Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Discussion about Marijuana Myths and Facts

Ed Brayton's post on the Mark Kirk marijuana proposals prompted a discussion between me and a poster named Duwayne, which I thought worthy of a post of it's own:

Dunc: "Steady on there - I like a toke as much as the next hippy, but let's not pretend it's all puppies and rainbows. That would make us as deluded as the other side (and cause DrugMonkey to throw a fit). It carries a number of risks, some quite serious, and further research is required.

The far stronger argument is that criminalisation is, at best, ineffective in managing those risks, and in many cases is actively counter-productive."

SA: "Hypothetical Drugmonkey fits notwithstanding, there's no good data I've ever seen that shows even remotely serious risks of marijuana use. There have been tons of greatly hyped studies using laughable methods and measures, but nothing that you'd hold up as an example of how you do science. To what risks are you referring?

Granted, I wouldn't want someone very stoned operating heavy equipment, or doing any of the other activities marked "for sober people only". The intoxication levels can be very potent and should be treated with respect, and I think use by children should remain illegal and be strongly discouraged, even more so than alcohol. Too much maturity needed.

But compared to the benefits it seems a giant slam dunk."

Duwayne: "You know, for someone who claims to be into science, at least given your chosen title, you seem to be pretty good at denying it sometimes.

Cannabis is addictive. No question and no fucking bullshit in the studies that have shown that it is. Not everyone gets addicted - indeed most people probably don't. But that doesn't change the fact that it causes significant harm to people who are addicts.

Cannabis also causes fairly significant damage to the lungs of those who smoke a lot of it. Smoking anything is bad for your lungs - period. That can be mitigated considerably by vaporizing it, but there is nothing that would show that it does anything but reduce carcinogen intake and the mount of crap that gets deposited on the lungs. As yet, I have never seen a reasonable study of vaporizing that would claim otherwise. Ingesting it is the only way to know you are avoiding deposits on the lungs.

And finally, like many drugs, it has deleterious effects on the neural networks. No different than many other drugs - including many prescription drugs, but it causes problems nonetheless.

Pretending that cannabis is some benevolent, wonderfuckingdrug, is fucking denialist bullshit and will do absolutely nothing to help actually get it legalized. Let fucking morons like Kirk own the motherfucking hyperbole and sink themselves in it.

Bullshit is so fucking deep on his side of things, that we are moving inexorably closer to legalized weed. All your fucking denialist bullshit does is cross cut a fucking trench of bullshit for theirs to flow into."

SA: "Odd, I normally admire your postings, but this latest one sounds like mere regurgitation of drug-war propaganda. You accuse me of ignoring science and then repeat the same old anti-marijuana propaganda I've seen for years, and with nary a site in the literature for all these supposed nonbullshit studies. How droll, and typical.

Where are the studies that show cannabis is addictive? Cite them. You give yourself away when you claim it is addictive, but then say most people don't get addicted. Well how addictive can it be then? Nothing has a nonzero rate, not even chocolate. Personally I'm addicted to caffeine. Where are the studies that show neural and lung damage?

What's the definition of a lot? Let me guess, an amount that less than 1% of users smoke, which would make it intellectually dishonest to present as if that were remotely near the norm.

One doesn't have to think marijuana is a wonder drug (I certainly don't), or be any kind of denier to recognize all these scare claims for what they are. There are something like 40 million marijuana users in this country, and most of the are completely anonymous to those around them because there are virtually no effects of their use. If it were as damaging as the drug war loons like Kirk claimed, and how some of your claims could be interpreted, we wouldn't need drug tests, we could just go pick up the poor bastards by the truckload just from casual visual inspection. The reality is light yeas away.

Don't be so fixated on the exceptions to the norm that you give ammunition to those who deny it."

Duwayne: "When I am done playing with my boys, I will be happy to link evidence and the evidence shows far more than a one percent rate of addiction. And there is also plenty of evidence that marijuana causes memory loss with sustained use - which puts it in great company with most benzoes and antipsychotics. And yes, when smoked, it causes lung problems. Anything a person smokes causes lung problems - it's the nature of smoke inhalation.

I'll write a post on my blog tomorrow, when I get home from TN that will link plenty of evidence. However, if you can't wait, there are plenty of links in my sidebar that discuss marijuana addiction. Harm reduction coalition and Tatarsky's harm reduction web site both will provide you with discussions about cannabis addiction. The MAPS database links to evidence of addiction and neurological and lung damage - Lycaeum and Erowid will as well.

And I should note that all of the aforementioned links are to organizations and people who support legalization."

SA: "I will check out your sidebars, thanks for the references. Perhaps the review will make a good blog post of its own. Please forgive my extreme skepticism. In the past, every study I've been similarly directed to had horrific methodological flaws: poor/no controls, ridiculously expansive definitions of "addicted" (See demmiecommie's post above as a perfect example. Addicted > a hard-to-break habit), and correlation=causality errors of reasoning (all that "gateway drug" nonsense). I've also seen several studies over the years (thus no links, sorry) that showed no harm to lungs or memory from marijuana use, and you guessed it, that is all consistent with extensive personal experience.

But far more influential on my view is that I have considerable experience helping methamphetamine addicts break the habit. Now THAT'S as addictive and destructive a substance as I have ever seen, and compared to that, marijuana is chocolate.

I've always found you to be a substantive intelligent poster, so I'll go through your links, and perhaps common ground can be established. And if you ever see something that qualifies as "you seem to be pretty good at denying [science] sometimes", do bring it to my attention. I may be unaware of the science, but I'll never deny it. Ask Zuska.

Duwayne, I've spent the hour I have for this today on your sight, and granted I'm not the best site navigator, but I went to 4 or 5 of them and the only reference to the effects of Marijuana I could find was this from, which had the following to say:

"Over the past century, numerous reports from independent, government-sponsored commissions have documented the drug's relative harmlessness..."

...and this from their "myths and facts" section:

"Myth: Marijuana Can Cause Permanent Mental Illness. Among adolescents, even occasional marijuana use may cause psychological damage. During intoxication, marijuana users become irrational and often behave erratically.

"Fact: There is no convincing scientific evidence that marijuana causes psychological damage or mental illness in either teenagers or adults."

""Myth: Marijuana is Highly Addictive. Long term marijuana users experience physical dependence and withdrawal, and often need professional drug treatment to break their marijuana habits."

"Fact: Most people who smoke marijuana smoke it only occasionally. A small minority of Americans - less than 1 percent - smoke marijuana on a daily basis. An even smaller minority develop a dependence on marijuana. Some people who smoke marijuana heavily and frequently stop without difficulty. Others seek help from drug treatment professionals. Marijuana does not cause physical dependence. If people experience withdrawal symptoms at all, they are remarkably mild."

I have seen personally at least three heavy, daily, smokers of the kind of potency marijuana Mr. Kirk worries about, find themselves in life situations where they had great motivation to stop (pending drug tests, and family issues), and did so, cold turkey, with no apparent difficulty or any withdrawal signs of any kind that anyone around them could notice aside from a little less patience with boring social functions. Run with that if you like.

And finally, from the same site:

Myth: Marijuana is More Damaging to the Lungs Than Tobacco. Marijuana smokers are at a high risk of developing lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema."

"Fact: Moderate smoking of marijuana appears to pose minimal danger to the lungs. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains a number of irritants and carcinogens. But marijuana users typically smoke much less often than tobacco smokers, and over time, inhale much less smoke. As a result, the risk of serious lung damage should be lower in marijuana smokers. There have been no reports of lung cancer related solely to marijuana, and in a large study presented to the American Thoracic Society in 2006, even heavy users of smoked marijuana were found not to have any increased risk of lung cancer. Unlike heavy tobacco smokers, heavy marijuana smokers exhibit no obstruction of the lung's small airway. That indicates that people will not develop emphysema from smoking marijuana.

One of the problems most marijuana studies have that gets them tossed into file 13 pretty quickly is lack of control for people also smoke cigarettes. This covers many, possibly most, people who smoke marijuana, and they invariably give marijuana the blame for nicotine's sins. It's no small coincidence to me that of the three cold turkeys I mentioned above, two used no tobacco products of any kind, and the other used snuff. I've seen heavy marijuana smokers keep up intense cardiovascular exercise regimes that would kill your average cigarette smoker. It's going to take a lot of science to tell me their lungs are damaged.

These are the sights that were intended to persuade me that there is a ton of science out there showing marijuana is way more dangerous than I thought? Please direct me to the ones that do.


Anonymous said...

Dwayne, face it. You are from the older generation that today's science has mutated and left the old stinky factless guard behind. Your boys will know the truth when they throw flowers on your grave and say dad "YOU WERE WRONG". But that's ok. Your limited perspective on the gifts of the planet that helps many of us taxpayers deal with Wall St, DEA and Christian coalition. We're all products of our environment and partaking of mother nature's gift is a choice that we don't need mandated from someone who thinks they can think for the collective public. Give it up Dwayne, it's people like you that give me that feeling I need to inhale something to get over an attitude that quite frankly SUCKS.

parakeet said...

I don't really have a dog in this fight, but when I saw a challenge like, "Where are the studies that show cannabis is addictive? Cite them," I was tempted to look for one, JFTHOI. Since I'm feeling lazy tonight, I'll just post two links and their quotes, but not truly try to rebut your claim:

"In a study including people who used both cocaine and marijuana, many stated that giving up the use of marijuana was in some ways more difficult than giving up cocaine.
Strategies for breaking marijuana dependence. Zweben & O 1992 (2):165-71
Published in Journal Psychoactive Drugs --

Another link had the following:
"There are vast numbers of people taking cannabis. Some of them, 8 to10%, will get some type of dependency."

More concerning than any apparent rise in addiction is the potential to cause psychoses in heavy users.

Robin Murray, a psychiatrist at King's College London, is one of Britain's leading researchers in this area and his results are worrying. "The conclusion was that, if you took cannabis at age 18, you were about 60% more likely to go psychotic. But if you started by the time you were 15, then the risk was much greater, around 450%," he says." --