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Journalists and Addiction Researchers make my head explode. Got a pill for that?

Tanya has already done a good job on this one, but it so annoyed me that I just can’t resist.
Check out this ridiculous story — and be sure to watch the video. Basically, you’ve got an truth-challenged researcher who has co-opted the staff of a TV station who appear to have the combined IQ of a turnip. This addiction specialist, who must have studied ethics under Andrea Barthwell, is looking for subjects for a bizarre research plan, and the TV station is more than happy to cooperate because it allows them to show stock video of grandma smoking pot. The journalistic errors in this piece are too numerous to count, including referring to some student they interviewed on the street as an expert, and once misquoting “cannabis dependence” as “cannabis independence.”

There are many Americans who smoke marijuana, a shredded mixture of green-brown flowers, stems and leaves of the hemp plant. […]
Many people don’t know that it’s also addictive.

So yes, they turned to the “scientist” who was using them — Barbara J. Mason, professor at Scripps Research Institute and co-director of Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research

Addiction expert Dr. Barbara Mason of Scripps Research Institute said, “People have become dependent on cannabis.”

Well, that clears that up. Why haven’t we heard about it?

“One of the reasons we don’t hear much about it is because there are no treatments specifically for cannabis dependence.”

Ah, yes, if only there was a treatment for cannabis dependence. Then we’d finally be able to see that it exists.
I turned to my friend George, who has often helped me in the past, and he said:

There’s really no mystery about it. The existence of cannabis dependence is well established, as well as chocolate dependence, coffee dependence, etc., etc. The reason you don’t hear much about it is that it just isn’t that big a problem. The Institute of Medicine found that the percentage of those who showed any dependence for marijuana was dramatically lower than dependency for tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, and that for those who are dependent, the withdrawal symptoms are “mild and subtle.”

So I asked George if he could describe marijuana dependency. He agreed and relayed a conversation between he and his roommate Tom that summed up marijuana dependency perfectly:

George: “I could really go for a bowl right now.”
Tom: “Me, too. But we’re all out.”
[pause]
George: “Bummer”

Wow, this cannabis dependency truly is a horrible problem. Maybe we should have a hempfest or a telethon to raise money to help these poor people who are dependent.
A picture named Gabapentin.jpg
Thank God, addiction specialist Barbara Mason is on the case. She’s come up with a solution.
Take a pill.
She’s putting together a study using paid volunteers to take Gabapentin to ease the symptoms of their marijuana dependency.
That means that they’re looking to see if Gabapentin could make the marijuana withdrawal symptoms mild and suble.
But…

You know, I could really go for a Gabapentin right now.
Update: Turns out Gabapentin has a history of controversy. Back in 2002, a whistle-blower blew the case wide open in the New York Times — seems the drug companies were using all sorts of techniques to get Gabapentin (Neurontin) prescribed for dozens of off-label medical conditions — with no evidence that there was any value (and some suggestion that there could be harm).
Any way you look at it, the idea of taking a pill to deal with the relatively harmless effects of marijuana is simply insane. And as TomK notes in comments, if the person using marijuana is self-medicating for a psychological condition, switching to Gabapentin could conceivably be a dangerous idea, since there is some question as to Gabapentin’s connection to suicide risk.
More here, including the fact that Pfizer was forced to pay a record $240 million fine for fraud (plus more to settle a criminal case) for misbranding this drug.

[Thanks, Tom]

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