Cannabis Hysteria

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "While many people can smoke a joint with no long-term effects, for some young people regular use can double their risk of developing schizophrenia, in which a person may hear voices, and experience strange thoughts and paranoid delusions."

That\’s a blitheringly stupid statement, isn\’t it? "Some", "can double" ….there\’s no information there, is there? If we define our set for whom smoking dope is dangerous as those for whom smoking dope is dangerous…well, we\’ve not actually said anything, have we?

As we know from when this was raised previously, there are some (depending upon who you believe) 2 million to 8 million regular dope smokers in the country. The number said to present with psychiatric problems as a result has near doubled, from some 600 or so to 950 or so in a year. So our definition of "many" is in fact damn near "everyone" and out definition of "some" is damn near "none".

That\’s without even including the fact that we already know that incipient schizophrenics (not quite sure if that\’s the correct word, but those descending into the hell that is that disease) self-medicate heavily before it truly takes hold and is diagnosed. They might do it with tobacco, might do it with alcohol, might do it with whatever other drugs, legal, prescription or not, that come to hand. Given that the downgrading from Class B to Class C will have made dope more readily available (rather the point of doing so in fact) that those on that slope self-medicate with dope more often than they did so previously (sorry, to be accurate, those suffering now do so more than the previous cohort) is really not a surprise.

We\’ve go the classic confusion over causation here. We\’re not distinguishing between those who become psychotic as a result of smoking dope and those who are smoking dope because they\’re becoming psychotic.

And we\’ve got all these people using such glaringly, obviously, incomplete facts (to be generous) to decide upon public policy?


4 thoughts on “Cannabis Hysteria”

  1. “That’s a blitheringly stupid statement, isn’t it?”

    C’mon. Doesn’t much of the case against tobacco smoking depend on a statistical association showing a higher incidence of lung cancer or heart disease among smokers? My paternal grand father used to smoke Craven A fags – the heavy stuff and a brand that disappeared from the shops decades ago – and he died in the late 1940s of heart failure aged 76. OTOH I had a colleague who never smoked but who tragically died of lung cancer at 50..

    All that is being said is that smoking cannabis at a young age is associated with a higher incidence of schizophrenia in later life. I’ve no medical or psychiatric expertise but by several resports, it is not as though claims about links between smoking cannabis and schizophrenia (and lung disease) are being made in only one study.

    I’m familiar with the JS Mill stuff:

    “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” JS Mill: On Liberty

    The problem is that the NHS or the prison service, both funded by taxpayers, have to meet the costs of dealing with schizophrenia.

  2. I was an undergraduate when “marijuana” suddenly appeared in the university. It was perfectly obvious that it appealed most to those who were already bonkers. I’d be a little surprised if some such correlation didn’t persist even when its use became widespread.

  3. Well, leaglize and tax it, stop it getting into the hands of most teenagers by taking the market away from dodgy school gate pushers, and fund a proper mental health service for people for whom mental illness strikes whether or not they’ve helped to inflict it on themselves.

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