Can we have some science reporting with integrity, please?

There’s nothing like marijuana to completely unhinge the integrity of science reporting. Any study that reveals some bit of information that could be interpreted in a way that could lead in a direction of eventually showing harmful effects about marijuana is hyped as if it had been proved conclusively.

One of the things that is most potentially controversial about marijuana is its effect on children and developing brains. Now, those of us in drug policy reform are all for more research, and if it does harm developing brains, we want to know it. But we want real science, real research, real results. Quite frankly, if it’s true, it makes our argument stronger — after all, we’re the ones for regulating. The criminals that work under the prohibition regime don’t check I.D.s.

And yet, a lot of “science” reporting seems just intended to scare people.

Take this article in Science Daily: Cannabis Damages Young Brains More Than Originally Thought, Study Finds

Canadian teenagers are among the largest consumers of cannabis worldwide. The damaging effects of this illicit drug on young brains are worse than originally thought, according to new research by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a psychiatric researcher from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. The new study, published in Neurobiology of Disease, suggests that daily consumption of cannabis in teens can cause depression and anxiety, and have an irreversible long-term effect on the brain.

Hmmm… OK. Sounds serious. I should look into this. I wonder what kind of research was employed…. Wait, let me read the article again. I still wonder what kind of research was employed! There’s all this talk about teenagers and adolescents, but nothing about how they studied them.

So I went to the study. But…. but the researchers didn’t study teenagers. Not one. They studied adolescent rats.

The pathophysiological neural mechanism underlying the depressogenic and anxiogenic effects of chronic adolescent cannabinoid use may be linked to perturbations in monoaminergic neurotransmission. We tested this hypothesis by administering the CB1 receptor agonist WIN55,212-2, once daily for 20 days to adolescent and adult rats, subsequently subjecting them to tests for emotional reactivity paralleled by the in vivo extracellular recordings of serotonergic and noradrenergic neurons. Chronic adolescent exposure but not adult exposure to low (0.2 mg/kg) and high (1.0 mg/kg) doses led to depression-like behaviour in the forced swim and sucrose preference test, while the high dose also induced anxiety-like consequences in the novelty-suppressed feeding test. Electrophysiological recordings revealed both doses to have attenuated serotonergic activity, while the high dose also led to a hyperactivity of noradrenergic neurons only after adolescent exposure. These suggest that long-term exposure to cannabinoids during adolescence induces anxiety-like and depression-like behaviours in adulthood and that this may be instigated by serotonergic hypoactivity and noradrenergic hyperactivity.

Notice that their test results “suggest” certain vague conclusions. Yet in the ScienceDaily article, the study finds that cannabis damages brains. And yes, results in rats can suggest that certain things may be true in humans as well, but it certainly doesn’t prove it.

It would be nice to have integrity in science reporting. It would also be nice to have scientific researchers to have the integrity to refuse to feed these media morons.

[Thanks, Mike]
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31 Responses to Can we have some science reporting with integrity, please?

  1. Ned says:

    It doesn’t matter if cannabis turns brains to jello. Prohibition doesn’t work as a method of control. All this time spent on just how good or bad for you it is, is a waste of time.
    Being a regular user of a car is FAR more dangerous than using cannabis. The people who think this is about determining the degree of harm and then deciding about whether that warrants continuing prohibition are clueless fools. What they REALLY don’t get is that heroin, meth, cocaine, LSD and the rest should all be legal too, but regulated and distributed under various specifically tailored programs at very low cost, with truthful education happening along the way.

  2. C says:

    Yeah because our last three presidents,Multiple CEO’s,All Pro athletes and every rock musician on the planet has been permanently damaged by the evil weed. What a Joke

  3. Steve Finlay says:

    Also, they did NOT give the rats cannabis. They gave them something synthetic called WIN55,212-2. I don’t know what that is, but I don’t think you’ll find it in anything that you’re smoking.

  4. claygooding says:

    After 40 years of searching for a smoking gun on marijuana use,the National Institute of Drug Abuse has never found any mortality or debilitating harmful effects in marijuana use. All their studies end with researchers using phrases like”could be connected with” or “possible links with”.
    The anti-drug cartels are using any study that even hints possible dangers that don’t even exist,as they have for the last 40 years.

  5. Duncan says:

    ‘…long-term exposure to cannabinoids during adolescence induces…’

    That jumped out at me. Is there any such thing as ‘long-term’ adolescence?

  6. KBCraig says:

    Please. They’ve got “anthropogenic global warming” to cover, and integrity can’t be allowed to stand in the way!

  7. @Claygooding: science reporting seems to be somewhat segregated according to the subject. On uncontroversial topics there seems to be a much fairer reporting going on by (somewhat) qualified people. In health and drug issues it is rarely a person with a basic understanding of the scientific method doing the reporting.

    Presumably one don’t have to hold reporting on such topics accountable to the same criteria of truth that is afforded other topics.

    I’ve been bored with the science done on drugs for a long time, because the drug topic seems to be understood much better from a Social Constructivism model.

  8. Carol says:

    Now that folks who have been smoking pot for 40 years or so, and apparently there doesn’t seem to be any really bad long-term effects on them-believe me, if there was any, the doctors would be talking about it-prohibs are looking for any straw.

    The more I read about pot and adolescence, or the “amotivational syndrome” and all of the stereotypes, the more I’m convinced that nobody is trying to sort out the difference between the effects of pot and adolescent angst. To make things even more complex, oftentimes the kids who are most troubled probably smoke more than others for relief, some folks use multiple substances, and there may be kids who have underlying mental problems-all of this can skew the observations and results badly.

    But what about adult use? There doesn’t seem to be much interest in that-I wonder why?

  9. Carol says:

    Even with this, the case that this should be treated with imprisonment and lifetime forfeiture of benefits is not made at all. Even less of a case for keeping it illegal for adults who presumably are fully developed and able to control themselves better.

  10. Nick Zentor says:

    The rats were probly depressed because they felt like going out to play but the cage doors were locked and there was no way out. Hmm… why is it being locked in a small cage is never taken into account as a factor in these studies that use animals locked in small cages?

  11. I’ve been trying to get addicted to pot now for nearly 40 years. Guess I’m just not smoking enough or trying hard enough. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna give up…

  12. Duncan says:

    “why is it being locked in a small cage is never taken into account as a factor in these studies that use animals locked in small cages?”

    Nick, google “rat park”+heroin and you’re looking for a 1974 study on what happens if you give rats both unfettered access to all the heroin their little hearts could want, combined with an ‘free range’ living environment that fulfilled all their wants and needs.

  13. ray says:

    I’m with you brother

  14. Jon Doe says:

    Thanks for the tip Duncan. I just got done with a little research into the “Rat Park” studies and I’m highly amused with what I’m reading. Funny how after showing dependence on drugs has more to do with environment than the substances themselves (at least for rats) that’s when the funding for the research got cut off.

  15. Servetus says:

    There are enough teen pot smokers in Canada so that adolescents could have been used in the study instead of rats. Depression can be imaged using MRIs and PET scans instead of relying upon blood tests.

    Test subjects would require pre-screening for depression and other health problems, since depression can begin in childhood. After correcting for preexisting conditions, a positive correlation between cannabis and adolescent depression might have some real significance.

    Other problems remain with the conclusions of the rat research in which a chemical is used to bind the CB1 receptor. For one, we don’t have adolescents coming forward who claim that cannabis depresses them. As for adults, one of the most common uses of medical cannabis is to combat the symptoms of depression, which include among other strange things a loss of self esteem, an increased susceptibility to cold viruses, and aches and pains in old age.

    The research that reveals the depression-antagonist properties of cannabis was first published in the mid-19th century. I’ve seen nothing between then or now to dispute the initial conclusions of that research.

  16. kaptinemo says:

    @ Jon Doe:

    It’s even ‘funnier’ when a potential cure for cancer is found to be an illegal substance the government has falsely vilified for decades. And it becomes humorous beyond belief when they repeat the same study almost twenty years later, reach the same conclusions, and bury the results again.

    And when the same results are discovered again, this time in a foreign country? Absolutely side-splitting.

    Amazing that DrugWarriors can be such comedians, laughing in the face of (other people’s) death(s).

    Perhaps there is a special Ring in Dante’s Hell for such people…

  17. Steve Clay says:

    Bad Science, a great blog on poor scientific reporting.

  18. Hope says:

    John Doe said, “…that’s when the funding for the research got cut off.”

    Looks like they didn’t really want to know… they just wanted some sort of proof of what they believed and if the proof showed what they believed was wrong… well then to hell with proof!

  19. radio silence says:

    Scientists fudging the data so it shows the result they want. I have never heard of such of a thing. Experts know best even if they can’t read a teleprompter. Science and Gaia are the new religion lets us prey.

  20. DdC says:

    Dumbass Dr. Thinks WEED has Many Benifits! U2b

    Latest policy of ONDCP…

    If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

    Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

    And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

    And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
    ~ Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    Latest Drug War Lie: Debating Medical Marijuana Causes More Kids to Smoke Pot
    Dec 16 2009
    DRCNet: New data on youth drug use was released today and, as we’ve come to expect, the drug warriors would rather lie about it than learn from it.

    Another Crazy Medical Marijuana Lie From the Drug Czar
    Dec 17 2009
    Drug Czar caught “literally editing out the most important part of the American Medical Association’s new position on medical marijuana.”

    childrens book – “just a plant”

    Pediatrics: W.A.M.M. has been documenting the use of medical marijuana for young people with multiple behavior disorders. A report on this subject will come out shortly. For now, please read the articles below regarding one of WAMM’s patients.

    Jeffrey’s Journey

    “Users in our matched-pair sample smoked marijuana in addition to as many tobacco cigarettes as did their matched non-using pairs. Yet their small airways were, if anything, a bit healthier than their matches. We must tentatively conclude either that marijuana has no harmful effect on such passages or that it actually offers some slight protection against harmful effects of tobacco smoke”
    Cannabis in Costa Rica:
    A Study of Chronic Marijuana Use; Institute of Human Issues.

  21. DdC says:

    Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica:
    An Ethnographic Study

    Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg Rap About Pot Brownies
    Dec 18 2009
    Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart bake brownies and discuss adding the the magic ingredient!

    Rethinking Marijuana in the Movies
    The MPAA is fooling itself more than protecting children by giving an R rating to ‘It’s Complicated’ for a scene depicting marijuana use.

    Politics of Pot

    Older Americans Overwhelmingly Support Legalizing Medical Pot

  22. jhelion says:

    I don’t expect much from sciencedaily – they periodically run anti-cannabis stories, like the ones from australia not too long ago.
    Kaptin – here are some more links about cannabis and cancer – though not as clinical as yours:
    If Pot Prevented Cancer You Would Have Read About It, Right?
    Reuters: Pot Kills Cancer But Don’t Even Think About Using It!
    Run From The Cure: How Cannabis Cures Cancer And Why No One Knows
    Marijuana May Help Cure Cancer, Study Suggests
    New Study Explains How Pot Kills Cancer Cells
    Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents
    Cannabis chemicals may help fight prostate cancer
    Cancer and Medical Marijuana

  23. DdC says:

    “The greatest service that can be rendered to any country
    is to add a useful plant to its culture.”
    ~ Thomas Jefferson

    “Our problems stem from our acceptance
    of this filthy, rotten system.”
    ~ Dorothy Day

    “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts
    when you have forgotten your aim.”
    ~ George Santayana, “The Life of Reason”

    “The passing of an unjust law
    is the suicide of authority.”
    ~ Pastoral Letter of the American Roman Catholic Hierarchy, February 1920

    “Of all tyrannies,
    a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims
    may be the most oppressive.”
    — C.S. Lewis,
    in “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,”
    ~ an essay from “God In The Dock”

    “In my era everybody smoked and everybody drank
    and there was no drug use.”
    ~ DEA Chief Thomas Constantine, July 1, 1998

    “Abusus non tollit usum.”
    [Abuse is no argument against proper use.]
    ~ Latin proverb

    “Corruptisima republica plurimae leges.”
    [The more corrupt a republic, the more laws.]
    ~ Tacitus, Annals III 27

    “Republic . . .
    it means people can live free,
    talk free, go or come, buy or sell,
    be drunk or sober, however they choose.”
    ~ John Wayne

  24. DdC says:

    Me too Daniel,
    I tried to overdose on pot,
    ran out of money…
    But I’ll keep on truckin’

  25. Why we fight says:

    I love this…they do ‘studies'(if you call it that) like this to suggest cannabis is a terrible thing to put in our bodies. Then we have alcohol,tobacco,pharma drugs that are proven to be bad. Then these days we hear the floride they put in our water is causing all kinds of problems, mercury in N1H1shots and high frutose corn syrup , aspertain gum isnt bad, yet past studies show mercury can cause many health problems (low I.Q. for one), but it just keeps showing up in the drugs they make, the foods we eat. Why?

    With everything they Force upon us that is bad, why would they worry about cannabis? Could it be there are certain properties in cannabis that could keep us healthy , help us think Outside the Box ? No that couldnt be it …could it?

    If they really want us to not use cannabis, maybe they should try some reverse psychology. We want it cause they dont want us to have it . Maybe they should endorse it, then people would think “Oh no, they want us to have this, whats wrong with it?”

    Well cannabis is bad for you huh? With all this other crap KILLING us ,do they think I really care?

    At least if cannabis was killing me (and I highly doubt it), At least I can enjoy dying slowly.

  26. Why we fight says:

    “In my era everybody smoked and everybody drank
    and there was no drug use.”
    ~ DEA Chief Thomas Constantine, July 1, 1998

    LOL gotta love that quote! No drug use huh? Wow!

    Guess its all point of veiw and which side of the fence your on.

  27. “It would also be nice to have scientific researchers to have the integrity to refuse to feed these media morons.”

    The most salient point in the post. It’s not just the climate guys playing fast and loose.

    And speaking of media morons, how many of them, especially the faces we see on a regular basis, reporting this shit have smoked pot in the past, or continue still? They love playing the “gotcha” game, so we should give them a taste of their own medicine.

    Watching Keith Olbermann squirm rendering a countdown his drug exploits would not only be fun but great TV.

  28. Why we fight says:

    December 18th, 2009 at 12:13 pm
    There are enough teen pot smokers in Canada so that adolescents could have been used in the study instead of rats. Depression can be imaged using MRIs and PET scans instead of relying upon blood tests.}

    Ya but the thing is,studies are showing MRI’s can cause cancer but, you know prohibs would show that as proof that cannabis was the culprit.

  29. Servetus says:

    @Why We Fight

    Drug research worse than the alleged drug affliction? Sounds like a summary description of the drug war itself.

  30. Tim says:

    The timing of this release — it was published two weeks ago, but it only hit the newspapers today — was co-ordinated by the unpopular Conservative goverment who is trying to push mandatory minimum laws through Parliament. A few days ago they launched a ‘new’ anti-drug campaign. The government thinks that if they saturate the media over the holiday break they will get renewed support for the grossly unpopular and ineffective Bill C-15. However, judgding by the comment threads on these stories, only the most obtuse people seem to be buying into this propaganda.

  31. DdC says:

    Hi Wendy
    Foul mouths come from birds.
    Unless its overly repetitive or bad grammar, its legit.
    Ad hominem doesn’t serve any purpose, but it feels good.
    Those who fear words have a bigger problem.
    Tact is nice, but rarely precise.
    Be well,

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