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schizophrenia

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator February 9, 2011 [caption id="attachment_21995" align="alignleft" width="142" caption="Easily the coolest college professor you could ever hope to have."][/caption]

    Every Wednesday on NORML SHOW LIVE, Dr. Mitch Earleywine joins us to discuss the latest research in cannabis and to take live calls and chat questions from listeners on marijuana culture, history, medicine, and science.  He is a member of the NORML Advisory Board and his research has been published in over fifty scientific journals on drugs and addiction.  He is the author of Understanding Marijuana, Pot Politics, and Parents’ Guide to Marijuana, and a professor of psychology at SUNY Albany.  We asked Dr. Mitch his opinions of the latest meta-analysis on cannabis and schizophrenia.

    Download full interview at http://audio.norml.org/events/Dr. Mitch Earleywine – Latest Cannabis Psychoses Bunk.mp3

    NORML SHOW LIVE: The headlines are out there – CNN, WebMD, NPR, every little bit of alphabet soup out there on the cable channels and the news – is trumpeting this headline, this study – Matthew Large, I believe, is the lead researcher on this – from Prince of Wales Hospital in New South Wales Australia says quote:

    “It is increasingly clear that marijuana is a cause of schizophrenia and that schizophrenia caused by cannabis starts earlier than schizophrenia with other causes.”

    DR. MITCH EARLEYWINE:  Alas, no.  There are no new data – I want to emphasize that – this is a meta-analysis, which means it takes the studies that were already out there and tries to combine them mathematically to make sense of it all.  What you’re not hearing in the media is that in fact, this is probably early-onset folks self-medicating.

    You can imagine somebody who is experiencing some symptoms of psychosis, particularly folks with less access to medical care, or folks who are already a little bit paranoid because of the disorder and they’re unwilling to go to a physician.  They hear their friends are using cannabis and enjoying it.  They do it, too, they notice some mild improvements in their symptoms, they turn to it later when they have a psychotic break.   What a surprise, [the researchers] say, “they smoked cannabis first, that’s the big issue.” (more…)

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 1, 2010

    Once again members of the mainstream media are running wild with the notion that marijuana use causes schizophrenia and psychosis.

    To add insult to injury, this latest dose of reefer rhetoric comes only days after investigators in the United Kingdom reported in the prestigious scientific journal Addiction that the available evidence in support of this theory is “neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling.” (Predictably, the conclusions of that study went all together unnoticed by the mainstream press.)

    Yet today’s latest alarmist report, like those studies touting similar claims before it, fails to account for the following: If, as the authors of this latest study suggest, cannabis use is a cause of mental illness (and schizophrenia in particular), then why have diagnosed incidences of schizophrenia not paralleled rising trends in cannabis use over time?

    In fact, it was only in September when investigators at the Keele University Medical School in Britain smashed the pot = schizophrenia theory to smithereens. Writing in the journal Schizophrenia Research, the team compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Researchers reported that the “incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” during this period, even the use of cannabis among the general population was rising.

    That said, none of this is to suggest that there may not be some association between marijuana use and certain psychiatric ailments. Cannabis use can correlate with mental illness for many reasons. People often turn to cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of distress. One study performed in Germany showed that cannabis offsets certain cognitive declines in schizophrenic patients. Another study demonstrated that psychotic symptoms predict later use of cannabis, suggesting that people might turn to the plant for help rather than become ill after use.

    Of course, even if one takes the MSM’s latest ‘sky is falling’ scenario at face value, health risks connected with pot use — when scientifically documented — should not be seen as legitimate reasons for criminal prohibition, but instead, as reasons for the plant’s legal regulation.

    For instance, as I told AOL News earlier today: “We don’t outlaw peanuts because a small percentage of people have allergic reactions. We educate the community, we regulate where and when peanuts can be exchanged. That seems like it ought to apply to marijuana, too.”

    To draw another real world comparison, millions of Americans safely use ibuprofen as an effective pain reliever. However, among a minority of the population who suffer from liver and kidney problems, ibuprofen presents a legitimate and substantial health risk. However, this fact no more calls for the criminalization of ibuprofen among adults than do these latest anti-pot allegations, even if true, call for the current prohibition of cannabis.

    Placed in this context, today’s warnings latest do little to advance the government’s position in favor of tightening prohibition, and provide ample ammunition to wage for its repeal.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 24, 2010

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

    Researchers worldwide have performed 37 separate clinical trials assessing the therapeutic safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis and marijuana-based medicines since 2005, according to a review published online last week in the journal Cannabinoids: The Journal of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM).

    Investigators from Leiden University in the Netherlands and the nova-Institut in Germany conducted a systematic review of recent clinical trial data pertaining to the medical use of whole smoked marijuana and cannabinoids.

    Authors identified 37 controlled studies since 2005 evaluating the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids. The trials involved a total of 2,563 subjects.

    Of the 37 clinical trials that have been recently conducted, eleven assessed the drug’s impact on chronic neuropathic pain – a difficult to treat type of pain resulting from nerve damage. Other studies assessed the efficacy of cannabinoids to treat multiple sclerosis-associated spasticity (nine separate studies); HIV/AIDS (four); experimental pain (four); intestinal dysfunction (two); nausea/vomiting/appetite (two); schizophrenia (two); glaucoma (one); and ‘other indications (two).

    Authors concluded, “Based on the clinical results, cannabinoids present an interesting therapeutic potential mainly as analgesics in chronic neuropathic pain, appetite stimulants in debilitating diseases (cancer and AIDS), as well as in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.”

    Last Wednesday investigators from the California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research released the results of a series of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials that determined that cannabinoids could be “a first-line treatment” for patients suffering from neuropathy.

    Commenting on the review, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The safety and efficacy of marijuana as a medicine has now been established by the ‘gold standard’ of clinical study. Further, over 2,500 patients have used cannabinoids in controlled clinical trials over the past five years alone. This is a far greater total than the number of subjects that would likely be administered any other new drug pending United States FDA approval, and is a large enough population to once and for all establish marijuana’s objective value as a medicine.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 16, 2010

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

    Clinical evidence indicating that marijuana use may be casually linked to incidences of schizophrenia or other psychological harms is not compelling, according to a scientific review published online by the journal Addiction.

    Investigators at the University of Bristol, Department of Social Medicine assessed the potential health risks of cannabis, particularly whether use of the drug may be causally linked with mental illness.

    Authors wrote: “We continue to take the view that the evidence that cannabis use causes schizophrenia is neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling. … For example, our recent modeling suggests that we would need to prevent between 3000 and 5000 cases of heavy cannabis use among young men and women to prevent one case of schizophrenia, and that four or five times more young people would need to avoid light cannabis use to prevent a single schizophrenia case. … We conclude that the strongest evidence of a possible causal relation between cannabis use and schizophrenia emerged more than 20 years ago and that the strength of more recent evidence may have been overstated.

    In 2007, an analysis in the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that experimenting with marijuana could increase one’s risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life by some 40 percent. Following this report, Parliament in 2008 voted to reclassify marijuana as a Class B substance, making its possession punishable by up to five years in prison.

    University of Bristol researchers also criticized Parliament’s reclassification of the drug, which took effect earlier this year. They concluded: “The only important possible benefit of prohibition is prevention of cannabis use. There is little or no evidence that it effectively achieves this benefit. Patterns of cannabis use in the population appear to be independent of the policy surrounding use, and criminalizing individual cannabis users does not appear to modify their use in a healthy way.

    Overall, investigators determined that marijuana’s most significant health risk was its association and reinforcement with tobacco smoking.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 28, 2009

    I’ve written previously about the mainstream media’s propensity to under report and distort stories that challenge marijuana prohibition.

    Apparently my latest missive has hit a nerve — as it has quickly risen to become the most read story on Alternet.

    5 Things the Corporate Media Don’t Want You to Know About Cannabis
    via Alternet.org

    1. Marijuana Use Is Not Associated With a Rise in Incidences of Schizophrenia

    2. Marijuana Smoke Doesn’t Damage the Lungs Like Tobacco

    3. Cannabis Use Potentially Protects, Rather Than Harms, the Brain

    4. Marijuana Is a Terminus, Not a ‘Gateway,’ to Hard Drug Use

    5. Government’s Anti-Pot Ads Encourage, Rather Than Discourage, Marijuana Use

    Read the full text of the story here.

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