These numbers do not, I think, show what they purport to show.
Since cannabis was downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug, the number of adults being treated in hospitals and clinics in England for its effects has risen to more than 16,500 a year. In addition, the number of children needing medical attention after smoking the drug has risen to more than 9,200.
What you\’re supposed to take away from that is that these people require medical treatment for the effects of smoking cannabis. This doesn\’t look to be quite true:
The health authority figures show that 16,685 adults were treated by English hospital trusts after abusing cannabis in 2006-07. The previous year, it was 14,828 – up from 11,057 in 2004-05.
Ah, what we\’re actually saying is that this number of people were treated after they had smoked cannabis. Not from the effects of the drug itself so much as from all of the things that they\’ve done having smoked it.
The figures suggest health authorities are treating more people for cannabis abuse than there are patients who have heart bypass operations or treatment for colon cancer. Some 21,000 people a year have a bypass operation and colon cancer is contracted by some 22,000 people a year.
The correct reference point is thus not those who have suffered a disease as a result, like these colon cancer figures (where, amusingly, pot can be therapeutic, increasing appetite during chemo) but rather, say, the number of people needing treatment after having driunk alcohol. We\’re not talking about people needing liver replacements either, rather the number of people who need an ice pack after they\’ve fallen over. A very different number (anyone know what it is?).
Doctors say cannabis abuse can contribute to mental health problems including forms of psychosis, paranoia and schizophrenia.
Yes, we saw that report a few months back. The rise was some 500 cases a year: and there was one glaring error even in that number. It\’s well known that incipient schizophrenics self medicate. No controls were used to try and find out how many of those suffering from such problems had them anyway and were smoking dope to get rid of the voices and how many of them had the voices caused by the smoking of the dope.
Unfortunately these numbers were compiled by The Telegraph itself: so we\’re not likely to see a decent report explaining all of the assumptions. So what we\’ve actually got is a nice piece of "Aieeeeee!" propaganda rather than a balanced factual addition to the debate.