Australia: Researcher Claims Marijuana Causes Mental Disorders, Loss of Intelligence
By Steve Elliott
Surprise, surprise: When you summarize the results of 20 years' worth of the most anti-marijuana studies you can find, you get anti-marijuana conclusions. In what is being touted in sensationalistic press accounts as a "definitive study," an Australian is claiming that his investigation into 20 years of marijuana research shows that cannabis is addictive, causes mental health problems and is a gateway to hard drug use.
Professor Wayne Hall, a drug advisor to the World Health Organization and specialist in addiction at the University of Queensland in Australia, said that heavy, daily use of pot can also lead to car crashes and unhealthy babies. He arrived at this conclusion by hand-picking the most anti-marijuana studies from the past 20 years and passing them off as a "definitive new study."
For those of us who are actually familiar with scientific studies of cannabis, all of this may sound rather odd, since double-blind, gold standard studies have already shown that marijuana is at worst mildly habit-forming; other such studies have thoroughly debunked the "gateway theory" that claims pot leads to harder drugs; and yet more such studies have shown that babies born of pot-smoking mothers tend to be healthier and have higher levels of cognition than babies of mothers who used no illegal substances at all.
Hall's "findings," based on his interpretations of cherry-picked government-funded anti-marijuana studies from the past 20 years rather than performing any actual new research, were published in the October 6 issue of the journal Addiction.
His conclusions are that people who drive after smoking pot are more than twice as likely to be in a car accident, and that teens who toke up regularly are twice as likely as adults to have impaired brain function and mental disorders, reports Meredith Engel at New York Daily News.
Hall's described connection between marijuana use and schizophrenia is also very suspect scientifically, since the best research we have in that regard shows that Live Science.
Hall said that because overdosing on marijuana is "rare" (actually, even according to Hall's study itself, it has never happened to anyone, ever, in history -- yeah, I'd say that qualifies as "rare"), "many view it as safer." But he said the "long-term effects" should not be discounted.
Hall said that efforts to discourage new users, especially young ones, should be undertaken by the government in as many ways as possible, reports Alice G. Walton at Forbes. "Regulation of cannabis should learn from experiences with alcohol and tobacco and use in limiting the number of heavy users by using taxation, limiting promotion of cannabis use and restricting where cannabis can be sold and by whom," Hall said.
Even Hall had to admit that marijuana "is not as harmful as other illicit drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, with which it is classified under the law in many countries, including the USA," reports Agata Blaszczak-Boxe at LiveScience.
But that didn't stop Hall from saying, "If cannabis is not addictive, then neither is heroin or alcohol," according to the Daily Mail.
If you're still deciding if you should trust this guy, here's what he said next; weigh it carefully: "It is often harder to get people who are dependent on cannabis through withdrawal than for heroin -- we just don't know how to do it," Hall claimed.
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council funded the study, reports Sean Kinney at Daily Rx.
Photo of Professor Wayne Hall: University of Queensland