A letter from Prof. David Nutt, former leading scientific advisor on drugs to the UK government, sacked for providing unbiased evidence based advice on drugs.
The wise advice above is in response to a controversial report (note a report – not a scientific study) by the British Lung Foundation. The UKCIA have further torn apart the Independent and BBC’s coverage of the report by demonstrating the flagrant errors in the “reefer madness” reporting.
Update 11/06/2012: Prof. Nutt has published a thorough debunking of the report on his blog.
British Lung Foundation (2012). The impact of cannabis on your lungs British Lung Foundation Reports (PDF)
News broke yesterday that while smoking cannabis himself, Barack Obama observed somewhat different rules to the ones that the US population suffer. According to the leaked pages of a soon to be published biography, members of Obama’s “Choom Gang” would hold in smoke for as long as possible to ensure “total absorption”. Under Obama’s rules “anyone who exhaled prematurely lost his next turn at the joint”. Obama was apparently known for working under a different modus operandi to the traditional “pass to the left hand side”, according to the LA Times, “when a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!’ and took an extra hit.”
Obama is not the only current champion of prohibition to have completed an abrupt 180° U-turn in their views on drug use, British PM David Cameron famously stated:
“I ask the Government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried, and we all know that it does not work” (Image credit: Sharrock)
David Cameron, House of Commons, 5th December 2002
The soul crushing ease with which politicians change their views on drugs upon gaining office is mind boggling. It is equally mind numbing to learn of the reams of drug war champions whom upon leaving office swiftly reverse their view point. Perhaps one day we’ll manage to elect a leader who is able to survive the democratic process without losing sight of their values.
The evidence regarding THC absorption and duration of breath holding is surprisingly limited, the consensus appears to be that the majority of active components in cannabis are absorbed relatively instantly and any negligible effects from extended breath holding are simply a result of excessive carbon monoxide exposure. This is good news, there is no reason to hold cannabis smoke down for much longer than a couple of seconds, in fact doing so actually results in wholly unnecessary additional exposure to smoke and tar. There is more good news, it seems clear that heavy cannabis smoking is not particularly good for lung function but surprisingly perhaps, it seems occasional use may actually have beneficial effects. A twenty year study found that users who smoked up to one joint a day actually had increased lung function and this effect stood the test of time even for long term occasional smokers:
“With up to 7 joint-years of lifetime exposure (eg, 1 joint/d for 7 years or 1 joint/wk for 49 years), we found no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function”
The moral of the story? If you choose to smoke, you don’t need to do a Clinton and not inhale at all, but you certainly don’t need to do an Obama either – failing to exhale will do you more harm than good. More importantly, keep your smoke an occasional habit and you may just end up with stronger lungs than you started with.
THIS POST IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED MEDICAL ADVICE. NEUROBONKERS BEARS NO LIABILITY FOR YOUR USE OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED.
Pletcher MJ, Vittinghoff E, Kalhan R, Richman J, Safford M, Sidney S, Lin F, & Kertesz S (2012). Association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 years. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 307 (2), 173-81 PMID: 22235088
Zacny JP, & Chait LD (1991). Response to marijuana as a function of potency and breathhold duration. Psychopharmacology, 103 (2), 223-6 PMID: 2027922
This year, my nomination of the Daily Mail’s article “Just ONE cannabis joint ‘can bring on schizophrenia’ as well as damaging memory” won the award! The prize, normally reserved for the journalist authoring the piece, was awarded to Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, because of the number of errors in the headline which is the responsibility of the editor and is normally not written by the journalist writing the piece.
This allows the Daily Fail to continue to spew out complete nonsense without risk of reprisals, only last week publishing a piece misappropriating a death to cannabis, that the coroner explicitly stated was not due to cannabis.
Professor David Nutt is a qualified Psychiatrist, Psychopharmacologist, researcher, and famously, the former chief government drugs advisor sacked for giving a lecture. In this (never before filmed) lecture, recorded at the end of last year at Oxford university, David covers the material in the lecture for which he was censured and describes recent findings that confirm all of his original statements.
Unfortunately Oxford University have censored some slides “for copyright reasons”. This is pretty regressive to say the least because the slides are clearly covered under the principles of fair use and criticism (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). I’d expect Oxford University to stand up for this principle in an academic context, particularly because most of the censored material is David’s own work (although publishers hold the copyright). Not to worry though, I’m prepared to stand up for this principle and have included the key censored material (or an artists impression) and more importantly, the censored references below. (To be updated as more information becomes available)
Live Update: 27/01/20 (02.17)
Prof. Nutt has replied that Oxford University were authorised to censor slides of celebrities.
— David Nutt (@ProfDavidNutt) January 26, 2012
My reply: It appears that much more than that has been censored, I have listed timestamps below. Some of the data slides are very clearly digitally smeared after the event. I guess there’s an outside chance that some of the other blurred and overexposed data slides are due to very bad camera work but the scale of the slides affected seems to suggest that the cameraman has been instructed to blur slides containing data or citations. Apart from the segments affected, the majority of text is displayed in high clarity even when wide camera angles are being used.
13.51 Image of the Prime Minister (Public domain, surely?)
14.20 Drinks industry data “but this is the truth”
21.47 European Brain Council data (visible for a split second but then the exposure is shifted)
22.14 Hospital admissions (images digitally swirled)
22.40 alcohol consumption has doubled – as the real costs have halved (lense shifts heavily out of focus)
23.28 The rise of liver deaths: Standardised mortality rates, “the most chilling data of all” (lense taken out of focus)
24.09 Drunk Exxon tanker driver crash slide (data digitally swirled)
24.35 Drunk pilot report (data digitally swirled)
28.12 Drug related deaths (lense taken out of focus)
49.30 Placebo data (digitally swirled) “this data is rather distorted” (oh, the irony)
50.16 Normalised data “he changed the statistics there.. a very very nice analysis showing how they had distorted the data” (data digitally swirled) – The irony, it’s killing me.
50.26 Regulator data (data digitally swirled)
50.35 Anti-depressant graph (data visibly digitally swirled)
56.59 Times quote (blurred and audio muted)
58.22 Daily Mail quote (muted)
NB: I’m not suggesting malintent, it appears that copyright fears are out of hand, to the point that from the video it’s impossible to determine the source or even the nature of the majority of citations. As the youtube comments make clear this is a pretty big deal for public viewers who even if they can track down the source themselves, can’t view journal papers without a subscription - nowadays normally approaching thousands of pounds for a basic sub. Without a sub, non-academics and third world academics are typically looking at £20 plus a day for 24 hours DRM restricted use of a singe article, on a single computer.
By the way, a massive thanks is due once again for all of your hard work, especially taking so much time to deliver public talks and for making so much of your work available without a paywall, a near impossible feat for todays researchers it now seems.
Censored Material (To be updated as more information becomes available):
“I ask the Government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried, and we all know that it does not work”
Click here to read more on the continuing censuring of scientists and medical experts from drug policy.
Nutt, D., King, L., & Phillips, L. (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis The Lancet, 376 (9752), 1558-1565 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61462-6
Nutt, D. (2009). Estimating drug harms: a risky business? Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (PDF)
Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Hudson JI, Gruber S, Kozin D, & Pope HG Jr (2011). Residual neurocognitive features of long-term ecstasy users with minimal exposure to other drugs. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 106 (4), 777-86 PMID: 21205042
Carhart-Harris, R., Erritzoe, D., Williams, T., Stone, J., Reed, L., Colasanti, A., Tyacke, R., Leech, R., Malizia, A., Murphy, K., Hobden, P., Evans, J., Feilding, A., Wise, R., & Nutt, D. (2012). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1119598109
Measham,F. Moore, K. Østergaard, J. (2011). Mephedrone, ‘‘Bubble’’ and unidentiﬁed white powders: the contested identities of synthetic ‘‘legal highs” DRUGS AND ALCOHOL TODAY, 11, 137-146 (PDF)
Editorial team (2010). The EMCDDA annual report 2010: the state of the drugs problem in Europe. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, also published in Euro surveillance :European communicable disease bulletin, 15 (46) PMID: 21144426 (PDF)
World Health Organisation (WHO). (2009). Report on mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risk. GLOBAL HEALTH RISKS. (PDF)
Institute of Alcohol Studies. (2006). The Impact of Alcohol on the NHS Factsheet (PDF)
(Note: I wasn’t at the lecture but I organised a very similar lecture, by Prof. Nutt in Bristol last year and conducted an interview with him, so I know what was on some of the censored slides)
To sum up the past couple of days:
- Nature, Time, the BBC and just about every other science publication and news outlet covered Dr. Nutt’s latest research and it’s promising findings for possible clinical use of psilocybin, provoking academic debate on the restriction on study of illegal drugs for clinical use.
- UK law took a small yet definitive step forward, reducing sentences for medical use of drugs, small time users and drug mules (Telegraph, Guardian, Sky, sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/guidelines/forthcoming-guidelines)
- Richard Branson gave evidence at the Government’s select committee on drugs (Guardian, video – skip in about three minutes for the start, Branson’s blog).
- The legal developments are based on evidence emerging from states such as Portugal who have successfully decriminalised drug use and are reaping the benefits (rigorous, balanced analysis of the stats here).
So what did the Daily Mail run with today? This time my commentary is not even needed. I’ve simply taken the liberty of literally highlighting the blindingly obvious flaw in this ridiculous excuse for a news article.
Hughes CE, & Stevens A (2012). A resounding success or a disastrous failure: Re-examining the interpretation of evidence on the Portuguese decriminalisation of illicit drugs. Drug and alcohol review, 31 (1), 101-13 PMID: 22212070
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