|Which came first, the lunatics or the grass?|
The time-honored notion of reefer madness, given new life recently in the British tabloid press, has taken another hit from reality. Widespread Marijuana use by the public has not been followed by a proportional rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia or psychosis, according to the findings of a forthcoming study
to be published in the scientific journal Schizophrenia Research
It stands to reason, after all: If Marijuana really led to psychosis, wouldn't the streets be choked with burned-out, gibbering potheads?
Film director John Holowach, responsible for the documentary High: The True Tale of American Marijuana
, wasn't surprised. "I've said it for years now," Holowach told SF Weekly
. "If pot and mental illness were linked, the two should rise and fall with one another, but they don't."
Amidst a spate of breathless tabloid hysteria hyping the supposed
dire threat from "Skunk," a potent pot strain, British lawmakers last
year stiffened cannabis laws in the U.K. A team of researchers had
fanned the flames in the July 28, 2007 issue of prestigious scientific
journal The Lancet, proclaiming that smoking Marijuana could boost one's risk of a "psychotic episode" by 40 percent or more.
one fell swoop Marijuana possession was reclassified from a verbal
warning to a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, and
others cited the supposed 'pot-schizophrenia link' as a major reason
for the giant step backward.
For the new
study, British investigators at Keele University Medical School
compared trends in cannabis use and instances of schizophrenia in the
United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. The research showed that even as
Marijuana use soared among the general population, "incidence and
prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or
declining" during this period.
concluded that an expected rise in diagnoses of schizophrenia and
psychoses did not occur over the decade under study. "This study does
not therefore support the ... link between cannabis use and incidence
of psychotic disorders," the study concludes, adding "This concurs with
other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have
not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence."
The results of another clinical trial
published earlier this month indicate that the recreational use of
Marijuana does not affect brain chemistry in a way that is consistent
with the development of schizophrenia.
we expect an apology -- or even better, a change in policy -- from the
Gordon Brown regime any time soon? Or at the very least, will some sort
of 'correction' be forthcoming from the mainstream news media?" asked Paul Armentano
, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "I wouldn't hold my breath."