Saturday, 24 October 2009

40,000 Users Quit to Prevent One Case of Schizophrenia

0.0025% - That’s the chances of preventing one single case of schizophrenia when an average user ceases using cannabis. In other words, you would have to stop 40,000 average cannabis users to prevent one case of schizophrenia. For heavy users, it would require 7,800 of them to stop using cannabis to prevent one case of schizophrenia. That’s a rate of 0.013%. These are the latest findings from scientists in the UK.

Excuse my average intelligence and lack of science degree but shouldn’t facts like this remove the consideration of schizophrenia in determining drug policies regarding cannabis? Can the cannabis debate now exclude schizophrenia? Will governments and anti-drug crusaders suddenly drop their key argument against cannabis in light of the growing evidence? Or will this study simply be ignored as they hang on to public ignorance, parental fear and tenuous links that served them so well in the past? If we use history as a guide, the anti-cannabis zealots will ignore this new evidence for as long as possible and continue to skirt around the important issues. This will suit the government just fine considering we still have some politicians quoting that old, debunked Gateway Theory as a reason why they are going to tighten cannabis laws.

The chances are that you will not read about this result in any major newspaper or media outlet. It was only a few months ago that Keele university in the UK concluded that whilst cannabis use had increased by about 400% since the 1980s, cases of mental health disorders had not increased as well but actually decreased slightly. You may not remember this news because it was not reported by Australia’s MSM or by any major international media outlet that I noticed. No wonder the public is so ignorant about drugs when our major media organisations do not publish any information that might upset the anti-drug bandwagon. Add to that the reluctance of our politicians to use these findings in their policies and instead droning on with anti-drug rhetoric from the 80s.

New Study Suggests Minimal Relationship Between Cannabis and Schizophrenia or Psychosis
October 2009

Last year the UK government reclassified cannabis from a class C to a class B drug, partly out of concerns that cannabis, especially the more potent varieties, may increase the risk of schizophrenia in young people. But the evidence for the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia or psychosis remains controversial. A new study has determined that it may be necessary to stop thousands of cannabis users in order to prevent a single case of schizophrenia.

Scientists from Bristol, Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine took the latest information on numbers of cannabis users, the risk of developing schizophrenia, and the risk that cannabis use causes schizophrenia to estimate how many cannabis users may need to be stopped 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.

That's just part of the story. Interventions to prevent cannabis use typically do not succeed for every person who is treated. Depending on how effective an intervention is at preventing cannabis use, it would be necessary to treat even higher numbers of users to achieve the thousands of successful results necessary to prevent a very few cases of schizophrenia.

Matt Hickman, one of the authors of the report published last week in the scholarly journal Addiction, said that "preventing cannabis use is important for many reasons - including reducing tobacco and drug dependence and improving school performance. But our evidence suggests that focusing on schizophrenia may have been misguided. Our research cannot resolve the question whether cannabis causes schizophrenia, but does show that many people need to give up cannabis in order to have an impact on the number of people with schizophrenia. The likely impact of re-classifying cannabis in the UK on schizophrenia or psychosis incidence is very uncertain."

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