Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NCPIC at it again, this time in bed with Big Pharma

Anti-pot propagandist Professor Jan Copeland from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) continues her campaign to portray cannabis as a highly addictive drug with these unchallenged comments published in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The story concerns the cannabis-based mouth spray Sativex, developed by GW Pharmaceuticals and licensed to Bayer among others, and its potential to wean pot smokers off their habit. Federally funded NCPIC is conducting a trial of Sativex, a move which is of concern since GW's tactics in getting approval for Sativex in the UK are being questioned by law reform group CLEAR which claims several lies were told in the process.

The SMH story misleads by comparing cannabis 'addiction' with the far more habit-forming drugs nicotine and opioids, even using the term 'cold turkey'.

Anyone who has experienced cold turkey would laugh at the comparison - it's a bit like comparing a train-wreck to a parking ding. Listen to John Lennon's song Cold Turkey or read Keith Richards' gory descriptions in his autobiography to get the picture.

But NCPIC is happily spending our tax dollars on a randomised trial to test the efficacy of Sativex in weaning smokers off pot, inviting participants to spend eight days in hospital during the trial. Hospital? Sheesh, pot smoking MUST be really serious. Lucky we have so many hospital beds to spare.

The story then quotes a woman who has written a book about her attempts to get off this deadly drug. She claims it is so addictive "you get to a point where you would rob your own grandmother to get some.'' Oh dear, shades of Reefer Madness here.

No mention of the vast majority of people who simply stop when they want to, with little or no ill-effect, and who wouldn't dream of robbing their grandma.

I've previously written about an acquaintance who gave up smoking cannabis after 40 years of regular use, with little or no after effects. In a comment to that story, Dr Ray from Kings Cross says about ten percent of heavy users experience withdrawal symptoms.

So while there appears to be some substance in the addiction story being peddled by Professor Copeland and her ilk, the comparison with harder drugs is invalid. So is the implied support for prohibition, which strangely never stopped any of these addictive types getting hold of the drug in the first place.

Melissa Davey who wrote this sad piece of moral-panic raising makes no attempt to get a balancing opinion, thus contravening the most basic principle of quality journalism. Nor does she question any possible commercial implications around benefits to GW Pharmaceuticals following approval of Sativex here.  Her story contributes to the propaganda war being waged to deceive the public into supporting prohibition, in which Jan Copeland is an intrinsic player and which GW is arguably a stakeholder given that the demand for Sativex is underpinned by prohibition. Let's hope the suppliers of Sativex are not supporting NCPIC in any way, because that would compromise this study and could be seen as corrupt. Such a study has the potential to underpin approval of the drug in Australia, opening up a new market for a product dubbed "the most expensive cannabis in the world". This puts it into a different category from other research into illicit drugs.

[Sativex was developed to ease the symptoms of people with Multiple Sclerosis and is under trial for the relief of cancer pain. It is a processed form of medical marijuana approved by medical regulators in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Spain. The makers claim it has no psycho-active effects]

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