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: 22212070Follow Neurobonkers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
After my experimental annotated case study of “the worst piece of drugs reporting I have ever read” resulted in two take-downs (The Metro & The Hull Daily Mail) and one correction (The Independent), I’ve decided to do the same for a piece recently published by the Mother-ship of shoddy journalism, the Daily Mail. Just hit play and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out as you as you please.
For the full audio visual experience of how reading the Daily Mail makes me feel, try scrolling around the article while playing the video below. If reading the Daily Mail makes you feel the same way, please join the newly launched Daily Mail Demolition Squad.
For further reading check out the coverage by UKCIA. Peter Reynolds at Clear UK is awaiting a response on a PCC complaint, you can help speed up the process by making a complaint yourself. The original article “Just ONE cannabis joint ‘can bring on schizophrenia’ as well as damaging memory” appeared in the Daily Mail on 26th October 2011.
Kucewicz MT, Tricklebank MD, Bogacz R, & Jones MW (2011). Dysfunctional prefrontal cortical network activity and interactions following cannabinoid receptor activation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31 (43), 15560-8 PMID: 22031901 (PDF).
Update (29/01/2012): This nomination won the Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation!
I have submitted this piece for the Orwellian prize for journalistic misrepresentation which uses the scoring system below:
* Factual error in the title: 3 points
* Factual error in a subtitle: 2 points
* Factual error in the body of the article: 1 point
Nominated article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2053486/cannabis-joint-cause-psychiatric-episodes-similar-schizophrenia-damaging-memory.html
Misrepresented source article: (PDF)
Nominator: Neurobonkers (neurobonkers at gmail dot com)
Total: 23 Points
[Just ONE] (3) [cannabis joint] (3) [‘can cause psychiatric episodes] (3) similar to schizophrenia’ as well as [damaging memory] (3)
[Strongest evidence yet, claim scientists] (2)
Rats used in experiments
By TAMARA COHEN
Created 10:21 PM on 25th October 2011
[Smoking] (1) [just one cannabis joint can bring on symptoms of schizophrenia] (1), a study has found.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have, [for the first time, looked in detail at the changes in the brains of cannabis users] (1).
[They found the drug disrupts the same parts of the brain as the psychotic illness, those associated with memory and decision-making] (1).
Scientists at the University of Bristol [found that even one cannabis joint could trigger schizophrenia] (1)
Cannabis abuse has previously been linked with increased rates of schizophrenia but [this is the strongest evidence yet that the drug mimics its effects](1).
The [scientists studied rats who had been given the active ingredient of cannabis] (1) – [in a similar dose to a person smoking a joint](1).
Using electrodes embedded into their brains – which cannot be done in humans – they found those who had the drug were ‘significantly impaired’ in carrying out tasks for up to two hours afterwards.
[If this dose of cannabis has the same effect on humans, just one joint could significantly change their behaviour] (1).
Dr Matt Jones, the lead author of the study said: ‘Cannabis is making normal people behave more like schizophrenia patients when they take it and that’s something they should bear in mind.
‘Previous studies have shown a link but we didn’t have this level of detail.
‘What we have shown is that the brain waves which process information and share it with other regions of the brain become de-synchronised like parts of an orchestra playing out of synch.
‘Cannabis has a docile reputation in the drug world. Most people would accept that cannabis abusers are not at their sharpest and might have subtle impairments in memory or decision making but sometimes small doses of the ingredient can cause psychiatric episodes similar to schizophrenia.’
Tests were carried out on rats – and scientists discovered that the creatures were affected for up to two hours after being exposed to cannabis
In experiments, the rats who were given cannabis all became unable to make accurate decisions when navigating around a maze, compared with those who had not been given any.
Two parts of their brain were shown to be affected – the hippocampus which is essential for forming new memories and prefrontal cortex which integrates those memories and uses them for future behaviour and decision-making.
Disruption of the brain waves which allow these two areas to communicate is what happens in schizophrenia, a mental disorder.
It is associated with muddled thought which causes problems in social interaction, bizarre and paranoid delusions and changes in behaviour.
Dr Jones added: ‘You might feel fine – the rats overt behaviour did not look impaired – but when asked to make rapid and accurate decisions following a joint of cannabis, the cross-talk between these parts of the brain was not normal.
‘Taking cannabis while sitting on the couch watching DVDs is one thing, but if you decide to drive to the shops, that’s when the cognitive impairments come out.’
He said super-strong versions of cannabis – known as ‘skunk’ – contain a higher proportion of the active ingredient THC and would most likely have an even more pronounced effect.
The researchers, whose study is published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, hope further research will help them develop treatments for these effects which could help people with mental illnesses.
Schizophrenia is linked to a number of genes, and previous studies have shown cannabis use can accelerate the risk of developing the disease in people who are already pre-disposed to get it.
An analysis of 83 studies earlier this year involving 22,000 young people, concluded that smoking cannabis can accelerate the onset of psychotic illnesses by several years making them harder to treat successfully.
Recently scientists in Germany and the Institute of Psychiatry in London found people who use cannabis are doubling their risk of developing psychotic problems – including schizophrenia as well as paranoid ideas, hallucination and hearing voices.
They looked at 1,900 young people aged 14 to 24 and found a link at a very early stage of use among youngsters who had never experienced such symptoms before.
In what has to be the feel-good story of the week: Nazi rock duo Lamb and Lynx Gaede (“Prussian Blue”), who you may remember for causing a media shitstorm a few years ago for presenting themselves as the cuddly faces of white supremacy, have made a political, social and cultural full-scale about turn. If that makes you smile then the story behind the change in heart will have you checking my facts in disbelief faster than you can say “toke up”. The girls put their dark past down to being “home schooled… country bumpkins” heavily influenced by an overbearing white supremacist mother. Since then the pair have moved to Montana to go to highschool where in her first year Lynx was diagnosed with cancer which led to the removal of a tumour and cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS). Lamb developed “scoliosis and chronic back pain, as well as lack of appetite and intense emotional stress”. It perhaps doesn’t take an expert to see a link between the intense emotional stress and some of the medical conditions that were troubling both of the girls. Lamb and Lynx began to use cannabis to self-medicate after Lynx had a negative reaction to the Oxycontin and Morphine she was prescribed to treat her pain. “I have to say, marijuana saved my life,” Lynx now says, “I would probably be dead if I didn’t have it”. Lynx became one of the first five minors in Montana to be issued a medical marijuana card and Lamb now has one too. Miraculously, the cannabis didn’t just cure the pain but also rekindled both their artistic flair and their passions in a far more positive light…
Lamb: “I’m not a white nationalist anymore… my sister and I are pretty liberal now”
Lynx: “Personally, I love diversity… I’m stoked that we have so many different cultures. I think it’s amazing and it makes me proud of humanity every day that we have so many different places and people… we just want to come from a place of love and light”
Lamb: “I think we’re meant to do something more — we’re healers. We just want to exert the most love and positivity we can.”
The pair now spend their time painting, repairing furniture and intend to enrol in college and dedicate themselves to the legalisation of cannabis in all 50 states.
Via The DailyFollow Neurobonkers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
Update: Raabe has now been sacked due to the public uproar.
Thanks to Neuroskeptic for the update. Thanks to the public for the uproar.
The Government announced this week the list of individuals it has appointed to be on the new Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The home secretary is still forced to include scientists on the ACMD by law but this last bastion of hope is to be removed by the Police Reform Bill which will allow for an ACMD with not a single scientist or medical professional. So who has Theresa May appointed to advise her on what may be last ever academically qualified advisory council on drugs?
Dr Hans-Christian Raabe, prominent anti-abortion, anti-contraception and anti-homosexual campaigner and daily maily rent-a-quote is sure to cause a stir. In his spare time Raabe contributes to the Maranatha Community, a bizarre religious group that offers “Gay Affirmative Therapy” to cure homosexuality.
Dr. Raabe is a strange choice for someone who is supposed to be an evaluator of evidence. He has made it very clear that he has a strong religious conviction that all forms of drug use are morally abhorrent and that “harm-reduction actually encourages rather than prevents drug misuse“. He has been in serious trouble with the government before for deceitful behaviour motivated by his rigid moral code. He was found to have formally submitted medical advice to a select committee on abortion without disclosing his involvement in numerous anti-abortion campaign groups. He was even the “medical director” of the Christian anti-abortion pressure group “Council for Health and Wholeness” which coincidentally also managed to submit a separate dossier for the same abortion review. None of this was disclosed when Raabe gave his “medical” consultation on abortion law in which he claimed abortion can cause breast cancer despite there being no real evidence for this and this being completely outside his remit of expertise as a paediatrician. In 2009 Raabe stood for European parliament for the Christian Peoples Alliance Party on a zero tolerance on drugs platform. It is Raabe’s opinion that users of cannabis should be treated no differently to users of heroin.
Raabe’s “medical” opinion on drugs, quoted from his formal comment on the a BMJ article on the benefits of regulation of cannabis:
“The only way of stopping people from dying from drug-related deaths is to prevent drug use in the first place!” Dr Hans-Christian Raabe (10 October 2010)
I challenge you to find another doctor anywhere who can not think of a single intervention to stop drug related deaths. Welcome back to the dark ages.
The withdrawl of harm reduction mechanisms for problem drug users is an extremely dangerous element of Raabe’s belief system. This belief system has directly resulted in promoting the AIDS epidemic in Africa through the banning of contraception on moral grounds, allowing this highly containable blood born disease to reach our shores. If this belief system is ever to be imposed on the harm reduction practices that currently are in place to stop needle sharing amongst our tens of thousands of problem drug users we can expect an explosion of AIDS in this country overnight. The evidence for this is clearly presented in this BMJ paper describing how Russia’s zero tolerance drug law has directly resulted in the AIDS epidemic it is now experiencing. Ironically, as this paper describes, the imprisonment of problem users is another main cause of AIDS in the developed world. It is common practice for a needle on a sting to be passed from cell to cell in prisons turning them in to incubators for the HIV virus.
2009 Aids Map
It is all very well for Dr. Raabe and his fundamentalist companions to act on a moral code in which they believe drugs are wrong however it is time for them to realise that this code has devastating implications for the whole of the of society including the vast majority who have never even dreamt of going near heroin or crack cocaine.
In the words of Andy Lewis, “(last year) we were angry that government was ignoring the advice of its advisors. Now we find ourselves hoping they do.”Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
The BBC took a step forward this week producing a balanced review of the literature on cannabis for the first time in about a decade. There are however two myths about cannabis that the documentary fails to really break down.
1. Cannabis Causes Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia rates have been at a plateau for the last 100 years (consistently affecting about half a percentage point of the population). The majority of schizophrenics have never used cannabis in their life. Schizophrenia appears to be a genetic disorder, passing down family lines. In the past thirty years cannabis use has exploded, rising between ten and twenty fold (in the US now overtaking cigarette use in young people). In the same period of time the government has restricted the market resulting in a boom in skunk production over the past decade. With both of these two factors, if the hypothesis that cannabis causes schizophrenia were true we would expect to see a rise in schizophrenia. This did not happen, in fact there is some evidence schizophrenia is in decline. Therefore it appears clear there is no direct causal link between cannabis and schizophrenia. For a reference point, in the same period alcohol use has doubled and liver disease has risen two fold becoming the only form of “death” that is on the rise by any great degree.
Growth in Liver Disease Correlates Perfectly with Growth of Alcohol Consumption
This does beg the question of why there is a slight correlation between people with schizophrenia and cannabis use. It is starting to look more likely that cannabis is used by people with schizophrenia attempting to self medicate. One component of cannabis (CBD) has even been found to be an effective anti-psychotic. Ironically, this is the component that is lost when growers are forced to farm intensively indoors (i.e. in skunk). The evidence is certainly clear however that the main component in skunk varieties (THC) has a negative effect on those with schizophrenia, however schizophrenics are still attracted to skunk because of it’s anxiety relieving properties. The conclusion of the BBC program that it is safest to stick to strains with balanced levels of CBD/THC such as Thai Stick and avoid if your family has a history of mental illness certainly seems to be correct.
*For the record, 90% of schizophrenics smoke cigarettes for the same reasons. No one however is suggesting cigarettes cause schizophrenia.
2. Cannabis is Addictive
To it’s credit, the program does note that cannabis is not physically addictive and there are no physical withdrawal symptoms. However it naively states that “treatment rates for cannabis are on the rise” failing to recognise the proportion of those in treatment forced to attend “rehab” centres by court order instead of going to jail for possession/dealing. This is really not a fair measure of harm. I’ve been unable to uncover rehab admission statistics broken down by mode of admission, the NHS stats leave that key component out (if anyone has access please do send). It seems pretty inappropriate to force cannabis users to attend these classes when there are endless waiting lists for serious drug addicts.
Other than those two points the program was fair and balanced and I’d recommend it. In other news, across the pond the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has just started claiming cannabis use causes testicular cancer based on one tiny study that really showed no such thing. Sigh.
Hickman M, Vickerman P, Macleod J, Kirkbride J, & Jones PB (2007). Cannabis and schizophrenia: model projections of the impact of the rise in cannabis use on historical and future trends in schizophrenia in England and Wales. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 102 (4), 597-606 PMID: 17362293
Zuardi, A., Crippa, J., Hallak, J., Moreira, F., & Guimarães, F. (2006). Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an antipsychotic drug Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 39 (4) DOI: 10.1590/S0100-879X2006000400001
GREEN, B. (2005). Cannabis use and misuse prevalence among people with psychosis The British Journal of Psychiatry, 187 (4), 306-313 DOI: 10.1192/bjp.187.4.306
Cattapan-Ludewig K, Ludewig S, Jaquenoud Sirot E, Etzensberger M, & Hasler F (2005). [Why do schizophrenic patients smoke?]. Der Nervenarzt, 76 (3), 287-94 PMID: 15448920
Unaffiliated Google Sponsor
Follow Neurobonkers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
Africa America Bad Science BCI Brain Computer Interfacing breaking news Cannabis Censorship Cocaine Copyright Counterfeit Drugs Daily Fail DailyFail daily mail Daily Mail Demolition Squad Drugs EEG Emotiv Fake Drugs FMRI Health Hoax Independent Misinformation Music Neuroscience Open Science Procrastination Psychology Rat Brain Robot Review Satire Science sex Skepticism Statistics Student Loans Crisis Susan Greenfield Synaesthesia Technology The confederacy of dunces Video walking War on Drugs Wikileaks
Cookie ComplianceThis site contains cookies. If you have ever used the internet before then you probably knew that already and ate them long before you arrived here. If you are allergic to cookies please leave now.