Researchers and journalists still challenged by the concept of causation

New analysis of smoking and schizophrenia suggests causal link

Sigh. Sound familiar? This time it’s about tobacco smoke, not marijuana, but the problem is still the same.

In research that turns on its head previous thinking about links between schizophrenia and smoking, scientists say they have found that cigarettes may be a causal factor in the development of psychosis.

After analysing almost 15,000 tobacco users and 273,000 non users and their relative rates of psychosis – where patients can experience delusions, paranoia and hear voices in their heads – the researchers said cigarette smoking appears to increase risk.

It’s the same bad reporting of research that happened with marijuana — and they even mention that they used to use the same argument with marijuana!

Previous studies, some by Murray, have also linked cannabis use to psychosis. But there is much debate about whether this is causal or whether there may be shared genes which predispose people to both cannabis use and schizophrenia.

McCabe said the new results on smoking suggest “it might even be possible that the real villain is tobacco, not cannabis” — since cannabis users often combine the drug with tobacco.

Once again, they’re using a research method that can only show correlation, not causation.

For this study, McCabe’s team analysed rates of smoking in people presenting with their first episode of psychosis and found that 57 per cent of these individuals were smokers.

People with a first episode of psychosis were three times more likely to be smokers than those in the control groups.

The problem is that we don’t know enough about psychosis to know whether there are internal proclivities that exist and can influence behavior before the first “episode” fully manifests.

Here’s how you would determine causation of psychosis:

  • Take a large control group of non-smokers.
  • Make a random half of them start smoking.
  • Follow both groups, and if the smoking group has a significantly higher incidence of psychosis, then you have a fairly good indication of causation.

Of course, such research isn’t possible.

The research that is being done is great, but it doesn’t indicate causality. However, if you want to get published in the press, you need to claim (or at least, imply) causality.

[Thanks, Daniel]
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27 Responses to Researchers and journalists still challenged by the concept of causation

  1. DdC says:

    Drugwar Lies Linked to Schizophrenia
    Using Pot To Save Brains!
    Conservatives Have Larger ‘Fear Centers’ in Their Brains

  2. DC Reade says:

    Data. If only people knew what to do with it.

  3. A psychosis expert who co-led the research at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry.

    Makes me wonder how much kinship there might be between them and the American Psychological Association?

    Both sound like they have an amateur view of science. I might question their ties to government right here. If they can’t discern the difference between politics and science it would explain a lot. I smell manipulation. And money and influence. They can’t be that dumb about science, can they?

    • DdC says:

      King’s College…
      Known for the discovery in saving eyesight by warning readers, to thus require less reading once it is discovered to be from King’s College. If their first schizophrenic hobgoblins were true, today schizophrenics would out number the population at large. Not just Congress. Come to think of it… King’s College examined the hundreds of millions of daily marijuana toking schizophrenics around the world and found that the only time they showed symptoms were during King’s College research studies. Or before elections or budget cuts. Those using cannabis while under the influence of schizophrenia found they enjoyed the experience or they would probably not do it. Leading to those not enjoying the ride deciding to abstain. People might be better off to distinguish between Mental Psychosis and plain ole cowardly stupid. Those debilitated by the Psychosis of Prohibitionism began cowardly stupid. Some discovered the truth and have abstained from gossip to lead average dull lives. Others finding the gossip too addictive have progressed into a Mental Psychosis of Schizophrenia. Not unlike overly devout Monks. Actually believing the Mythology to the point of trying to live it. Moving into the Castles in the Clouds. Drug Worriers telling the bias ugly gutter science enough they sound like gibberish when confronted with actual day to day reality. So they recede into the darkness of their living lies. Mean, paranoid profiteers on misery they create.

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      The New Zealand scientists said their study suggested this was probably due… suggested doubles, probably. Maybe halves? Who really cares, they got the grant and the quirky prohibritionists get the headlines to ward off legitimacy. Rehabitionists.

      Marijuana-Like Drugs Could Treat Schizophrenia

  4. claygooding says:

    Scientists and researchers have sold their signatures on too many false flags for anyone with a lick of common sense to accept everything they claim is science,,,the science of the dollar maybe.

    Then when real science is presented the politicians ignore it,,,unless it agrees with their financial backers,,science for the money.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      clay, it’s an immutable law of economics that when there is a demand for something that supply will rise to meet demand. There are lots of dollars available for preferred research results. It isn’t limited to cannabis “science” either. It’s just that this particular issue has an unusually high demand for negative results.

      You know, you’ve got that fatherly scientist looking guy image down pat. Let’s go out and get you fitted for a lab coat and have some fun at the prohibitionists expense, shall we?

  5. Frank W. says:

    That’s a loose definition of “press” there. It would include all the slurry of my Yahoo page, including:
    ‘Ghostbusters’ official cast photo in costume is full of attitude

  6. DdC says:

    So predictable. Oh the reality of it all… Drive cost up, people switch to generic, with more chemicals actually doing the harm organic tobacco for 500 years hasn’t done. Another inoculated with the highly addictive Prohibitionism. Of coarse in the name of safety. Higher tax is the only incentive. More sick people from more chemical additions is good for Fat Pharma profits. More evictions from corporate housing. Same old shit. Instead of making it safer for everyone, they continually choose to punish.

    The Butt Probies are as hysterical as the Reefer Phobies and MADD Booze Hounders…

    Predominantly Non users of cannabis.

    87% of Auto Accident Fatalities Cause by Sober Drivers
    MADD FIRED the founder of MADD in the 1980s! The agency since then has pursued a policy of “prohibition.”

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    Hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2%-5% of the population and often leads to substantial distress and disability.

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    Household products that contain alcohol can be categorized into medicinal, cosmetic, personal hygiene or cleaning products. Medicinal products include items such as over-the-counter cold medications and non-prescription items.

    Snake Salvation Pastor Dies from Rattlesnake Bite during Worship Service
    Snake handling, also called serpent handling, is a religious ritual in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., usually characterized as rural and part of the Holiness movement. The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia, and plays only a small part in the church service. Practitioners believe serpent handling dates to antiquity and quote the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke to support the practice

    Feel Safer Now?

    Consuming cannabis or tobacco is less risk, injury and liability than…
    NASCAR, NFL, Snowboarding, Skateboarding, Surfing, Skydiving, Kickboxing or being Homeless. All with causal connections to the injury. But they’re legal.

  7. Servetus says:

    Excess dopamine is the best biological explanation we have for psychotic illnesses,” he told the briefing. “It’s possible that nicotine exposure, by increasing the release of dopamine, causes psychosis to develop.” — McCabe

    McCabe is painting excess dopamine as the villain, with tobacco, cannabinoids, and other drugs merely acting as specific instigators of excess dopamine. Here’s what says about dopamine:

    Dopamine is a brain chemical involved in many different functions including movement, motivation, reward — and addiction. Nearly all drugs of abuse directly or indirectly increase dopamine in the pleasure and motivation pathways and in so doing, alter the normal communication between neurons.

    So does this mean if someone’s life is too pleasurable, they’ll get schizophrenia? That would be a nasty trick for Mother Nature to play on humans. Humans are the only beings who suffer from this disease and must remain unhappy in case they get too happy and lose their marbles? Wow.

    Addictionologists and psychiatrists appear to be addicted to dopamine as the cause-all gateway to psychosis. Nora Volkow falls into this group because she was the first researcher to use MRI imaging to image schizophrenia and drug use in the brain, making the link to dopamine for each. She said she got the idea for the research by reading an article about brain MRIs in Scientific American. What we are likely witnessing is a developing school of thought regarding dopamine in the psychiatric and scientific community, which will probably be countered by different schools of thought as new information is revealed.

    A marketing problem emerges if dopamine is deemed the sole culprit. According to some people, you could have low dopamine levels, and they can remedy that. How will the NIDA and FDA account for the non-prohibition and marketing success of dopamine-increasing health supplements such as these? According to the supplement company, “…food sources of dopamine increasing tyrosine include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.”

    • DdC says:

      I do believe Parkinson Disease is an inability to produce Dopamine… hmmm. But once again they bait and switch. If the theory that the endoCannabinoid system (ecs)balances the other systems. Then it would regulate or bring back within parameters designated by the DNA of the cells. So less down could be perceived as up, and if up is bad try to connect it. Find the end and fabricate the means that sounds good enough to be believed by the Pell Granters.

      Or, if the immune is over producing lubricant and the ecs slows it down a prohibitionist could claim it deters the immune. Even though it is doing its job. If Parkinson slows or stops production of Dopamine and the esc rewrites the script by remote transmissions to receptors bypassing the hardwire and powers the down cells to start producing Dopamine, a prohibitionist will claim Psychosis.

      Unless we rid the Sciences of these profiteering charlatans. How can we expect a healthy culture? If profits and greed continue to eliminate realistic solutions. Who can we blame but ourselves? Way past time to demand an investigation and halt to this junk political science serving the bottom line and not the lower incomes. If prohibitionists and total abstainers have larger fear centers it is logical to hypothesize more than a conspiracy theory. The age old process of herding the masses into giving up liberty for pseudo safety. Work longer and cheaper, do it for the Gipper.

      A planned execution of an agenda to eliminate competition is what we have as long as the Ganjawar exists with cannabis as a controlled substance. No theory, just the fact’s ma’am. Lumping in GanjaRx and Hemp is clearly sabotaging the market. Investing in the market you legislate protection for is nothing short of corporatism, fascism, corporate socialism, Neocounterfeits. I don’t know, but if you examine cannabis prohibition it sure as hell looks like it can happen here.

      “Professionals” can be more of a problem, than solution.
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  8. B. Snow says:

    Of course to be meaningful it would also require a large number of the groups to be teenagers…

    Gotta “think about the chitlins” – that’s what they always wail on about, ‘early smokers’ and the damned Dunedin Longitudinal Study = 1037 people from a largely college town (aka ‘tertiary education’) in southern New Zealand, that measured them from the age of 8 thru 38 starting in the 70’s.

    I have to wonder how 8 year olds – to young teens were getting stoned in significant numbers.

    IIRC it was *self-reporting* and the quantities described as “heavy users” that sounded like complete BS, = Almost like they were bragging about their usage to the researchers trying to be seen as “cool”… in their eyes.

    I suspect they might not have adjusted to account for that confounding variable – kids eager to grow up fast, Lying to impress the still fairly young researchers, they probably should have also asked them how often they were “getting laid” – that might’ve been a more revealing signal that some percentage of them are consistently *full of it*…

  9. darkcycle says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty awful science reporting. But he has something there. Smoking has always been highly correlated with mental illness. You know what is even more highly correlated with psychosis? More than cannabis or tobacco? Coffee. Yup, virtually all slurp huge quantities of the bean, day and night. Nowhere will you find a more dedicated group of hard smoking, coffee drinking people than in your local nut hatch.
    It has more to do with self medication than anything else.

    • B. Snow says:

      Actually cigs were banned in the TX state nuthouse in Wichita Falls, they became “contraband” in there about 15 or so yrs ago.
      Of course they couldn’t enforce that very well, I knew people who worked there, & one person who ‘went for stay’ there a time or two.

      When I went to visit her, There was always somebody in there selling $1 Cigs & people *getting their “stay” extended* – after getting caught with them… typically while or just after smoking them, It was insane!

      It was like the admins thought of themselves as some HS Principle with unquestioned power to withhold their release = as if it were a HS diploma that they (could legally?) or just would hold until a Senior came to summer-school, for some form of “summer detention”, or “in school suspension” = in the first week of the next year (for non-graduating students… IF the student un-wisely stays in the same school district of course.)

      Like the jack-hole teacher in The Breakfast Club, people who do *run the place* – But, who legally have nowhere near the authority they pretend to… A (sadly common) misappropriation of power, and they’re almost never called on it.

      Pols keep touting “drug treatment” and/or “mental health” facilities as an alternative to prison/jail/etc. What they never acknowledge is those places are often worse = because it’s NOT “jail” and they have no almost no oversight… AKA ‘nobody minding the minders’ those places turn into nasty little fiefdoms PDQ.

      Question them & heck, They just might let out so-and-so, or not let out whosit -that’s family to the only people who can put the real admins in check.

      First it was because they were cheap-asses, denying crazy people a cig, they made them handroll POS loose tobacco & papers for a while then that started to *look bad* = “Who knows what is in there?”

      And when it became politically correct that refused them even those – on account of the health care costs.
      That spread to their food & beverages = shitty meals (low salt/sugar/taste), Then more tightly limited vending machines – sugar & caffeine free crap, they probably pulled them all by now… And visitors probably can’t bring you food/sodas from outside either.

      Last time I had a friend there – they’d let you bring them some stuff in – but inmates patients without anyone to bring edible stuff, or even cash for the vending machines whined about the unfair conditions. (And of course, the place had at least a handful of cleptos 24-7-365!)

      Those “Public Health Facilities” were damn near jails, with two notable exceptions = better/longer visiting hours AND it was *a bit less rapey* = and FWIW yes, That’s the half-full glass view… *sigh*

      Sorry a dozen+ years later, and its still a sore spot with me = Especially when people tout it as a better alternative to prison. Don’t let them fool you or someone you care about into a “self-admission” that’s signing away damn near all their & your rights!

      They likely try to spin it as if one can leave on their own terms, but there’s no such thing. (Unless they’ve changed it drastically fairly recently – maybe due to a budget constraint? don’t bet on it.)
      They keep them/you/whoever -basically- until they need the bed for someone else.
      Or posssibly, maybe – if you can find some way to rattle the chain high enough up to make it no longer worth the effort.

  10. Scientists isolate unwanted marijuana side effects – Medical News Today

    Can you guys help me out here? I didn’t know there were any unwanted side effects.

    • DdC says:

      The only “unwanted” side effects of smoking cannabis, is prohibition and its various debilitating conditions.

      “Wanted” side effects?

      Cannabis is known to cause smiling and could exacerbate laughter, especially during funny situations. It has led some to “pigging out,” a serious condition usually developing before Jack in the Box closes. It has been known to prohibit and even curtail seizures. Physicians have reported it masked pain, almost completely eliminating it. Making it difficult to rate with a smiley face sticker. Fat Pharma has reported loses in areas where cannabis is easily obtainable. A sign of a drastic need for less research. Potentially letting the proverbial “cat out of the bag”. If such places are left to their own devices one could potentially see a rise in curiosity and possible experiencing. Giving confidence to someday inform the general public. Even Hemp has been revived from its tomb. Oh the humanity if we can only conquer DEAth.

  11. jean valjean says:

    Bong-a-thon event moves to town of….. STONER, CO. You couldn’t make it up.

  12. claygooding says:

    Texas House Panel Approves Full Legalization Of Marijuana In ‘Unprecedented’ Move

    Austin, Texas (CBS HOUSTON) — A proposal which would make Texas the fifth state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use was approved in a bipartisan House panel vote – with the bill’s author citing his Christian values as cause for his support.

    Being hailed as a historic victory and a surprise to Lone Star state lawmakers, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. The panel’s three Democrats were joined by two Republicans to give House Bill 2165 a “decisive 5-2 victory.” “snip”

    Jaw dropped,,I thought all that was dead in the water but it has risen once more from the ashes..makes one wonder why a Judicial Committee would bother passing it when the Governor has already stated that “not on his watch” was his opinion on marijuana legalization,,,prolly trying to save themselves and convince voters they are attempting to do the right thing,,there are some angry Texans in their faces everywhere they go now and that must be getting old.

    Or the $70 million taxes in WA finally grew that B-B into a boulder.

    • Will says:

      Clay, the article you linked to is dated May 7th. And you’re right, Abbott vowed to veto any legalization bill as long as he’s governor. Even if magically revived, House Bill 2165 would have never made it past his desk.

      • claygooding says:

        Missed the date when I posted it,,opps but it still points out that some politicos are getting it,,,not supporting marijuana reform could cost them their jobs,,and I hope the potheads across America are mad enough to vote some of them like Grassley out of office.

  13. Francis says:

    The percentage of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years. The current smoking rate (about 18%) is less than half what it was in the 1960s (about 42%). Has the incidence of schizophrenia seen a similarly dramatic decline over that time period? No? Well then, I’d say the theory that smoking plays a significant causal role in the development of schizophrenia is looking pretty shaky.

    • Will says:

      You would think the researchers would have at least looked at the declining rate of smoking and compared it to the historical constant percentage of the population that develops schizophrenia before reporting their findings. Laziness trumped scientific rigor for these researchers. This kind of sloppiness is all too typical and has been for a while now.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Don’t be silly Will. Pay for results “scientists” just don’t have the luxury of considering all of the facts and data. Tunnel vision is practically a prerequisite in that particular profession. The more evidence which they peruse, the more chance that their skulduggery is exposed.

        It’s really not as easy as it looks. Throw in one citation too many, someone backtracks your data and debunks your work before you get paid. Now what kind of a business man would risk his payday like that? A soon to be an out of business man is what kind.

        Seriously, take a look at stuff written by the professional confidence artists selling the scam of prohibition. Now, how many citations are presented in support of their claims? You don’t need to put much effort into finding working examples. Just visit the ONDCP home page at

        Do you know why the prohibitionists are constantly quoting “recent” studies “proving” the harm of cannabis consumption? That’s because studies with their preferred results have a very short shelf life before being debunked.

        In the end the problem with your analysis is that we’re looking at people who not only don’t care about the truth, we’re looking at people whose arguments would be blown out of the water by the truth. There’s a perfectly valid reason why the truth is very rarely a welcome visitor in the homes of the prohibitionist cohort.

  14. cy klebs says:

    In the May issue of the New Yorker in an article claims a spike in traffic accidents in Colorado. This article link from WAPO is a different story Should they’re be a demand for more rigorous fact checking by the NYorker?!

  15. sudon't says:

    It should be clear by now – people, especially “journalists”, will believe anything about tobacco, no matter how outrageous. This one is nothing compared with the whoppers they’ve come up with in the past.
    So many ridiculous pronouncements and “studies” have come from the anti-smoker crowd over the last twenty years that I barely pay attention anymore. It no longer surprises me that people swallow this stuff.

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