic interaction is too great, as are the corresponding liability risks. Actually, most psychiatrists try to refrain from making a diagnosis for as long as possible (6 months is ideal) in order to give the addict enough time to get over the psychic stress of detox and early abstinence, which can present as a number of different mental health disorders without actually being any of them.
posted by The Straightener at 8:42 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Tobacco use
More on tobacco use
And some more
...and you can Google as well as I can.
posted by Xoebe at 8:57 AM on January 28, 2010


Trying to properly diagnose and treat an addict with a mental disorder is like trying to remove an assload of spyware and viruses from an infected PC without starting in Safe Mode.

I wish people wouldn't do this............ etc etc

Correct me if i'm wrong (and your point about the general invalidity of mental illness = broken hardware aside, makes sense to me) isn't this quote making exactly the same point that you made in response ?

As in, get clean (read safe mode) first ... then diagnose and treat
posted by Boslowski at 9:00 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish marijuana was legal, in part because it would make clinical studies much easier to conduct and therefore we could finally stop recycling this tired debate and recurrent cherrypicking by arriving at a scientific consensus. In fact, I think the same change would make sense if applied to many drugs. The only concession I would want as a non-user would be assurance that legalization and any subsequent regulatory programs would occur without additional tax or other responsibility on people like me - and I think that would be rather easy to design.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:08 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's this whole cult of dogma around cannabis, as if it's always a completely benign substance that could single-handedly save the economy, with zero longterm negative effects on its users...

posted by markkraft at 1:29 AM on January 28


I'm really tired of this straw man getting trotted out every time the discussion of marijuana comes up. There are always people who espouse idiotic views. Yet many of the anti-marijuana positions they are contrary to are at least equally dumb and false. And they sure as hell get bigger and and more effective platforms of dissemination and are having a greater effect on the actual policies of government.

The truth is that there are very few "miracle drugs" in this world. Overuse or persistent use almost invariably leads to negative long-term consequences. That doesn't mean that such drugs should be illegal. It does, however, mean that the public needs to be aware of the risks involved, and what constitutes safer, more responsible usage.

As long as the messages about the dangers of drug use are advocacy-driven hyperbole promulgated by concerns with questionable ulterior motives this can't happen. I'm all for good information. Government obstruction of non-biased scientific research on marijuana is the biggest thing preventing it from being available. Overly optimistic college chronic cases getting in a little armchair advocacy online between bouts of hackey sack are not having much an impact that I can see.

I had a friend who went psychotic.

You have an anecdote. It is a sad story but it isn't relevant to the core issue of how society should deal with marijuana. It's crazy to believe that heavy marijuana use can't contribute to mental illness. It is crazier to believe that the way we are currently dealing with it as a society is ameliorating the harms of its overuse in any way shape or form.
posted by nanojath at 9:13 AM on January 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


I wish marijuana was legal, in part because it would make clinical studies much easier to conduct

The legality of a substance doesn't have a ton of bearing on whether it can be used in clinical studies. The problem is primarily ethical- if the hypothesis is that marijuana -> psychosis, then you are expecting your experimental group to become psychotic, which is not an ethical condition to place anyone in. Review boards typically won't allow for randomized controlled studies in which the experimental condition has some sort of great benefit such that placing participants in the control group would withhold this benefit. It's the same for known risks. I'd like to see the consent forms for a RCT of marijuana...
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:17 AM on January 28, 2010


If you have rational reasons then they can be debated. This is quite a friendly place truth be known. (...) Come on, you sound so pathetic right now.

For some narrow definitions of 'friendly', evidently..
posted by FatherDagon at 9:26 AM on January 28, 2010


you might as well outlaw corn in Iowa if you're going to dream of stopping pot cultivation in BC

as a native Iowan, I can tell you stories you wouldn't BELIEVE about folks in Iowa going nuts after they ate too much corn. I mean, have you ever been to Western, IA? That's where their colonies are.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:42 AM on January 28, 2010


he problem is primarily ethical- if the hypothesis is that marijuana -> psychosis, then you are expecting your experimental group to become psychotic, which is not an ethical condition to place anyone in.

Well, yeah, I didn't have that hypothesis in mind - I was thinking more about examining various effects from marijuana use generally, in the sense that there's a lot of false information floating around and things that are plausible can be confirmed or debunked. I guess with large enough studies some usable data about psychosis might be thrown off, but I know hardly anything about how plausible some theory needs to be before the funding decisions etc. line up to test it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:49 AM on January 28, 2010


The legality of a substance doesn't have a ton of bearing on whether it can be used in clinical studies.

In this case, it does, at least in the United States. NIDA runs the only legal supply of clinical marijuana, and it has stated flat-out that it "does not fund research focused on the potential medical benefits of marijuana".

As for the article, the problem with all this is that schizophrenia is well known to have close to zero variation in incidence. Between 1% and 2% of people get it -- no matter the country, no matter the year. Unless these doctors would like to explain how marijuana use has gone from zero to common over the last 40 years, while the incidence of schizophrenia has stayed roughly the same, I don't buy their correlation-is-causation argument. Even if marijuana does trigger schizophrenia, it seems as though it must do so in people who were already going to develop the disease, because otherwise we'd see a marked increase in cases...
posted by vorfeed at 9:52 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


The legality of a substance doesn't have a ton of bearing on whether it can be used in clinical studies

Whereas your initial premise is sort of true, as in 'legal / non-legal' is not the decision axis, if you consider that (in the UK at least) legality and the severity of punishment for breaking those laws are stated to be derived from potential harm potentials, then you can surely understand that the legal issue does have a bearing on the ability to get value from clinical trials.

Professor David Nutt

Now, when you add in to the equation the political realilties involved with what a set of scientific studies might say (hey, maybe its not so dangerous after all!), it starts to look as though the inability to conduct conclusive studies is not actually predicated by either legality or potential harm.

Professor Nutt has done some of the scientific work. Hopefully his bio as presented above shows that he most certainly is not a hacky sacking stoner student. They sacked him because his work did not agree with the policy direction that the government had committed to, regardless of the scientific position.

Paper here

Eve Saville lecture 2009 it was this leacture that finally led to the government throwing its toys out of the pram.

Now, the government had political reasons to discredit David Nutt. They did not want to maintain the downgraded position of cannabis. Gordon Brown said he would reverse the downgrading when he took over from Blair, and indeed regardless of what THEIR OWN scientifc advisors said that is what they did.

None of this would have happened if cannabis was not illegal.

The work could then focus on finding out exactly who is at risk, and how that risk could be controlled etc. But in an environment where only certain scientific findings are acceptable it does suggest that the law's position and, more pertinently, the political implications of those laws do in fact effect the efficacy of scientifc exploration of the harms that cannabis does or does not cause.

By the way, Professor Nutt's role as advisor to the government was unpaid, and his successor pretty much holds the same beliefs with regard to cannabis


On review I realise that with specific regard to clinical trials your point is almost certainly valid. I posted as is anyway as I thought the general theme I had pushed was relevant to the thread.
posted by Boslowski at 9:53 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think some of the above posters seem to think that I'm against legalizing marijuana. I'm not. Marijuana should be legal, but stop pretending that there aren't negative downsides to it, just like other drugs. That's all I'm really trying to say. Just like all those SSRIs that have pages of warnings, let's be honest about pot. It can screw some people up.

The best thing about legalizing pot is that it would force stoners to come up with new talking points to yammer on about. Sure, legalize it, make money off of it. There is nothing subversive about pot. It causes most people to eat junk food and over-analyze shitty movies. It won't lead to a revolution. There's nothing subversive about it. It's just a way for most people to unwind. Just please stop pretending it is 100% harmless, or the potential salvation of humanity.
posted by Telf at 10:19 AM on January 28, 2010


I don't think a single person in this thread has said that there are no downsides to marijuana use. For some people, the downsides include the possibility that it may play a role in the onset of mental illness. For other people, the downsides include gaining weight because of the munchies, or getting arrested for holding.

If anyone here has said that there are no downsides or that it is 100% hamless, I'd appreciate a link, because I apparently missed it. Otherwise, enough with the strawman already.
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2010


stop pretending that there aren't negative downsides to it, just like other drugs

Show me who is saying this in this thread. Hell, show me anyone, anywhere, explicitly stating that there "aren't negative downsides" to marijuana use. That it will "lead to a revolution," or that it is the "potential salvation of humanity."

Show me the front page post on Metafilter that says any of those things, because you are inside the front page post on Metafilter that confidently asserts that those wonderful "experts" have concluded (without a single dissenting remark in the main post - and finding this dissent is no more difficult than typing marijuana schizophrenia into Google, so basically KokuRyu didn't even try) that smoking weed causes schizophrenia and that the bad ol' superweed today is like a whole different drug. Again, stoners with a bad case of Weed Messianism are not dictating public policy. They are not the ones getting quoted as authorities in the mainstream media. They are not drowning out the opinions of moderate, reasoned drug law reform advocates, by whom they are substantially outnumbered and outclassed, except in the minds of people like you. They are not the problem. Stop acting like they are.
posted by nanojath at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2010


Nanojath,

Go back an read my original comments and then read the pertinent reactions. That's all. Cut and paste if you wish.
posted by Telf at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2010


Telf: your original comments were a pack of stereotypes propped up by anecdotes. Nobody who replied to you is saying that "there are no downsides to marijuana use" -- they're saying that there's a distinct whiff of bullshit surrounding the particular downsides you mentioned, in the particular way that you mentioned them.
posted by vorfeed at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2010


let's be honest about pot. It can screw some people up

Wait, there's something wrong with this.

It can screw some people up Some screwed-up people were pot smokers.

There we go. Maybe one day we'll be able to arrive to a scientific consensus about the effects of pot, but that day isn't today.

Which isn't to say there is no harm in smoking pot, of course. For starters, it's burnt plant matter, and inhaling smoke is unlikely to be good for you or even neutral, health-wise.

But screws people up? Sorry, no evidence so far, yadda yadda yadda, correlation, causation, etc.
posted by splice at 11:04 AM on January 28, 2010


Marijuana should be legal, but stop pretending that there aren't negative downsides to it, just like other drugs. That's all I'm really trying to say. Just like all those SSRIs that have pages of warnings, let's be honest about pot. It can screw some people up.

I'd be very surprised if, freed from all political context, anyone currently arguing the pro-marijuana position would disagree with this statement (certainly, anyone over the age of 25). But there is a political context. There are well entrenched forces of control + stupidity who have been fighting marijuana "liberalization" since before anyone in this thread was even born, and they're not giving up.

So yeah, I agree. Marijuana is not entirely safe and/or "good for me". I could even regale with you personal anecdotes that support a lot of the anti-marijuana points raised here (and elsewhere). But why would I, knowing full well that there are those who would take this information and use it out of context to pursue ends that I utterly disagree with?

The best thing about legalizing pot is that it would force stoners to come up with new talking points to yammer on about.

Yup.

Sure, legalize it, make money off of it.

Yup.

There is nothing subversive about pot.

Bullshit. One of the first things that being high did for me was allow me to take an "outside-of-the-box" look at certain behaviors of certain key adults in my life (parents, teachers, coaches etc). That is, these people suddenly became absurd (at least in part) and as such I laughed at them. If this isn't subversive, I don't know what is.

It causes most people to eat junk food and over-analyze shitty movies.

Yup.

It won't lead to a revolution.

Only because the revolution's already happened. Look no further than the cultural ruptures (still unfolding) caused by such marijuana-infused weaponry as the Beatles-Bob-Dylan-Bob-Marley-Clash songbooks (to name but a few).

There's nothing subversive about it. It's just a way for most people to unwind.

Who's to say that there's not something enormously subversive inherent in there being an easy way " ... for most people to unwind"? Seriously. It bears repeating: If marijuana "liberalization" was not an ongoing threat to certain interests of control + stupidity, we would not be having this conversation.

Just please stop pretending it is 100% harmless, or the potential salvation of humanity.

Nobody really is, I don't think. Maybe you should stop pretending that this is even a remotely simple issue.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Self-medicating itself is a specious concept that has no basis in evidence and I always find it ironic that it's so casually thrown about as if it's an evidence based concept in drug and mental health threads by the same people who are claiming that their position on drugs and mental health is totally driven by evidence. The cite, which I've provided previously, that walks through the data on mentally ill substance abusers

As someone who is in a position to be subject to this, I disagree with you. My best evidence is my life, where I self-medicated with caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana for ADD. I don't know what else to tell you, except we've been through this before, and the studies you provide are very few and far between. It's a bit like trying to make the case for intelligent design - there's scant little evidence for your case compared to the mountain of evidence on the other side.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Telf, you and I pretty much agree that the comments in this thread speak for themselves. I'll let anyone who cares review them themselves and come to their own conclusions. You didn't bother to provide any concrete examples of people saying the things you say they're saying when I asked you to so I will eschew bothering to do so myself. I've hit my straw-man battling limit for the day.
posted by nanojath at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2010


1st:
Maybe marijuana isn't a cause for schizophrenia, but it's certainly a potential trigger for those who might be predisposed to it. I lost more than a few friends to pot-activated craziness through high school and college.

2nd:
I just don't think that warning people about the dangers of cannabis can be waved away as reactionary scare tactics if there is some truth behind it. (Even if it only affects a small minority.)

3rd:
Marijuana should be legal, but stop pretending that there aren't negative downsides to it, just like other drugs. That's all I'm really trying to say. Just like all those SSRIs that have pages of warnings, let's be honest about pot. It can screw some people up.

I think it fair to say that these are the main points of my above comments. My message has been consistent. Any other assertions I've made have been framed in such a way that I'd hoped would be seen as a little provocative, but obviously just having fun with the pot smokers.

The reactions have been surprisingly defensive. Comments have ranged from implying that I'm supportive of pharmaceutical companies or that I'm against marijuana legalization, to declaring that there is a "distinct whiff of bullshit surrounding the particular downsides [I've] mentioned".

My comments have been clear, limited, and rather self deprecating. On the downside, I did imply that marijuana causes many people to be lazy and eat junk food. If you want to disagree with that, fine I've got no studies to back that up. I also said that many legalization advocates are annoying and overstate the potential benefits of pot. Well, i stand by that assertion. I'll say it one more time, yes pot should be legalized. Yes it has potential dangers.

I suspect that this thread is skewed towards the pot users, as most non pot users wouldn't be interested in this tired debate. Obviously it's not a random sampling of the Mefi community. Someone did drop the word "sheeple", which automatically make me a little defensive, but also strengthens my personal belief that I'm probably not entirely in the wrong here.

I'm finished with this.
posted by Telf at 11:19 AM on January 28, 2010


On review, I think philip-random's retort was well done. I think it's time I bow out of this thread.
posted by Telf at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2010


Some people are deathly allergic to peanuts. I like peanuts.

It's just so hard to keep 'em lit.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2010


Telf, I went back and read your first comment, and the first reply to it begins It is certainly a potential trigger. and includes Anyway, there are valid concerns.

The second comment responding to yours includes this: Pot is not the devil. It's not jesus, either,

In your second comment, you say, I just don't think that warning people about the dangers of cannabis can be waved away as reactionary scare tactics if there is some truth behind it. (Even if it only affects a small minority.) Which, again, as far as I can tell, no one is doing this. If the "warning people about the dangers of pot" includes unqualified statements like "Weed can make you schizo!", then that is a reactionary scare tactic, and drug "education" programs like DARE have been doing it for years.

And it's funny that you should talk about "reactionary scare tactics" while saying that people here are claiming that pot is 100% harmless. Which no one has done.
posted by rtha at 11:26 AM on January 28, 2010


Gah. Preview, dummy.
posted by rtha at 11:28 AM on January 28, 2010


"Today's pot is not your father's pot, kids!"

By the early '80s my dad was already getting the good stuff, though in the '70s he smoked a lot of ditch weed. The hash was generally a lot better back then, however, which is of a significantly higher potency than any unprocessed marijuana, and you could always find foreign strains, some of which are very powerful.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:30 AM on January 28, 2010


"Today's pot is not your father's pot, kids!"

Okay - So I've put on a few pounds. Let's see what you look like in a couple of decades, pal!
posted by Pot at 11:35 AM on January 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


People want to hang out with each other, but they talk a lot less on cannabis than on meth, cocaine, alcohol - all the other drugs.

WTF is he talking about? Most people I know become ever so much more loquacious when high.

The main downside is lung toxicity if you're smoking.

Too bad there is none -- zero -- evidence of any association between lung diseases (or any respiratory diseases) and even very high levels of cannabis consumption in smoked form. None. Zero. Period.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:15 PM on January 28, 2010


genetic ~70%, cannabis use 2-3%, living in a city 2-3%, migration 2-3%.

That sounds about right. I wonder about alcohol.

I have known *lots* of pot smokers (~100 or so) and never heard about anyone developing mental problems. The one guy I know who honestly went off the deep end (filing lawsuits against friends for being part of the zionist conspiracy) was a heavy drinker who made a specific point of refusing to try marijuana or any other illegal substances.

There's my anecdotal point of light.

People want to hang out with each other, but they talk a lot less on cannabis than on meth, cocaine, alcohol - all the other drugs.

I can't help but be reminded of Hal and the professional conversationalist in Infinite Jest.

I can say anecdotally that it's true for me. Alcohol makes me a talker; weed makes me much shyer and introspective..

Katt Williams has noticed the rising THC content in pot as well

...

There is nothing subversive about pot.

"Weed make you notice shit you ain't supposed to notice."

For other people, the downsides include gaining weight because of the munchies, or getting arrested for holding.

How much of the "paranoia" associated with marijuana is due to its illegality. Now there's a study I'd like to see.

Too bad there is none -- zero -- evidence of any association between lung diseases (or any respiratory diseases) and even very high levels of cannabis consumption in smoked form. None. Zero. Period.

Bolded for truth.

I guess that is because a body belongs to the person who owns it full-stop, while pot _______________

I don't think there's any way to logically finish that sentence.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:24 PM on January 28, 2010


The reactions have been surprisingly defensive. Comments have ranged from implying that I'm supportive of pharmaceutical companies or that I'm against marijuana legalization, to declaring that there is a "distinct whiff of bullshit surrounding the particular downsides [I've] mentioned".

Yes, and rtha and philip-random point out why. There is a whiff of bullshit around claiming that "[marijuana use is] certainly a potential trigger for those who might be predisposed to [schizophrenia]", because a) the jury is by no means out on this question and b) even if true, this would make marijuana merely one of many "potential triggers for those who might be predisposed", yet you're not treating the others the same way. There's also a whiff of bullshit around dismissing the idea that these are "reactionary scare tactics", when they're actually used as reactionary scare tactics in the very article we're discussing. On top of that, you went on to use your anecdote-supported "certainties" as a bludgeon against "lazy", "mediocre", "annoying" pot smokers... while simultaneously claiming that they are "overstating their case" and "skewing the thread".

As far as I can tell, your "personal belief that I'm probably not entirely in the wrong here" is all you've got to back up any of your assertions. So yeah: that's bullshit. There are plenty of people in this thread who made reasonable claims about the risks of marijuana use; the fact that you're not one of them doesn't mean we all think pot is "100% harmless".
posted by vorfeed at 12:27 PM on January 28, 2010


Too bad there is none -- zero -- evidence of any association between lung diseases (or any respiratory diseases) and even very high levels of cannabis consumption in smoked form.

It seems counterintuitive that smoking cannabis would not cause some sort of lung disease. Have there been any studies that demonstrate that smoking pot is "safe"?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:34 PM on January 28, 2010


Have there been any studies that demonstrate that smoking pot is "safe"?

I started one years ago, but I got distracted and never finished it.
posted by False Dichotomy at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I should limit the claim: there is no evidence (other than some very poor correlational studies that have been disproved by subsequent better ones) that smoking pot causes either cancer of the lungs, throat, head, and neck, or emphysema, even at very high doses. Marijuana does not contain most of the carcinogens found in tobacco, and is not consumed in anything like the same quantity as tobacco by regular users, limiting even the hypothetical risk. It's not just "smoking" that causes lung cancer. It's the combustion of particular carcinogenic compounds.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:20 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's very interesting to read that cannabidiol has an anti-psychotic effect.

I think this could be construed as evidence that marijuana might indeed contribute to the development of psychosis, and I think it gives a tremendous clue as to just how it may do that.

If cannabidiol exerts its anti-psychotic effect by binding to a receptor on some population of neurons in the brain and preventing that receptor from being activated, then it is reasonable to guess that a chemical which does activate that receptor would have a pro-psychotic effect.

Two chemicals which bind to the same receptor are often closely related chemically and structurally.

In the case of cannabidiol, this means that other cannabinoids would be the first substances you would look at to find your pro-psychotic which would bind to the same receptor and activate it rather than keep it from being activated as cannabidiol does.

We know that marijuana contains scores of different cannabinoids, and I think all the studies showing that it can in some cases trigger the onset of schizophrenia could be seen as evidence, in the context of the model I am proposing here, that one or more of them bind to the cannabidiol receptor and activate it, leading to the development of psychosis.

The great hope this raises in my mind, is that the discovery of a cannabidiol receptor in the brain could lead to an effective treatment to prevent the full development of schizophrenia once you see that someone is beginning to show commonly recognized signs of the onset of the disease-- whether or not the onset was triggered by marijuana in the first place.

Once they started acting paranoid and hearing voices, you'd whip them down to the emergency room and give them a big dose of cannabidiol (or probably a more potent synthetic derivative of cannabidiol) which they would continue for as long as necessary, perhaps for the rest of their lives.
posted by jamjam at 1:21 PM on January 28, 2010


(Oh, and many of us are exposed to much higher levels of ambient carcinogens in our daily life. That car idling on the corner is putting out a lot worse shit -- and way more of it -- than the guy smoking next to it. But guess which one will draw the ire of passers-by?)
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:21 PM on January 28, 2010


First, regarding self-medication: Galanter is full of it. If self-medication is fake, why do at least 50% of addicts have co-existing mental illnesses and 50% of people with serious mental illness have co-existing addictions?

You could argue that the addiction is causing the mental illness (and this may sometimes occur but this doesn't mean that self-medication doesn't), but then you have to explain away why sexual abuse, child trauma, poverty, impulsiveness and other things that can be measured in a person long before they start using would magically be massively elevated amongst addicts before they ever get near drugs.

All of the early life things that increase risk for addictions in exposed people-- basically uncontrollable stressors-- also increase risk for mental illness. Therefore, the self medication hypothesis is perfectly plausible and it simply makes more sense in most cases.

Narrative with no self medication: I happen to really like drugs so I keep getting high even when my life is ruined by them because I'm compulsive because drugs made me compulsive.

Narrative with self medication: I lost my mother when I was three, I've always been a bit compulsive and when I found drugs, something just clicked and I felt comfortable for the first time ever.

Narrative with no self medication: I'm a happy middle class person with a great job, a wonderful family and no self doubt whatsoever and I decided to throw it all away because I just really happen to like crack.

Narrative with self medication: I became a doctor to please my father, my wife is having an affair, I really think I'm a fake and shooting oxycontin makes all that go away.

The idea that addicts get high compulsively just because it feels good doesn't explain much. When you look at why people say they get high-- while this may not be the full explanation-- self medication is a very common theme. Some people may drink because it feels good at first and then drink to medicate depression caused by alcohol. But most people who aren't suffering some kind of underlying emotional or existential pain do not become addicts, even if they take drugs.


And back on topic: the marijuana/schizophrenia causal hypothesis simply cannot stand up to the evidence that schizophrenia didn't increase when marijuana went from being used by less than single digit proportions of the population to majorities of the population in dozens of countries around the world from the 1960's onwards.

If THC without CBD poses a special risk to schizophrenics or predisposed people, it should have been seen with a flood of new cases by now. Since it hasn't, it seems like it's little different from any other stressor that can bring on psychosis in the predisposed: if MJ doesn't do it, being dumped by a partner, losing a job or any other life stress of the kind that everyone faces at some point will eventually do it. If you have a family history, yes, you should avoid just to be safe.

and smokers should seek higher CBD strains just because they are mellower anyway. but the idea that 10% of schizophrenia is due to marijuana makes no sense if marijuana use prevalence doesn't increase schizophrenia rates.
posted by Maias at 1:57 PM on January 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


Eventually, he didn't want to do anything other than get high. He became a homeless saxophone player on the streets of San Francisco, and eventually started doing anything for money... oftentimes to get high.

Your friend was an addict. If it weren't pot, it would have been pills, or model glue, or jerking off. For every asshole who can't go 1 day without getting stoned, there are a million occasional users who don't even get cravings.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:03 PM on January 28, 2010


I don't actually believe that pot will increase the likelihood of schizophrenia because I've never seen a study that used a sufficiently large sample and was able to test for variables. But, for the sake of this comment, assume I buy into it fully.

My feeling is that alcohol has proven deleterious effects on the human body and it is legal and readily available. Don't use the fact that marijuana might have a negative effect on a limited segment of the population to continue with the FUD and propaganda.

Even if it was positively proven, with 100% certainty that it could cause people who smoked it in large quantities to be at risk, so what? Cigarettes are more or less proven to be the cause of all manner of badness and I can buy packs in every color of the rainbow.

If it actually is dangerous, fine. Label it and let us decide.

In short: if you want to keep this drug illegal, stop trying to scare us and give us a valid reason that doesn't instantly sound hypocritical when viewed against the other things that can be bought at any gas station.
posted by quin at 2:16 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: Pot is stronger today than yesterday:

Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire has a chapter on marijuana and the way in which growers have made it more potent over the years. Basically, it used to be naturally grown out in some field years [or decades] ago but today many growers bring it indoors and cultivate it to be much stronger.
posted by Rashomon at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2010


So then what is the deal with the whole indica (body high, allegedly) vs sativa (cerebral high, allegedly) thing? Has anyone attempted to compare populations where one type is used more commonly than the other?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2010


The idea that addicts get high compulsively just because it feels good doesn't explain much.

It sure doesn't. In the article I linked to earlier (for those of you who missed it or didn't click, it's about a researcher who recruits people to take drugs - meth, ecstasy, weed - and then studies what they do when they're high, measures cognitive and reaction time stuff, etc.). Among other things:
What is significant about these studies is that suppressing dopamine activity in the so-called reward centre of the brain may reduce the subjective effects of cocaine -- the stimulation and the euphoria -- without halting the drug's use (at least in humans). If the reward theory of addiction is correct, how is this possible? And how can a drug like modafinil, peculiar in being a stimulant that is not linked primarily to dopamine and euphoria, cause human addicts to ramp down their cocaine use voluntarily?

[snip]

After covering a bit of history -- including a 50s advertisement in the Journal of the American Medical Association promoting amphetamine use among bored housewives -- Hart summarises the conventional wisdom about meth: according to animal studies, it beats even cocaine in its ability to boost dopamine activity in the brain's reward centre. Meth's reward stimulus is so strong, the thinking goes, that its users will compulsively seek out the drug no matter the financial cost, damage to health or stated desire to quit. All this is backed by leading researchers and the US government itself. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes meth addiction as "a chronic, relapsing disease, characterised by compulsive drug-seeking and use, which is accompanied by functional and molecular changes in the brain".

But Hart is sceptical of a model that defines addiction as a neurochemically ordained mental disorder of impulsivity and faulty decision-making. Such a model assumes that drug use is always driven by the irrational desire for pleasure, even in the face of grave life consequences. The possibility that drug use may be fuelled by rational choices is never even considered. Could such a theory be as faulty as an earlier era's belief that opiate addiction is mainly a result of conflicted feelings about one's sexuality?

In quick succession, Hart shows the Union Hall audience a series of slides containing data from ResLab and MethLab studies. The sequence demonstrates that humans subjected to simulated shift-work show significant cognitive impairment when rotated between normal working hours and overnight schedules. In the next sequence, he discusses a study in which these participants were given small doses of methamphetamine, and their shift related cognitive impairment was significantly reduced -- they made fewer mistakes and completed cognitive tasks more quickly than when they were given placebo doses. Of course, says Hart, the military has known about this for years, which is why some pilots are offered dextroamphetamine for long-haul bombing missions.

Hart next tried offering these participants the choice between a low dose of meth and a small monetary voucher, at different times of day. The prediction was that, meth being a potent reinforcer, users would take it compulsively; what he found was that people would take it in the morning but not in the evening, when it would stop them sleeping -- using it to get through the day in the same way office workers self-administer caffeine; and if the monetary reward was large enough, they would pass up the dose. These findings call into question the notion that addiction is driven by the reward of a chemically induced euphoria and that meth -- legally prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy and obesity -- is the destructive drug so maligned by the NIDA and the popular press. Hart's conclusion was that his subjects were indeed making rational choices about their drug use.
TL;DR: We know much, much less about addiction than we think we do, and we should try to stop telling ourselves fairy tales, because that doesn't help anyone.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really don't get the 'this is not your father's pot' argument. Even though it's perfectly plausible, so what? As someone said upthread, you don't buy a sixpack of tequila to chug back of an evening.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:46 PM on January 28, 2010


All of the early life things that increase risk for addictions in exposed people-- basically uncontrollable stressors-- also increase risk for mental illness. Therefore, the self medication hypothesis is perfectly plausible and it simply makes more sense in most cases.

Not to mention studies like Rat Park. The problem with the strict disease model of addiction is that it cannot explain why some drug-using people tend to become addicts, while others do not. Some people -- sometimes even the same people at different times in their lives -- can regulate their use of even the most physically addictive drugs, and some cannot. If addiction is simply a brain disorder, how can we account for this?

on preview: jinx, rtha!
posted by vorfeed at 2:47 PM on January 28, 2010


If the goal is to neutralize those factors that might accelerate one's slide into "madness", my personal anecdotal evidence would put Religion far higher on the list than any drug (including psychedelics) but probably not as high as Falling In Love. I look forward to the rational prohibition of both Christmas and Valentine's Day.



This is the kind of shit I come up with when I'm high.
posted by philip-random at 2:47 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The point is societal attitudes towards pot are based on a perception of the drug that is 20 years old. Pot is far more potent than it was back when I was in university 15 or 20 years ago. I haven't smoked in almost ten years, so, as a parent I might tend to be more tolerant and less vigilant about letting my kids smoke - kids and beginning users may not know how to limit their consumption, and it seems like pot these days can really fuck you up (my own first experience with pot was pretty terrifying, I became accustomed to it, but then had to stop about 5 years later because it was unenjoyable).

People need to know how potent pot has become, if only because their children may be experimenting with the drug.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:52 PM on January 28, 2010


It seems counterintuitive that smoking cannabis would not cause some sort of lung disease. Have there been any studies that demonstrate that smoking pot is "safe"?

Smoking marijuana does not cause lung cancer

Video interview with Donald Tashkin

"Not familiar with the emerging body of research touting cannabis' ability to stave the spread of certain types of cancers? You're not alone."

Smoking marijuana should not even be part of the debate over legalization. If marijuana were legalized, vaporizers would be legal and eventually ubiquitous.

And if the dangers of using marijuana are the smoke, then why the hell are vaporizers illegal?

People need to know how potent pot has become, if only because their children may be experimenting with the drug.

"The rising trend of cannabis potency is gradual, fairly unspectacular, and driven largely by the increased availability of intensively UK grown indoor herbal cannabis."

The author makes the point that the illegality of the drug may have contributed to any increased potency.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on January 28, 2010


People need to know how potent pot has become, if only because their children may be experimenting with the drug.

Until there's empirical evidence explaining why smoking the stronger weed of today is more dangerous than smoking the weaker weed of 20 years ago, then the answer to this should continue to be so what?

Is it worse, neurologically, to smoke two tokes of stronger weed than it is to smoke a joint's worth of weaker weed? We don't know. And we shouldn't continue to make public policy based on things we don't know.
posted by rtha at 3:25 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


People need to know how potent pot has become, if only because their children may be experimenting with the drug.

People need to know honest facts, and what you presented is done in a way which is not really honest. Parents need to know that the potency of today's marijuana compared to 20 years ago (I personally was getting high grade then) much as they need to know that driving while texting is not a good idea. In other words, it's not really a problem, and in fact I've been hearing this same exact thing since the mid '80s when I started smoking weed. BTW, 20 years ago was not in the 1960s, and by the '80s there was already a lot of good, local stuff around.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:26 PM on January 28, 2010


Pot is far more potent than it was back when I was in university 15 or 20 years ago.

By the way, this is hilarious. Believe me, it wasn't - you just didn't know where to find it. You should have asked me!
posted by krinklyfig at 3:29 PM on January 28, 2010


Pot is far more potent than it was back when I was in university 15 or 20 years ago.

Even if this were demonstrably true, so what? What happens when people learn to drink? They drink too much, puke, and learn a lesson. Some folks need to learn that lesson over and over but for the most part it sinks in. Why doesn't the same hold true for weed? If it leaves you curled up in a ball in the corner, wouldn't you take a lesson away?
posted by fixedgear at 3:35 PM on January 28, 2010


Some people -- sometimes even the same people at different times in their lives -- can regulate their use of even the most physically addictive drugs, and some cannot. If addiction is simply a brain disorder, how can we account for this?

People are surprisingly variable both in their makeup and in how they live. For example, some people cannot physically metabolise some chemicals the way others can. Furthermore, some foods contain substances that affect your metabolism of other chemicals (eg grapefruit). No doubt other environmental factors affect physiology. I am sympathetic towards and by nature favour the Rat Park type explanations but just because it's appealing, we shouldn't rule out purely physical ones either.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:41 PM on January 28, 2010


The shrill, defensive, snide, mocking comments of some of the pro-pot posters in this thread are a real turnoff.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on January 28, 2010


Yeah, that cherry-picked list of publications was not cherry-picked carefully enough. For example, here is a quote from one of the actually published papers:
"Logistic regression analyses showed that people who used cannabis by age 15 were four times as likely to have a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder at age 26 than controls. After psychotic symptoms at age 11 were controlled for, the risk for adult schizophreniform disorder remained higher among those who used cannabis at age 15; however, this risk was reduced by 31% and was no longer significant. "
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:57 PM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unlike the calm, reasoned, backed-by-evidence assertions made by people who think that pot should come with warning labels on it because they know someone who smoked a joint and went crazy. And given that no one here has said that weed is completely harmless, or that kids should go out and get as high as possible, etc., people get impatient.

Your point about "but it's stronger now" has been made several times in this thread, and refuted several times. Forgive me if I feel the need to roll my eyes and sigh loudly.
posted by rtha at 4:01 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The anti-marijuana lobby circles around various reasons why it should be prohibited. When one reason is disproven, they move to another, and then another, and then another. It has been this way for over 70 years in the United States. They've cycled from crazy-making through low sperm counts, lung cancer, red eyes, sexual depravity, amotivational syndrome, and now we're back to the crazy again. It is hard to take this stuff seriously after all these years. Were this much effort put into showing the harm of alcohol or cigarettes, we would be inundated with scrare headlines on a daily basis. Of course, the lobbies of those industries would not stand for it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:02 PM on January 28, 2010


It's not just "smoking" that causes lung cancer. It's the combustion of particular carcinogenic compounds.

Amen, brother, amen.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:09 PM on January 28, 2010


People need to know how potent pot has become, if only because their children may be experimenting with the drug.

Well, no. This would be worrisome if there were evidence that people were now getting "higher" from pot than they did in the 1970's or 80's. Fortunately, the government surveys our youth regarding how high they get (it's at monitoringthefuture.org but I don't have time to dig out the charts). And they report the same level high now that they did then.

So, even if today's pot *is* stronger (and some certainly is-- we don't know what proportion of that actually dominates the market), that means people are probably smoking less of it.

Btw, rtha: Carl Hart = possibly my future co-author, we're working on a project together.
posted by Maias at 4:17 PM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your point about "but it's stronger now"

To clarify (and if my pot-addled memory serves):

1977 (Greater Vancouver). We generally bought something called "Commercial" for $20/ounce. It was generally accepted that it came from Mexico; not that anybody cared that much. If you smoked an entire cigarette-sized joint to yourself, you'd get an okay buzz.

There was also Colombian Gold ($60/ounce and about three times as strong), Thai-Stick (comparable to Colombian as I recall but I only smoked it once or twice) and something called Maui-Wowie, which I only ever heard about.

There was also hash (generally thought to come from Afghanistan) and hash oil (same origin), which of course, being concentrated resin from THC emitting plants was WAY stronger than good ole Commercial. But it's potency was pretty inconsistent as it often came cut with who-knows-what (a problem common to any black market substance which has been processed).

Jump forward four years to 1981. A friend shows up from one of the local Gulf Islands with some friend-of-a-friend's "kickass homegrown" that smelled awfully skunky. As I recall, the two of us shared a joint and promptly got higher than f***ing kites (or whatever). Kind of like chugging back a beer and later discovering it was pure whiskey. Needless to say, next time we smoked some, we limited ourselves to just a couple of tokes.

Anyway, that was 29 years ago and no, I doubt that the general BC Bud I smoke today is significantly different in terms of THC-potency. Not that this "skunk" was immediately ubiquitous; that took about five or six more years. But certainly by the end of the 1980s (more than 20 years ago) the typical so-called BC-Bud that came my way was no stronger than it is today.
posted by philip-random at 4:35 PM on January 28, 2010


A joint rolled with NDP leader Jack Layton's business card as a filter.
posted by Flashman at 4:57 PM on January 28, 2010


For some users, marijuana acts like a hallucinogen. I think it's reasonable to assert that hallucinogens and genetic predisposition to mental illness are poor bedfellows. For the small subset of the population for which both of these things are true, pot can be more significant than just a recreational drug.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 5:40 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


nonreflectiveobject (quoting a source): "What we see more commonly though is the effect of continuing cannabis use on the course. There’s definitely a negative interaction between continuing heavy cannabis use and the course of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia."

It seemed very much to me that Freddy was much less crazy and tormented after he'd smoked out than before. This is twenty-five-year old anecdotal observation, though.
posted by mwhybark at 5:46 PM on January 28, 2010


The shrill, defensive, snide, mocking comments of some of the pro-pot posters in this thread are a real turnoff.

Oh come on. You made a post filled with Reefer Madness propaganda; poorly researched hysteria at best, knowingly incorrect deception at worst, clearly pushing a editorial barrow, and then you get huffy when people (rightly) take you to task? Get outta here. If you don't want snarky responses, how about instead of posting a load of bullshit, you post a selection of the reams of _interesting_, well-put-together articles, studies and reports out there, like many posters in the thread have subsequently done.

You put out honey, you catch bees. You put out a bucket of shit, expect the flies.
posted by smoke at 7:29 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


People are surprisingly variable both in their makeup and in how they live. For example, some people cannot physically metabolise some chemicals the way others can. Furthermore, some foods contain substances that affect your metabolism of other chemicals (eg grapefruit). No doubt other environmental factors affect physiology. I am sympathetic towards and by nature favour the Rat Park type explanations but just because it's appealing, we shouldn't rule out purely physical ones either.

Agreed -- it is impossible to "rule out" physical explanations for addiction, because these drugs do have a physical effect on the brain. That said, the strict disease model of addiction is clearly insufficient. I suspect that addiction is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors; this implies that genetic factors are important, and may contribute to a solution, but it also implies that they're not a full solution on their own.

We're never going to be able to solve this so long as we continue to pretend that addiction primarily has to do with drugs, rather than people's lives. We have only so much Sisyphean energy to spare... and frankly, "not being genetically predisposed to addiction" is a hell of a lot harder to push up the hill than "not having a lonely, empty existence" or "not having un-treated trauma".
posted by vorfeed at 10:05 PM on January 28, 2010


We're never going to be able to solve this so long as we continue to pretend that addiction primarily has to do with drugs, rather than people's lives.

Reminds me of something I heard from a guy who ended up in Narcotics Anonymous trying to kick heroin. Apparently the statistic is that of every person who tries heroin ONCE (hardly a majority of the population) only 15 percent go on to become addicts. That is, 85 percent of the "Edge City" types who experiment with heroin do NOT succumb to its addictive allure.

What is it with that 15 percent who do?
posted by philip-random at 11:25 PM on January 28, 2010


A significant portion of the population (5-10%) actually have an adverse reaction to opiates. I was prescribed oxycodone once, and it made me dizzy and sick - at was not at all pleasurable. That class of drugs has a Hollywood-inspired reputation of being extremely addictive, but it doesn't hold up under scrutiny.
posted by mek at 1:04 AM on February 1, 2010


...of every person who tries heroin ONCE...only 15 percent go on to become addicts. What is it with that 15 percent who do?

The detoxification metabolism of humans is quite genetically variable (one example is fast and slow acetylators). The human body has not evolved to be invulnerable to all poisons, since mechanisms to resist one may potentiate another. Hence, our species has evolved to be robust by making sure that some of the population is somewhat resistant to a wide variety of potentially toxic substances. This means that different people react differently biochemically to the same toxicant: with opiates, some get high, some get addicted, some go "meh", and some throw up.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:11 AM on February 1, 2010


All good points. But there's also an psychological/emotional component. That is, show me a heroin addict who does NOT have some deep-seated, unresolved psyche/emotional issues.
posted by philip-random at 10:14 AM on February 1, 2010


Mental Wimp: "some get high, some get addicted, some go "meh", and some throw up"

So is three out of four good enough for the door prize or do I need all four for the bingo?
posted by idiopath at 11:26 AM on February 1, 2010


That is, show me a heroin addict who does NOT have some deep-seated, unresolved psyche/emotional issues.

I suspect your definition of "addict" includes your characteristics, so we have a somewhat circular question. Research has shown that a non-trivial proportion of habitual users of opiates don't have such issues, but they tend to mature out of use in their mid to late twenties. (However, I worked in this area 30 years ago, when the research was actually done, and I'm too lazy to do a lit search right now, so, sorry, no links.) Those that show up at a treatment facility wind up there at least in part because of these issues.

So is three out of four good enough for the door prize or do I need all four for the bingo?

Dude, all four would be awesome!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:27 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some commentary on the matter from British Columbia.
posted by philip-random at 11:49 PM on February 1, 2010


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