cannabis: about as crazy-making as living in the city, less crazy-making than getting kidnapped by uniformed goons

The difference between statistical significance and practical significance is often blurred.  Consider the recurring alarmist articles about how skunk will make you have severe schizophrenia forever.  What’s the evidence?  Here’s a paper from 11 years ago:

On an individual level, cannabis use confers an overall twofold increase in the relative risk for later schizophrenia. At the population level, elimination of cannabis use would reduce the incidence of schizophrenia by approximately 8%, assuming a causal relationship. Cannabis use appears to be neither a sufficient nor a necessary cause for psychosis. It is a component cause, part of a complex constellation of factors leading to psychosis.

Let’s put this into context:

The association between urbanicity and risk of schizophrenia is well established. The incidence of schizophrenia has been observed to increase in line with rising levels of urbanicity, as measured in terms of population size or density. This association is expressed as Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR), and the results are usually presented by comparing the most urban with the most rural environment. In this study, we undertook to express the effect of urbanicity on the risk of schizophrenia in a linear form and to perform a meta-analysis of all available evidence. We first employed a simple regression analysis of log (IRR) as given in each study on the urbanicity category, assuming a uniform distribution and a linear association. In order to obtain more accurate estimates, we developed a more sophisticated method that generates individual data points with simulation from the summary data presented in the original studies, and then fits a logistic regression model. The estimates from each study were combined with meta-analysis. Despite the challenges that arise from differences between studies as regards to the number and relative size of urbanicity levels, a linear association was observed between the logarithm of the odds of risk for schizophrenia and urbanicity. The risk for schizophrenia at the most urban environment was estimated to be 2.37 times higher than in the most rural environment. The same effect was found when studies measuring the risk for nonaffective psychosis were included.

People have freaked out about the existence of potent cannabis, whose relationship to schizophrenia is murky.  No one has seriously suggested depopulating Los Angeles for the good of society’s mental health.   I think everyone who’s been in large cities intuitively understands that they drive you crazy.  Consider that high CBD cannabis strains exist.  If someone smokes a bunch of Harlequin, is that good or bad?  Quite possibly good:

Despite extensive study over the past decades, available treatments for schizophrenia are only modestly effective and cause serious metabolic and neurological side effects. Therefore, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of schizophrenia. A highly promising new pharmacological target in the context of schizophrenia is the endocannabinoid system. Modulation of this system by the main psychoactive component in cannabis, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), induces acute psychotic effects and cognitive impairment. However, the non-psychotropic, plant-derived cannabinoid agent cannabidiol (CBD) may have antipsychotic properties, and thus may be a promising new agent in the treatment of schizophrenia. Here we review studies that investigated the antipsychotic properties of CBD in human subjects. Results show the ability of CBD to counteract psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairment associated with cannabis use as well as with acute THC administration. In addition, CBD may lower the risk for developing psychosis that is related to cannabis use. These effects are possibly mediated by opposite effects of CBD and THC on brain activity patterns in key regions implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, such as the striatum, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The first small-scale clinical studies with CBD treatment of patients with psychotic symptoms further confirm the potential of CBD as an effective, safe and well-tolerated antipsychotic compound, although large randomised clinical trials will be needed before this novel therapy can be introduced into clinical practice.

We might praise someone for moving with their children to an urban environment, in the name of increased opportunity.  Someone’s brave child in Kansas spoke up to defend reality at an anti-drug school assembly, with the result that the state kidnapped them and jailed the mother using cannabis oil to treat Crohn’s disease.  Yes, really:

Shona Banda lost custody of her son, at least temporarily, last Monday at a court hearing tinged with the irony of its date: 4/20. Such coincidences aside, the circumstances of her case lend it symbolism about the state of the decades-long “war on drugs” in America: a registered Republican is fighting a deeply conservative state over her son and medical marijuana, while a Democratic president has hinted he will endorse a bill – co-sponsored by a Republican presidential candidate – that would allow patients the drug without fear of federal prosecution…

With a gag order on the custody case, a friend of Banda’s could only say that she was still not with her son…

Garden City police captain Randy Ralston said officers found at Banda’s home about 20oz of “suspected marijuana” and “a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and kitchen counters”. The items “were within easy reach of the child”, Ralston said.

Banda’s online videos, however, would suggest the description of a “lab” overstates what was in her home. In those videos, Banda uses little more than a vaporizer, gel caps and marijuana.

“You can do this with a $50 machine and a $5 spatula, and a plant that you can grow for free in your backyard,” one video explains.

Boone contended that Ralston’s assertion that Banda’s son “reported to school officials that his mother and other adults in his residence were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use occurring in his residence” may have elided what the child actually said.

“He most likely spoke up and said something to the effect of ‘my mother calls it cannabis at home’,” Boone said, “and more than likely mentioned that his mother uses cannabis to combat her Crohn’s disease, in whatever version of that that an 11-year-old would use.”

In an interview before the gag order was issued, Banda told the journalist Ben Swann: “I can’t be upset about [her son speaking up] because he hears me daily on the phone talking with people, encouraging people to speak up and speak out. We did have the talk about how it’s not OK to bring this up in Kansas, because it’s a different state [than Colorado]. It’s very confusing for a child.”

To save the children, we have to traumatize them and take away their belief that justice exists.  Barbarians.  I’m pretty sure that when something like this happens to you, your chances of developing mental illness go up by more than a factor of 2.  If we take the schizophrenia evidence at face value, and we assume that this lady was feeding her kid cannabis every day, what the cops did was still foreseeably worse for the child.  The reasons are quantitative and math education is important.  We shouldn’t let these people have the benefit of the doubt  and accept that they were acting in good faith, trying to do what’s best for the child.  CPS in Kansas is mean, vindictive, and narrow-minded.  At least one school in Kansas, a setting devoted to the promotion of academic values, severely punished a child for attempting a scholarly defense of the truth.  It’s all fucked up and broken.

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