Human Exceptionalism

Marijuana Use in Youth Dramatically Increases Risk of Psychotic Episode, Leads to Illness

The medical marijuana movement, to a large degree, was used by activists–whose real goal was recreational license–as the proverbial foot in the door.  They hid behind sick people, used them, really, and began calling cannabis “medicine.”  But then they lit up for the media’s fawning cameras.

As I have written here many times, marijuana clearly does have palliative properties and the proper way to make it available to suffering people isn’t the semi-anarchy of pot distribution clubs and doctors’ “letters,” but to change the Controlled Substances Act so that it can be tested, regulated, and prescribed like other powerful drugs, e.g. morphine and cocaine.  Alas, President Obama, has instead promised–violating his oath of office–not to enforce federal marijuana laws against medicinal users. President Bush, went wrong in the other direction, clinging to the falsehood that MJ has no medicinal uses, an abandonment of suffering people who could benefit from medicinal cannabis.  Not one member of the  Congress has filed a bill (as far as I know) to change marijuana’s classification under the CSA to a substance that has legitimate medicinal benefits.  Nor has any potential Republican presidential candidate proposed such a course.  What a pathetic abdication of leadership.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so that policy void has been filled by the recreational license activists. Thus, we see the spectacle of Oakland’s City Council (as one example) wanting to permit huge warehouse-sized marijuana growing facilities within the city–where drug abuse is rampant–as if such huge operations were needed to supply locals who use it for purely “medicinal” purposes.

But the recreational use advocates wave off my concerns, calling marijuana basically harmless.  Apparently not.  A new study has shown that it appears to increase psychotic episodes among the young.  From the story:

A team of international researchers followed the lives of almost 2,000 young Germans, who began with no history of psychosis, for more than a decade. They discovered that youngsters who started smoking the drug at college age were 90 per cent more likely to have psychotic symptoms in their mid-20s. In the study, cannabis users were defined as those who had used the drug at least five times between 18 and 21. Rates of psychotic episodes between users and non-users at the age of 26 were then compared. Other factors known to affect likelihood of psychosis, such as childhood trauma, class, and growing up in an urban environment, were accounted for.

The authors, led by Rebecca Kuepper, a research psychologist at Maastricht University in The Netherlands, concluded: “This 10 year follow-up study showed that incident cannabis use significantly increased the risk of incident psychotic experiences.” Using cannabis in one’s youth almost doubles the risk of having psychotic episodes like paranoia and hallucinations, a study has found.  The scientists believe that exposure to THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis, makes the brain more susceptible to psychotic episodes. The study also found that a rise in psychotic episodes followed cannabis use, rather than the other way around, disproving the theory that the relationship between the two was nothing more than people prone to psychosis self-medicating.

That seems a stretch to me, but who am I to argue with science?

Abuse of marijuna leads to health problems,as a 2008, the Daily Telegraph reported after the UK reduced the legal seriousness of marijuana possession:

The public health impact of the Government’s decision to downgrade cannabis is disclosed today in official figures showing a 50 per cent rise in the number of people requiring medical treatment after using the drug. Since cannabis was downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug, the number of adults being treated in hospitals and clinics in England for its effects has risen to more than 16,500 a year. In addition, the number of children needing medical attention after smoking the drug has risen to more than 9,200. Almost 500 adults and children are treated in hospitals and clinics every week for the effects of cannabis.

Hmm. That would seem to increase health care costs.  Hows’ that for an angle to get people to take the problem more seriously?

More recently, we see that animal studies suggest it could cause the big C:

Cannabis damages the immune system, leaving the body open to diseases from pneumonia to cancer, research suggests. In experiments, THC, the chemical behind the ‘high’ of cannabis fuelled the production of a flood of cells thought to weaken the body’s inbuilt defences. The finding suggests that cannabis, the drug of choice for many Britons, increases vulnerability to breast, bladder, lung and other tumours, as well as bacterial infections such as Legionnaires disease. Worryingly, skunk, the super-strength cannabis that is particularly popular, may be extra-damaging, due to its extra-high THC content.

While cannabis’s links to devastating mental health problems are well known, its potential to wreck the immune system has received less attention. The American research focused on the effect of cannabis chemicals including THC on the immune system. In tests on mice, they triggered the production of a ‘massive’ number of immune cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells or MDSCs. These normally act as a safety brake on the immune system stopping its battle against disease from spiralling out of control. But in the case of cancer, they may actually make it easier for tumours to grow, the European Journal of Immunology reports.

So, while we squelch tobacco use, and threaten not to provide some medical services to smokers, we are moving concomitantly toward greater marijuana permissiveness–often under the pretext of giving the sick their “medicine.”  But that stealth legalization effort apparently won’t come without costs.  Strange times.

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