Sat, Jul

Reefer Madness is Back

420 FILE

420 FILE--Call it Reefer Madness 2.0. The notion that marijuana makes you crazy is back – and with a vengeance.

If you’ve checked in with the mainstream media at all over the past 24 hours, there’s a good chance you have heard about a new study published in the British journal The Lancet purporting that up to half of all new cases of psychosis are due to cannabis.

Does this claim sound outrageous to you? That’s because it is.

As NORML details in our comprehensive response here, this study falls far short of establishing any sort of direct link between cannabis exposure and psychosis. In fact, despite the sensational headlines, this paper reports nothing particularly newsworthy at all.

It is well established that those with psychiatric illness typically use allintoxicants at greater rates than do the general public, so the fact that those admitted to institutions for first-episode psychosis are more likely to consume cannabis than are those in the general population is hardly surprising. But it is not evidence that marijuana in any way causes the condition. Rather, this association may exist because many psychiatric patients are self-medicating with cannabis. Or, this relationship may persist because many people predisposed to psychosis are similarly predisposed to also using cannabis — a theory that is supported by many experts in the field.

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that cannabis has been used by various populations for decades at disparate rates, yet rates of psychosis and other psychiatric disorders have generally remained static over this same period of time, strongly argues against a direct causal relationship.

As you might imagine, we have much more to say about the issue. That is why I just published a new essay critiquing The Lancet study, and highlighting a number of new, yet under-reported studies assessing cannabis use and the brain. You can read the essay, entitled ‘Latest Science Debunks Claim That Marijuana Significantly Harms Brain,’ here.

You can also check out NORML’s public criticism of the paper in a number of high profile media outlets, such as Web MDRolling StoneUS News and World ReportYahoo Newsand Healthday, for further perspective.

Reefer madness is nothing new. But for decades these sort of exaggerations and half-truths would persist because there was no voice pushing back against it.

Keep up the fight, 

(Paul Armentano is Deputy Director at NORML.)