Tag Archives: SAMHSA

Dr. McKeganey Warned of the Marijuana – Mental Illness Link

PSA Warning Issued in 2005 was Ignored

Eleven years ago the ONDCP and SAMHSA held a press conference to inform of research that confirms what many families already knew–that marijuana use was a trigger for psychosis and mental illness.

The ONDCP is the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; SAMHSA is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  Each agency has a crucial role in trying to ascertain usage and reduce demand for drugs.

Specifically, Dr. Neil McKehaney from the University of Glasgow came to the US and spoke at the national Press Club on May 5, 2005. The agencies went to great effort to share important information.  A video was recently found online.

Coverup of the Marijuana – Mental Illness  Risk

At this same Press Conference, a couple who had lost their 15-year-old son to suicide due to the mental health problems arising from marijuana use, spoke.  The Press covered the story, but did not use their considerable investigative skills to probe into what those parents and Dr. McKenagey were describing.  It is true that about one quarter of American high school students are depressed, which points to multiple problems of American culture, not just drugs. However, knowing how vulnerable teens are, and then not exposing the factors that could make their outcomes worse, is lamentable.

In addition to depression, anxiety and suicide, there are the risks of psychosis, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia that arise from marijuana use.  Pot proponents love to state that anyone who has a psychotic reaction to pot already had the problem before they used it.  They tend to blame family members for not  wanting to admit  mental health problems, and argue that pot is used as a scapegoat.

Several studies have shown a link between marijuana and schizophrenia.  Explains pharmacologist Christine Miller, Ph.D:  “No one is destined to develop schizophrenia. With identical twins, one can develop the disease and the other one will do so only 50% of the time, illustrating the importance of environmental factors in the expression of the disease.  Marijuana is one of those environmental factors and it is one we can do something about.”

A Missed Opportunity

One person who worked in the office of ONDCP Director John Walters told Parents Opposed to Pot, “They accused us of being pot-crazy during a time when there was a methamphetamine crisis going on.  Marijuana is almost always the first drug introduced to young people and the evidence for the mental health risks were very strong by 2005.  Although pot was getting stronger as it is today, the warning was falling on deaf ears.  Members of Congress wanted us to focus on the meth crisis, but marijuana was a growing issue and we had a myriad of issues.”

This Public Service Announcement reached audiences in the Press, and some newspapers and magazines reported about it.  Since the Internet and search engines were not as they are  today,  few parents, children,  schools and mental health professionals took notice.   (Did the marijuana lobbying groups bully and try squelch the information?)

Lori Robinson, whose son suffered the mental health consequences of marijuana said:  “I will always deeply regret Shane not hearing this PSA .  Shane was a smart, gregarious and fun-loving young man who naively began using pot never knowing he was playing Russian roulette with his brain in ’05-’06 at the age of 19.   Dr McKeganey so clearly stated that the public views marijuana as harmless, not realizing the potency of THC was rising while the “antipsychotic” property of CBD was being bred out.  Sadly, despite both parents never used an illegal drug in our lives, our son assumed that since a few of his friend had smoked in high school, it was just a “harmless herb.”   Shane’s story is on the Moms Strong website.

Robinson added, “This video is absolutely current TODAY.  Let’s keep this video circulating & it WILL save young brains & families the destruction that lies ahead when marijuana hijacks your kid’s brain.

The research has expanded since that time and scientific evidence on each of the following outcomes from marijuana use is voluminous: marijuana & psychosis, marijuana & violence and marijuana & psychiatric disorders.

Lessons to be Learned

Lives could have been saved, and so many cases of depression, psychotic breakdowns and crimes could have been prevented – if the public had become more aware back in 2005.   Congress, the Press and most of all, the American psychiatric community was wrong to ignore the warnings that were issued with this PSA.

Let’s not continue to ignore  the evidence. Today in the US, mental health is worse than it’s ever been, and the promotion of drug usage may be a huge factor in this problem.  Harm reduction in preference to primary prevention strategies is practiced in many jurisdictions.  Drug overdose deaths have overtaken gun violence deaths and traffic fatalities in the USA — by far — under this strategy.

Today Dr. McKeganey is the Director of the Center for Substance Use Research in Glasgow.

Watering Down the Truth

by Randy Philbrick, Director, Smart Approaches to Marijuana – Oregon. In the information age you have to be careful what information you put out there. Anything you say can quickly be fact checked with a quick Google search. With that said, you may see pro-marijuana groups and journalists put out articles with stats that really make marijuana and legalization look pretty harmless.

When you look at the NORML or Marijuana Policy Project Facebook pages you will see things like “Teen use down despite legalization” or “Marijuana is the safest drug out there.” Then they will back up their claims with what looks like very good evidence, but is it really that good?

Let’s look at the “Teen use down despite legalization.” There have been several articles and Facebook posts claiming that teen use is down across the country and they will use the Monitoring the Future survey as their source. When you look at the Monitoring the Future survey it does in fact back up their claim that teen marijuana use is down on the national level. But then there was another survey that was released last fall just after that one from SAMHSA that tells a different story. In this survey they broke it down into a state by state look at teen marijuana use. The results of this survey reported past month use of Marijuana in the 12-17 year old demographic as well as last years results.

1. Colorado 12.56% Up from 11.16%
2. Vermont 11.40% Up from 11.34%
3. Rhode Island 10.64% Down from 12.95%
4. Wash DC 10.56% Up from 9.89%
5. OREGON 10.19% UP FROM 9.59%
6. Washington 10.06% Up from 9.81%

One commonality you see in the list above is that 4 of them have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but all of them have legalized “Medical” marijuana. In fact 22 out of the top 25 states are MMJ states. So what do you think is more damming for legalization, a nation survey or a state by state? I think the state by state is more damming and that’s why legalizers won’t use it.

It’s called watering down the truth.

Legalized Marijuana = + Crime in CO

Another example is “Crime in Colorado has gone down since legalization.” Well when you look at the crime stats for the whole state, yes it fits their claim. There has been a decrease in violent crimes in the past year. But when you look at Colorado you will notice that 55% of the states population is in the Denver Metro area. The rest of the state has a very low population density with some areas having a density of 1 person for every 100 miles. Many of those places are in areas that have opted out of marijuana. Now when you look at the crime rate in the Denver Metro area you will notice that crime has gone up with Homicide going up about 70% in one year.

But again, they have to water down their stats. When you look at the big picture instead of the watered down legalization picture then you start to see a clearer picture. That picture is that with lowered perception of harm and easy access to legalized marijuana use among teens will go up. They have to get the next generation of customers hooked or legalization is a waste of time.

Updates on the Marijuana Psychosis Link

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers University have issued a correction to their original report that teen marijuana use had no effect on the development of a psychotic order by age 36.

Meanwhile, a hospital in Washington, the first state to legalize marijuana, reports 1-2 new cases of admissions for marijuana-induced psychosis each day.

The full length version of their published correction, which can be purchased for ~$11 online, reveals that in fact their data showed a trend towards a 2.5-fold greater prevalence of psychotic disorders in the marijuana users, a trend which reached significance in a “one-tailed” statistical test.  Such a test is generally deemed appropriate if abundant prior studies have shown the same degree and direction of effect, as is the case here. Continue reading Updates on the Marijuana Psychosis Link