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.
“There are 15 references, but they’re all about sex, not cancer.”
The paper makes the case that sexual frustration can result in genetic mutation but fails to provide any evidence to support the claim. The paper is a perfect case study of how not to do science. There are of course references, they just fail to be present for any of the fundamental arguments the paper makes, instead appearing to support those sentences that state the bleeding-obvious and the barely relavent.
I’ll wager a bet that this completely speculative research will be reported uncritically, as dramatic “findings” and of course, without a proper reference when the story is covered by the tabloids. It will be interesting (perhaps interesting is the wrong word) to see how the Daily Mail covers this story, in their ongoing quest to “classify inanimate objects in to two types: those that cause cancer, and those that cure it”, the Daily Mail have claimed cancer is caused by (amongst hundreds of other things): blowjobs, sex and of course.. teenage sex. I’m fairly sure they won’t turn down the opportunity to report a “shocking new finding” that turns the story around and throws breasts and nuns in to the mix!
Apologies to those of you who read my blog at work… this article is sooo never going to get through your web filter. Oh and I should probably add that there is certainly no conflict of interest here, I believe sex is great, cancer is terrible, and sexual frustration is, erm, most definitely best avoided. I wish I could write a piece championing this research, I really do. The science is just too, damn, bad.
Stuger, J. (2011). An Essay on Sexual Frustration as the Cause of Breast Cancer in Women: How Correlations and Cultural Blind Spots Conceal Causal Effects The Breast Journal DOI: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2011.01206.x
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.
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