It Ain’t Necessarily So – Evaluating Marijuana Studies

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evaluating marijuana studiesEver notice whenever a study finds something negative about marijuana how it gets played up in the media with most of them quoting some medical researcher warning of the horrible dangers of marijuana?  One of the  recent ones was a study released in New Zealand claiming that teens who smoke marijuana heavily will have lower IQ when they reach their mid-30s.

This study followed over 1,000 subjects from age 13 to age 38 in the town of Dunedin, New Zealand. Given IQ tests and interviews that included questions about marijuana use, the study concluded that the heavy use of marijuana by teens resulted in an IQ that was on average 8 points lower than those who had not consumed marijuana.

So shocking was this drop in IQ that Dr. Harris Stratyner, vice president of Caron Treatment Centers’ New York Clinical Regional Services, stated “It’s much more dangerous than we’ve ever given it credit for.”

Before distraught parents and grandparents rush their marijuana using kids and grandkids, along with substantial sums of money, to the Caron Treatment Center to save them from becoming imbeciles, they should take a breath and count to 10.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Ole Rogeberg, an economist at the Frisch Centre for Economics Research in Oslo, concluded that the fall in IQ reported in the study may be more closely correlated with socio-economic status than marijuana use.

The New Zealand study assumed that cannabis use is the only significant difference between the groups tested whereas Oleg showed that the methods used and analyses presented in the original research were insufficient to rule out other explanations for lower IQ.  His study determined that young people from lower status families tended to end up in less intellectually demanding environments and that is what caused the difference in IQ rather than marijuana use.

Marijuana makes kids stupid? It ain’t necessarily so!

Another oft-quoted study of the dangers of marijuana is one that was published in 2001 in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston concluded that the risk of a heart attack jumps nearly five-fold during the first hour after smoking marijuana.

This media-hyped threat to the longevity prospects of middl-aged marijuana consumers was used by hysteria-generating drug warriors to justify their claims about the dangers of marijuana. This report continues to be cited as prima fascia evidence of why smoking marijuana is not good for you.

Whenever the study is quoted, the fact that the researchers stated that the heightened risk from marijuana was roughly equivalent to vigorous exercise for someone of average fitness is always omitted. Since doctors encourage vigorous physical exercise, it would seem that doctors might be putting their patients at risks. More likely, a doctor has determined that the increased risk of heart attack pales in comparison to the benefit s of regular vigorous exercise.

Conversely, with all the benefits that marijuana can provide, it would seem prudent that the slight risk of a heart attack would be minimal compared to the far more significant risks associated with prescription pain killers, anti-psychotics and sleep-inducing medications. This may seem like common sense but when it comes to marijuana common sense is always in short supply.

But it may not even be necessary for doctors to decide whether the risk of marijuana use need even be considered as the study claiming an association between recent marijuana use and the likelihood of a heart attack is just not there. In a recently published article the authors of the original study have now concluded that although the earlier study had concluded that there was an increased mortality rate in marijuana consumers, the reported increase “did not reach nominal statistical significance.”

Although the authors admitted the connection between marijuana use and having a heart attack is not there, hope springs eternal within a grant-seeking scientist’s breast as they called for studies to determine “whether there are adverse cardiovascular consequences of smoking marijuana” but this time adding a new caveat “among patients with established coronary heart disease.”

Maybe—but when all is said and done—it ain’t necessarily so.

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About Author

Profile photo of Lanny Swerdlow

Lanny Swerdlow, RN is host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at lanny@marijuananews.org.

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