Marijuana and mental health

So everybody in the media is talking about the new studies (including one from Yale) that have conclusively determined that marijuana — gasp — temporarily affects the brain.
Well, yes. That’s kind of the point. So does just about everything you do.
In fact, there were some interesting things that the Yale study seemed to find. One is that THC can temporarily relax the inhibiting part of the brain that controls things like paranoia, meaning that someone on pot can feel more paranoid (and they thought it was just because the government was out to get them), but that CBD in pot reduces anxiety and so provides a calming counter-effect. And part of all of this that needs to be considered is the implications of this information, good and bad, for those who are already, say, paranoid schizophrenics, for example.
I wish we could have reasoned discussions about such studies. There’s a whole lot we could learn, but the science is so politicized that a couple of critical things happen:

  1. Every scientific fact that shows some kind of potential negative effect (or even a neutral effect that can be interpreted negatively) is broadcast as a final proof that marijuana is an extremely dangerous and toxic substance and must be kept illegal and denied to patients (even though hundreds of millions of people have used it without any ill effects and even though the supposed danger has no logical connection to keeping it illegal).
  2. Every scientist who is investigating marijuana knows that, in order to get more funding and in order to have the results of the study receive publicity, they must frame the results in the most inflammatory way possible, often overstating and exaggerating the results and giving public conclusions that the data do not support. Since the general public does not have the access, the time, nor the vocabulary to read the studies themselves, the hype becomes the “science.” For those of us who are continually forced to react to already stage-managed publicity, we find ourselves increasingly skeptical of every new scientific pronouncement, and tired of having to go in once again and attempt to straighten it out.

So what did we get this time?

New findings on marijuana’s damaging effect on the brain…

Reuters was a little better in their coverage and actually included some important qualifiers a small number of people, scientists said […] Most users of cannabis still do not have a problem with the drug but a minority, possibly because of genetic factors […] “It seems there are good guys and bad guys within cannabis,” Leweke said.

And of course, the drug czar:

New Yale Study: Marijuana Damages the Brain

Fortunately, Maia Szalavitz is around to put things in perspective at STATS

Breaking News: Marijuana Gets You High!
Totally awesome brain scans freak reporters out. Does sex “damage” the brain too?

While brain scans can contribute a great deal to our understanding of mental illness, addiction and how the brain works ordinarily, their effects on journalists are not so positive. […]

Thanks, Maia. Just the dose of sanity I needed.

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