Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Reefer Madness industry in full swing

It seems the new National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) is wasting no time demonstrating its political aim of demonising cannabis.

An article in today's Sydney Morning Herald betrays the usual symptoms of selective data being used to support a predetermined view.

On the one hand we are supposed to be horrified at the spectacle of violent dope smokers presenting at hospitals. But as usual there is no causal link between the two. These people apparently presented "after smoking marihuana" but not necessarily BECAUSE of marihuana. What other factors may have contributed to the situation of those included in the data is not revealed. Only one in four showed violence, and the data no doubt does not include the legions who present at hospitals for some other reason without admitting cannabis use because it is illegal.

The article even quotes St Vincents' media darling Dr Gordian Fulde bringing up the discredited furphy that today's marihuana is ten times more potent than yesterday's weed but then curiously contradicts the thrust of the story by saying that smokers rarely need sedation. Ten times more potent? Where's your data, Dr Fulde? (And how much was edited out of what you actually said?)

On the other hand, we see doctors from the emergency department in the same hospital writing to newspapers pointing out they have never had to deal with a cannabis-related emergency. Strange contradictions here.

Well-paid NCPIC Director Jan Copeland has apparently learned nothing from the factually supported flaming she received on an ABC blog (note particularly the posts by "Rumpus"). It is clear NCPIC is nothing but a political propaganda tool and deserves no credibility whatsoever.

And, of course, the fact that all this supposed trauma is happening under prohibition is not mentioned.

And why the Herald uncritically publishes this rubbish is beyond me. It is no more credible that the original Reefer Madness and is produced for exactly the same reasons.

PS (31 July): NCPIC is at it again in The SMH, typifying young dope smokers as 'a hard core of addicts'. 

The press release gushes: "Teenage girls are now just as likely to smoke dope as boys, according to statistics showing rates are at an all-time low but a "hard core" of addicts still remains." 

Never mind that cannabis is about as addictive as golf or stamp collecting. To use the same term for cannabis addiction as used for heroin, ice or cocaine addiction is one of the most wildly dishonest and inaccurate statements it is possible to make. It's like equating a poke in the guts to a beating murder. NCPIC and The SMH are covered in shame.

The press release goes on to twist language in one of the most brazen pieces of propaganda I have ever seen.  Those who still smoke are "committed cannabis users who have other problems in their lives." Then Ms Copeland gets sinister with what I can only see as a call for tougher prohibition: "It's going to take more than an ad campaign on television to deter them."

Older smokers had "failed to give up" and needed "more help".

It's clever spin – assuming something is necessarily a problem when that idea itself is seriously questioned. And not a word about how all these committed teenage smokers can so easily get their hands on the stuff under prohibition, plain evidence that prohibition itself is the failure.

The Herald story finishes with a repeat of yesterday's claims about cannabis-related violence in Sydney hospitals. And Gordian Fulde has been all over the radio repeating that other furphy about the terribly potent new strains of Hydro. But as one email correspondent put it today:

"What's the violence level around Dutch coffee shops, where every strain of hydro is available?"



Anonymous said...

You have a good argument . So why not a letter to the editor?

Anonymous said...

And all this research on the harmful effects of dope.

The Editor said...

Rob emails re NCPIC:

"I coined a new expression of their acronym this morning... "National Cannabis Propaganda and Infotainment Centre."

Evermore, let it be known thus!

Terry Wright said...

The headline should be:
More Trash Media about Junk Science.

There was no mention about whether these 1 in 4 "violent dope smokers" were pissed or how much they smoked or how long it was since they had it. This is desperate stuff.

Just as we start to expose the myth of the so called Ice epidemic and the supposed army of violent ice addicts smashing up hospitals, we now have violent grass smokers ... what a f*cking joke.

You're right Michael. How did an article like this get published from a "Medical Reporter" in a national newspaper?. Kate Benson is no more a medical reporter than Miranda Devine is a journalist. Maybe they are the same person?

National Cannabis Propaganda and Infotainment Centre ... sums it up perfectly.

Firesnake said...

It amazes me how these comments get aired, when so little about hydroponics is mentioned. Even if they had 'proof' on potency, to use an alcohol analogy, it's like saying the person who drank 5 cans of beer, now drinks five cans of spirits, because of the number 5.

Some studies have shown an imbalance b/w THC and CBD in hydro, favouring THC. It's thought in one model, this ratio imbalance may prove to be more the issue - if there is one - than changes in cannabinoids per volume of plant matter.

CBD has anti-psychotic effects, anti carcinogenic effects and delays clearance of THC. THC is also an analogue for anandamide - an endogenous cannabinoid with effects on both CB1 [brain] & CB2 [immune] receptors. It is apparently lacking in some patients, whether smokers or not, who present with psychosis, and this has been posed as a possible causal relationship.

So, cannabis is a possible alleviator of psychotic symptoms, because of THC and CBD if this model is accurate. One could argue that less of the anti-psychotic like CBD thus faster clearance of the symptom relieving, anandamide imitator, THC [as found in hydro'], is what's really "causing" episodes.

Then again, one could argue it's more complex as we know dopamine is influenced by THC and that neurodynamics can run "both ways", due to transmitters, enzymes etc. On the other hand, the dual aspects of decreased CBD may be said to be an entirely new dynamic favouring either view.

The reality is we don't know and it would be a charming little surprise if such gun scientists could remember what science actually is, rather than what they can achieve under it's name.

Michael is correct in pointing to political aims.

Interesting piece below:

"The Validity of Published Research Findings".

Anonymous said...

Ah yes but Miranda Devine is a journalist. And a good one.

The Editor said...

Devine is less a journalist than an opinion writer. Is she 'good'? Yes, she writes really well. That does not mean what she says is logical, correct or supported by evidence. She is the Herald's 'Devil's Advocate' in much the same way a crim is entitled to a defense lawyer no matter how guilty he/she is.

Anonymous said...

This SMH article about violent cannbais smokers is a wonderful example of misrepresentation of statistics.

The SMH article says <<< She said the study, which covered two hospitals from 2004 to 2006, revealed that more than 9 per cent of cannabis users had depression or bipolar disorder, 5 per cent had schizophrenia and 4 per cent had paranoia and a history of self-harm. >>> when of course the study shows that 9%, 5%, and 4% of cannabis users who attend Emergency Departments in relation to their cannabis use show these symptoms.

It goes on to assert <<< More than a third of people who present at Sydney emergency departments after smoking cannabis are violent >>> when of course the study shows that violence was responsible for 34.3% of those cases in which injury was recorded. As injury was recorded in less than 20% of cases, (n = 134), this actually represents only 45 of the total 702 cannabis-related presentations, (see more below).

Of course 6.4% doesn’t sound as exciting as “More than a third…”

According to the study;

The total of 702 cannabis-related presentations = 0.3% of all Emergency Department admissions at both hospitals during the study period. This may represent an increase in cannabis-related presentations, although from the data available here we can’t tell.

45% of cannabis-related presentations displayed symptoms of mental illness. 34.8% of presentations were for mental health crises.

Injury was present in 19.1 percent of presentations, (which the interpretation rounds up to “nearly ¼”, rather than the more accurate “nearly 1 in five”). As an aside, I would be surprised if “injury” is not present in an even higher percentage of emergency department admissions that are not cannabis-related.

Of those injuries, “nearly 2/3rds” were classified as “non-violent”.

To put it another way, 34.3% of 19.1% of n (702) = a total of ~45 cases at both hospitals during the period 2004 to 2006 of violence-related admissions in which cannabis was in some way involved.

By my calculation this means that < 0.02% of emergency department presentations were recorded as injury caused by violence related or attributed to cannabis use. (For purposes of comparison, in most jurisdictions EDs and Police estimate that alcohol intoxication is a significant contributing factor in 50-75% of all violent crime).

It is impossible to tell whether the recorded number or type of cannabis-related presentations is any reflection of the level of cannabis-related problems experienced in the community, or results from the selection bias of data sourced from an ED, or indeed is due to ED workers being encouraged to record cannabis use at Triage. We do not know in what %age of cases other drugs were involved. We cannot establish how many presentations were directly causally related to cannabis consumption; or if cannabis was one of several possible contributors; or if cannabis use was simply divulged or detected but did not play a significant causal role.

We cannot determine in what percentage of the violent injury cases the cannabis smoker is the initial perpetrator, and in what percentage the victim, of the violent assault.

We cannot differentiate between cases of violence attributed to the direct effects of intoxication or withdrawal, or those caused by (say) owing your dealer $320.

Follow the link to the stats and you will find that Suicide Risk or Self Harm appear in more presentations than violent injury, yet the initial media take on this report is that Emergency Departments are being over-run by aggressive hoards of violent young people, assaulting health workers because they are hopped up on the loco-weed.