Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cannabis/schizophrenia link 'minimal' -- UK study

While we are saturated with assertions that cannabis causes psychotic mental illness, prohibitionists always act as if the evidence is concrete and stay very quiet about the very small numbers of users who actually have the disease.

And the numbers are very small. A new UK study looked at it the other way around -- How many people would you have to prevent from using cannabis to prevent one case of Schizophrenia?
The study found it would be necessary to stop 2800 heavy cannabis users in young men and over 5000 heavy cannabis users in young women to prevent a single case of schizophrenia. Among light cannabis users, those numbers rise to over 10,000 young men and nearly 30,000 young women to prevent one case of schizophrenia.
This shows how exaggerated is the moral panic on this subject, when many other activities acceptable to society carry FAR higher risks*. Of course the study stops short of describing the deeper fallacy in prohibitionist ideology -- where is the evidence that prohibition prevents anyone from using cannabis, let alone the millions that might be required to significantly reduce schizophrenia?

Professor David Nutt, who heads the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, also says cannabis does not cause major health problems and repeats his claim that ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse.

The UK government ignored the advice of the ACMD and upgraded cannabis into the Class B category, attracting higher penalties, in a move that Professor Nutt described as "devaluing scientific research". The Liberal Western Australian Government has just made a similar move, also against the advice of its own research  body. In both places, cannabis use had reduced during the period the drug was subject to lighter penalties.

WA brought its crackdown just as Dr Norm Stamper was in the state with his message of legal regulation. He reports in the Huffington Post on the rude reception he met in Parliament, the refusal to listen to evidence and the political paranoia of the lawmakers.

Check the letter below from one of the WA Liberal politicians. Every statement in it is demonstrably wrong. Truly, as Arthur Miller said, ideology is "the principled denial of fact".

Reply from WA politician Hon Nick Goiran MLC to a letter re repeal of the Cannabis Control Act 2003.


21 October 2009

Dear Mr X


Thank you for your letter regarding Premier Colin Barnett's announcement to introduce legislation to repeal the Cannabis Control Act 2003.

The State Government recognises that illicit drug use is a significant problem which affects the lives of users, their families, friends and the wider WA community and cannabis-related legislation is sending a clear anti-drugs message to the community.

Research shows that cannabis use can lead to a mass of health and mental health problems including respiratory problems and cancer risk, abnormalities in reproductive functioning and schizophrenia.
Drugs are an insidious threat to the fabric of our society. l have personally seen how people are enslaved, threatened and exploited because of drug debts and addiction. Illegal drugs ruin lives, shatter families and can create a downfall on our community foundation. We should seek to protect our fellow West Australians and these initiatives will crackdown on the plague of illicit drugs in our State.

From what you have written, you support a policy of 'Harm Minimisation'- a strategy to ameliorate the adverse consequences of drug use while drug use continues. I firmly believe that harm minimisation strategies communicate a message condoning drug use, a message I do not espouse. Furthermore, in my view harm minimisation strategies have been an abject failure.

Accordingly, l strongly support the Premier's announcement and the use of criminal law to deter drug use and look forward to voting in favour of the proposed legislation.

Yours sincerely

Hon Nick Goiran MLC

Member for the South Metropolitan Region


* Activities which carry FAR higher risks than using cannabis: Playing football (especially Gridiron); mountain-climbing; night yacht racing; rock fishing; riding a pushbike or motorbike; flying ultralight aircraft etc etc.

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