Cannabis causes schizophrenia says a new study led by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They collected data from over 6 million people in Denmark. They found an association between 21-30-year-old male cannabis consumers and higher rates of schizophrenia.
Ergo: cannabis causes schizophrenia.
Cue moral outcry from the public health busybodies. Take this article from the Telegraph. The author repeats the study’s conclusions that cannabis causes schizophrenia.
Therefore, she is alarmed that “For some, it has become as habitual as a morning coffee.”
The Telegraph writer asks if cannabis legalization is creating a “mental health epidemic” that is proof of “yet another failed Left-wing experiment.”
Yet this study, its conclusions, and the “journalists” who regurgitate its findings without question are all engaging in reefer madness.
This study identifies young males with schizophrenia who self-medicate with cannabis. There is no evidence of causality.
Cannabis Causes Schizophrenia: Study
The study concludes cannabis causes schizophrenia. But you could also include that there’s something in the Danish tap water turning 30% of young males crazy.
That’s likely not the case, but why not conclude it? All this study has found is an association, which then extrapolates to causality.
The study says that “we” could have avoided 30% of cases of schizophrenia if young males hadn’t consumed cannabis.
Concluding that based on the methods used in the study is an example of Science™ where political, social, and cultural factors play a more significant role.
The consequences go far beyond simply misreporting the facts. Take, for example, the racist history behind cannabis prohibition. Indirectly, this study is rewriting history.
Cannabis prohibition, says the revised history, is about public health. But since prohibition doesn’t work, we need better tools so responsible adults can enjoy a toke while “addicts” get help from the state.
Consider what this study’s co-author and NIDA Director Nora Volkow said: “The entanglement of substance use disorders and mental illnesses is a major public health issue, requiring urgent action and support for people who need it.” [emphasis added]
In other words, they are justifying their own existence by demonizing a nontoxic herb that pharmaceutical companies cannot patent.
Nora Volkow Alert
Nora Volkow, by the way, is not some unbiased researcher who only cares about “science.”
One look at Volkow’s past statements, and it’s clear she’s never met a drug she has liked.
She has written and spoken extensively about the dangers of drugs – including cannabis – while ignoring all the potential medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
The NIDA director isn’t leading an “evidence-based” crusade against the alleged harms of cannabis. As Dr. Carl Hart writes in Drug Use for Grown-Ups,
Many scientists who study drugs, including some at NIDA, believe that she routinely overstates the negative impact that recreational drug use has on the brain and that she essentially ignores any beneficial effects drug use may have. But these scientists don’t dare share this perspective with her for fear of repercussions that might negatively impact their ability to obtain grant funding, among other professional perks, from her institute. To put this in perspective, NIDA funds nearly 90 percent of the world’s research focused on the drugs discussed in this book. Nora is a kingmaker. She is also seen by some as tyrannical.
The NIDA is biased. This “Cannabis causes schizophrenia” study has not demonstrated that cannabis can cause schizophrenia in anyone, let alone young men that weren’t already predisposed to it.
Limitations of The Cannabis Causes Schizophrenia Study – Definitions
No, cannabis does not cause schizophrenia. Suppose you’re predisposed to the disease and begin consuming THC-only cannabis at a young age. In that case, you’re likely going to trigger early onset.
That’s not what this study said. That’s the consensus based on relevant data.
But as a congressman once said to Nora Volkow about a different cannabis study, “Dr. Volkow, your testimony seems to completely disregard lots of other data.”
Consider the problems with this study. One, they don’t define “cannabis use disorder” or CUD. They reference other studies, but there is no single definition of CUD. You could even argue CUD isn’t a real thing.
Suppose you have a problematic relationship with cannabis. In that case, it’s likely a symptom of an underlying issue or an assumed preference you’ve never really unpacked. The pharmacology of the drug has very little – if anything – to do with it.
So one has to assume that the researchers define CUD as habitual, daily use. But regular, everyday use does not constitute “abuse.”
Nor does it even begin to get into the nuance of different cannabis products. If you consume CBD products every day, does that constitute CUD? Or is it only for psychoactive THC? Why not call it THC-use disorder, then?
What if you consume low-THC weed throughout the week and hit the potent stuff on the weekend? Is that CUD?
What if you consume THC all day, every day, but are happy and successful in life? Is that still CUD?
Limitations of the Cannabis Causes Schizophrenia Study – Variables
Cannabis causes schizophrenia says this new study. But the researchers rely on Danish registers, which don’t provide comprehensive accounts of an individual’s health. This can lead to underreporting outcomes, misclassification, and bias in the study’s findings.
The “Cannabis causes schizophrenia” study also didn’t account for confounding variables. What about lifestyle factors and comorbidity?
As mentioned, the researchers relied on Danish citizens. You cannot infer the findings to the rest of the world when different diets, cultures and healthcare systems can influence the rate of schizophrenia among young male cannabis consumers.
Limitations of the Study – Aren’t Male and Female Brains the Same?
This critique is a bit of a sidebar, but it’s worth noting. According to the researchers, young males are at greater risk than females of developing schizophrenia from consuming cannabis.
But according to the zeitgeist, there are very few differences between men and women, especially in the brain department.
What even is a woman?
Perhaps instead of causing schizophrenia, these people were already suffering and are now self-medicating with cannabis. And, as per this study’s data, men tend to find relief with cannabis more so than women.
Limitations of the Study – Joinpoint Analysis
Another method used in this “Cannabis causes schizophrenia” study is joinpoint analysis. Joinpoint is a statistical method used to identify changes or trends. However, joinpoint analysis has its critics.
Joinpoint analysis relies on a set of assumptions. We’ve already discussed the lack of a proper CUD definition and Nora Volkow’s anti-cannabis mentality. With that in mind, what assumptions did the researchers have to conclude cannabis causes schizophrenia?
Some say joinpoint analysis “overfits” the data, which produces trends that aren’t accurate. Also, joinpoint doesn’t provide a comprehensive explanation of the trends, such as those mentioned above (diets, culture, health care, environmental factors, etc.)
What Does This “Cannabis Causes Schizophrenia” Study Actually Prove?
So what does this “cannabis causes schizophrenia” study actually prove? It proves that Nora Volkow is still up to her old tricks. But as far as demonstrating cause and effect?
No, young, healthy males are not at risk of schizophrenia from consuming cannabis.
Perhaps a more rigorous randomized controlled trial or two will demonstrate causality sometime in the future. And then I’ll eat crow.
But this is not that study. And if you’re unsure which media outlets to trust in this age of “misinformation” and “fake news,” then this “cannabis causes schizophrenia” study is a perfect test.
Is the article repeating its findings verbatim and then suggesting government pass laws restricting the cannabis market and your liberty?
Are they writing that this study proves that cannabis is not benign and that legalization is a “failed Left-wing experiment?”
Or are they taking the time to read through the paper? To perform some actual journalism and give you an opinion based on facts?