Sunday, December 11, 2005

UK considers taking a U-turn in the face of progress

As published by the Independent today...
"Tony Blair is planning a controversial U-turn on cannabis laws and the reintroduction of tough penalties after an official government review found a definitive link between use of the drug and mental illness.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has detailed evidence showing cannabis triggers psychosis in regular users. The findings are expected to be used by Blair to overturn the decision made two years ago to downgrade the drug."
Please read the details before continuing on.

I can't help but wonder what hidden agenda Blair might have. The article seems to suggest that ACMD does not encourage changing the law, but that the politicians plan to use their findings to do so anyway. They plan to do this regardless of the fact that drug use by youth has continually decreased in the last two years, and in defiance of edicts from the police, who state that the new policy has allowed them to focus more effectively on class A drugs such as heroin. If Blair wishes to make a U-turn in the face of such progress, he better be certain that the ACMD findings are verifiable.

I for one am very anxious to see the research methodology proving marijuana leads to schizophrenia and mental illness. Have these findings been replicated? I am curious as to how this study received results in contrast to every previous study ever conducted. Of the many regular users I have met, all of them would argue that marijuana simply does not induce psychosis. On that basis, I am skeptical of results that seem to jive so poorly with reality. However, I have not run any empirical tests. Thus, I leave the question open: Will Blair's decision to turn the car around be justified, in spite of all the seemingly obvious "no U-turn" signs?


Anonymous said...

The schizophrenia link (which, I imagine, is what this is talking about, rather than general "psychosis") is a muddled one.

While I haven't read the report, what I have read on the subject doesn't suggest a causal link.

For instance, Hambrecht and Hafner have this to say:

RESULTS: Thirteen per cent of the sample had a history of cannabis abuse, which was twice the rate of matched normal controls. Male sex and early symptom onset were major risk factors. While cannabis abuse almost always preceded the first positive symptoms of schizophrenia, the comparison of the onset of cannabis abuse and of the first (prodromal) symptoms of schizophrenia differentiated three approximately equal groups of patients: group 1 had been abusing cannabis for several years before the first signs of schizophrenia emerged, group 2 experienced the onset of both disorders within the same month, and group 3 had started to abuse cannabis after the onset of symptoms of schizophrenia.

CONCLUSIONS: The vulnerability-stress-coping model of schizophrenia suggests possible interpretations of these findings. Group 1 might suffer from the chronic deteriorating influence of cannabis reducing the vulnerability threshold and/or coping resources. Group 2 consists of individuals which are already vulnerable to schizophrenia. Cannabis misuse then is the (dopaminergic) stress factor precipitating the onset of psychosis. Group 3 uses cannabis for self-medication against (or for coping with) symptoms of schizophrenia, particularly negative and depressive symptoms. These patients probably learn to counterbalance a hypodopaminergic prefrontal state by the dopaminergic effects of cannabis.

[Source: Hambrecht M, Hafner H. Cannabis, vulnerability, and the onset of schizophrenia: an epidemiological perspective. Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Cologne, Germany (June 2000). Via]

In other words, marijuana may increase the chances of developing symptoms for people who are at risk of developing schizophrenia.

That's about 1.1 percent of the population.

[Source: "General Schizophrenia Facts and Statistics." Via]

Even then, the causal relationship is muddled further, as different cultures the world over seem to have a consistent rate of psychological disorders (including schizophrenia), despite the prevalence or absence of cannabis in said countries.

[Source: Jablensky A, Sartorius N, Ernberg G, Anker M, Korten A, Cooper JE et al. Schizophrenia: manifestations, incidence and course in different cultures. A World Health Organization ten-country study. Psychol.Med.Monogr Suppl 1992;20:1-97. Via:]

So, there you go.

Adam Scavone said...

"Marijuana is known to cause paranoid and delusional reactions among many non-users," right?

Good work with the refs and analyses, anonymous. The perennial problem, of course, is that drug policy is currently damn near dataproof and rational analysis-proof (though it won't be forever, and calm, cool, collected responses stand a chance at turning the tide).

"Soros saw in America's drug war many of the same political and intellectual traits that had made him hate Communism and fascism: political indoctrination substituted for education; bureaucratic apparatchiks disfiguring scientific evidence to serve the state's agenda; massive deployment of police agents and their informants in ever more intrusive ways; politicians mouthing stupid cliches without the slightest hint of embarassment; official spokesmen responding to substantive criticisms of government policy not in kind but instead by the motivations and characters of their critics; and the arrest and incarceration of millions for engaging in personal tastes and vices, as well as capitalist transactions, prohibited by the state for reasons it can no longer clearly recall."
--Ethan Nadelmann, National Review, September 27, 2004

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...Maybe this has something to do with Blair's decision. Can you blame him?

Woman died on cannabis drug trial

Sativex is made from the cannabis plant
A woman developed mental health problems and later died after taking part in trials of a cannabis-based drug, an inquest has heard.
Diabetic Rene Anderson, aged 69 from Sheffield, was taken to hospital after starting to take Sativex to see if it would relieve pain she was suffering.

She died in March 2004 from acute kidney failure.

The continuing inquest is expected to have implications for the use of drugs derived from cannabis.

Anonymous said...

Hello, this is the anonymous from the top.

I'm quite versed in cannabis lore, and I've never even heard of anything relating to cannabis causing acute kidney failure.

I read through the story (thanks for the link, btw...*cough*) and

If there was a link -- somehow -- that's a surprisingly high ratio for a drug. NSAIDs (like aspirin) cause 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States every year (Source), and yet it's available over-the-counter.

Also realize that Sativex is a liquid form of marijuana that is sprayed in through the nose. I haven't seen what the dosage, concentration, or other factors involved are with this particular product.

Next, you imply that there was a definitive causative link here, when there has been no such thing. In fact, an inquest is just starting into it.

Let us also remember that she had diabetes. People with diabetes have "a substantially increased risk for developing kidney failure." (Source)

Furthermore, the kidney failure could have preceded the pneumonia, which would explain how she got the infection, since kidney failure lowers resistance to infections. (Source)

And, since she was over 65, she is supposed to have gotten vaccinated against it. Granted, that's US CDC recommendations, but I think they still apply.

In other words, we simply don't know enough about what happened yet to give any definitive answer. Possibly, perhaps, Sativex was a factor, or maybe it was just really bad timing for someone who was already at risk and just happened to partake in clinical trials.

Anonymous said...

It simply boggles the mind that rational people can advocate prohibition of a drug that is safer than most foods..litterally (think peanuts). We know that prohibition of a desired substance always creates a black market. We know that black markets funnel billions of dollars to gangsters, jihadists, dictators, etc. who we know are killers. Given these facts, clearly prohibition advocates should be held responsible for the crimes their actions have generated. If the police and government wont hold them responsible, then I would be more than happy to avenge their deaths.

The tendency of more peaceful, liberal kinds of folk among us to ignore their ignorance has brought war and torture to our shores. Ignore them no more. Hate the hateful. Hurt the hurtful. Kill the killers. It's the right thing to do.

Micah Daigle said...

Anonymous (the most recent one):

Do you really think that hate and murder will solve anything?? All wars, including the War on Drugs, are founded upon and sustained by hatred and murder. Once you resort to violence, it does not matter what side of the conflict you began on... you have BECOME the war.

Can't you see the absurdity in chastising prohibitionists for helping to fund the murderous actions of jihadists, gangsters, and dictators, while promoting your own violent jihad in the same breath? In your haste to put out a fire, you consider throwing gasoline on it.

Us "peaceful, liberal kinds of folk" do not ignore the harms that prohibitionists create, and we would certainly like to hold them accountable. However, most of us are knowledgeable enough of politics and history to know we can never make social change happen by becoming violent, fanatical mercenaries. I, for one, am confident enough in the validity of my arguments to not think it necessary to have a gun or bomb make my arguments for me.

And it's not just me. Know that your declaration of violent intent puts you out-of-line with SSDP's non-violent values statement, meaning that you could never be a member of SSDP so long as you continue to promote such violent means to our (supposedly) shared end.