Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘The British Medical Journal

Putting Cannabis “Research” Into Perspective

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Just Say No!

The furore around yesterday’s BMJ article on cannabis and psychosis is reverberating around the world.  It shouldn’t be any surprise really that a psychoactive substance has psychoactive effects but it provides opportunity for good sensationalist copy.

In the course of dealing with today’s events, two incisive and illuminating facts emerged:

First, the study which is published in the BMJ includes a statement that says:

“Furthermore, we used a rather broad outcome measure, defined as a minimum of one positive rating on a G section item, representing psychotic experiences rather than clinically relevant psychotic disorder.”

The study asked people to say if they used cannabis and if they had experienced one of a series of “subclinical” symptoms of psychosis, like an hallucination. If they had just one yes in 10 years they counted towards the study’s findings.

Secondly, I was reviewing the number of cannabis related hospital admissions –  approximately 1000 per annum. As a comparison, I checked on the number of emergency peanut allergy cases – approximately 3000 per annum.

Just say no to peanuts?

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 2, 2011 at 11:01 pm

“Prohibition Of Cannabis Is Not Achieving Its Aims In The US, And May Even Worsen Outcomes” – BMJ, 9th October 2010

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Written by Peter Reynolds

October 11, 2010 at 10:21 pm

“Cannabis Should Be Sold In Shops Alongside Beer And Cigarettes, Doctors’ Journal Says” – The Daily Telegraph, 11th October 2010

with 10 comments

Yes, this is The Daily Telegraph here.  Yes, this concerns an article published in the BMJ here.

There are distinct signs of sanity on the horizon.   Is it money driving this new reality because we waste £19 billion per annum on the “war on drugs”?  Or is it that Proposition 19 in California and the clash between UK and European law over medicinal cannabis is revealing the absurdity of prohibition?

Cannabis should be sold in shops alongside beer and cigarettes, doctors’ journal says

An editorial in the British Medical Journal suggested that the sale of cannabis should be licensed like alcohol because banning it had not worked.

Banning cannabis had increased drug-related violence because enforcement made “the illicit market a richer prize for criminal groups to fight over”.

An 18-fold increase in the anti-drugs budget in the US to $18billion between 1981 and 2002 had failed to stem the market for the drug.

In fact cannabis related drugs arrests in the US increased from 350,000 in 1990 to more than 800,000 a year by 2006, with seizures quintupling to 1.1million kilogrammes.

The editorial, written by Professor Robin Room of Melbourne University, said: “In some places, state controlled instruments – such as licensing regimes, inspectors, and sales outlets run by the Government – are still in place for alcohol and these could be extended to cover cannabis.”

Prof Room suggested that state-run off licences from Canada and some Nordic countries could provide “workable and well controlled retail outlets for cannabis”.

Prof Room suggested the current ban on cannabis could come to alcohol prohibition, which was adopted by 11 countries between 1914 and 1920.

Eventually it was replaced with “restrictive regulatory regimes, which restrained alcohol consumption and problems related to alcohol until these constraints were eroded by the neo-liberal free market ideologies of recent decades”.

The editorial concluded: “The challenge for researchers and policy analysts now is to flesh out the details of effective regulatory regimes, as was done at the brink of repeal of US alcohol prohibition.”

Campaigners criticised the editorial. Mary Brett, a retired biology teacher, said: “The whole truth about the damaging effects of cannabis, especially to our children with their still-developing brains, has never been properly publicised.

“The message received by children were it to be legalised would be, ‘It can’t be too bad or the Government wouldn’t have done this’.

“I know – I taught biology to teenage boys for 30 years. So usage will inevitably go up – it always does when laws are relaxed.

“Why add to the misery caused by our existing two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco?”

Earlier this year, Fiona Godlee, an editor of the Journal, which is run by the British Medical Association, endorsed an article by Steve Rolles, head of research at Transform, the drugs foundation, which called for an end to the war on drugs and its replacement by a legal system of regulation.

Dr Godlee said: “Rolles calls on us to envisage an alternative to the hopelessly failed war on drugs. He says, and I agree, that we must regulate drug use, not criminalise it.”