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  • The Scientists fight back.
  • Premier Icon Stoner
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8345823.stm

    their counter attack is to be applauded. I was worried that there would be no common voice and the independent advisers would just melt away and continue to be the government's bitch on policy work.

    This really puts the government on the back foot because if they are seen to dismiss the tenets of the code then they will look even more luddite than they do now.

    In the governments favour though, signing up to the code would pretty much shoot down Prof. Nutt's idea of setting up a separate independent drug advisory group.

    Looking forward to seeing how this continues.

    coffeeking
    Member

    The problem I have with Nutts suggesting cannabis is less harmful than alcohol etc, is that it's rather a grossly simplified assertion and easily mis-understood by the public. As an educated and intelligent man I suspect he didn't consider that a very large swathe of the population may read nothing more into it than "cannabis is safe". And it's not, it CAN have devastating effects on people just as the other two can.

    However it is a bit odd to commission studies and then dismiss the scientists, so I can see their complaint. The problem is that there are some things that the public need explaining in more detail and more clearly, and a "rogue" scientist making brief soundbites is quite dangerous. Very often you see people on here quoting scientific papers as proof of something without understanding what lies behind the testing and the assumptions made etc, the effect is similar.

    Olly
    Member

    he never said cannabis was safe?
    he said it was less harmful that alcohol didnt he?
    and that based on its affects it should be a class C, rather than B.

    if alcohol was invented today, it would be banned instantly.

    at the end of the day, if your dumb enough to take any substance without first understanding the risks your a moron.

    im partial to an odd pint as much as anyone else, but i would never touch cannabis myself (and dont say "you cant know, youve not tried it") whatever class it is.

    its like the daily mash t shirt says:

    As an adult, i think the daily reccomended alcohol limit is me drinking as much as i ferking want

    mt
    Member

    We can't have "rougue (minister speak don't agree with me) scientist making brief sound bites".
    After all a politician is the person to give sound bites, much safer for all. For example "45 mins WMD Iraq".

    sofatester
    Member

    at the end of the day, if your dumb enough to take any substance without first understanding the risks your a moron.

    Exactly, Darwin law.

    Olly
    Member

    how about, rather than a list of illegal substances, a list of

    "things you could choose to do, but if it goes tits up for you, the NHS will bill you for sorting yourself out rather than do it for free"

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    "things you could choose to do, but if it goes tits up for you, the NHS will bill you for sorting yourself out rather than do it for free"

    You'd end up with everything on there appart from genetic dissorders as arguably everythign else is in one way or another someones fault.

    There's always going to be a mismatch between the scientist mind-set (only interested in facts) and the politician mind-set (tend to find facts annoying at best).

    The mention of Iraq and WMD is apposite – the experts in that case were told to go find evidence to support a decision the politicians had already made (if Cherie Blair is to be beleived, on a coin-toss), and any information that didn't support the decision was dismissed. Likewise Prof. Nutt, Brown declares that skunk is turning a nation into zombies and it's completey different to what the cabinet used to smoke in their youth, honest guv, and Nutt is tasked with backing that up. When he reports that there's no evidence to support the assertion, he gets fired.

    Still, he's better off than David Kelly.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
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    We had the canabis debate in our lectures, it is "safer" than alcohol because the theraputic index is higher, thus if you stop taking it when you feel the desired effect (drunk or stoned) your less likely to have reached the level required for an overdose.

    But seeing as accute alcohol poisoning resulting in mortality is very rare (you realy have to try hard because alcohol renders you unconcious fairly early on so youd need to drink quick enough to overcome the vomiting instinct (about 1 bottle of spirits), unconciousness (2-3 bottles), before you reach death (3-4 bottles). Putting the theraputic index arround 100-200 (4shots = drunk, 400to800=death) . Cannabis has been estimated at arround 40,000!

    Whats the issue is chronic problems like mental illness, the average drinker would be unlucky to suffer liver failiure within their lifetime. The average cannabis user is fairly likely to suffer mental distress (if they use cannabis like the average adult uses drink, i.e. 2-3 times a week).

    Spoon,about 20-25% of people in this country have a genetic predisposition towards alcohol abuse and subsequent liver damage.A lot of average drinkers(if you know what that means,cos I don't) are very lucky to avoid serious liver damage.I speak as someone woth 8 years experience nursing people with alcoholic liver failure.
    Ian
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/112210789/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    Premier Icon GrahamS
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    As an educated and intelligent man I suspect he didn't consider that a very large swathe of the population may read nothing more into it than "cannabis is safe".

    Didn't he make his original comments, about Ecstasy causing less deaths per year than horse riding, in the Journal of Psychopharmacology?

    And his latest comments about cannabis were made during a lecture at Kings College about the relative risks of drugs.

    Both seem to me to be pretty valid academic concerns. It's not like he took out a full page advert in The Sun. The media are the ones that thrust him into the spotlight.

    coffeeking
    Member

    he never said cannabis was safe?
    he said it was less harmful that alcohol didnt he?
    and that based on its affects it should be a class C, rather than B.

    Yes, but that's the whole problem. You ask any teenager (and possibly less well educated adults) to simplify what he said in the pub the next day and I'll guarantee you they'll say words to the effect of "its safe".

    Alcohol and fags are not banned, though they probably would be, but that's no reason to "allow" or encourage (by lowering their rating) other things which are known to be seriously dangerous to mental health etc.

    It's not like he took out a full page advert in The Sun.

    Well I beg his pardon then, if it's entirely due to out of context quotation. I just heard a clip of him on the radio, I wasn't aware of it having been recorded in one of his lectures.

    We can't have "rougue (minister speak don't agree with me) scientist making brief sound bites".
    After all a politician is the person to give sound bites, much safer for all.

    I'm not saying anyone is better than anyone else, I'm suggesting not using sound bites to depict a complex subject, but that is what is preferred in the media, so such people should be more careful about how they word things. Unfortunately the general public respond well to soundbites and tend to simplify them and use them as justification for all sorts of things, without stoppign and thinking more closely. Nowhere is this better displayed than many threads of STW where someone puts forward a point, another expands on the questioning in more detail and half the responses are "boring" and attempts to vastly simplify it into black and white.

    awh
    Member

    I think political parties are like banks, when they get too big and powerful they should be broken up! If there were more smaller parties, who had differing view points and could only get things done by working together, there wound be more debate rather than knee-jerk headline grabbing policy statements and a less of a, you either agree with us or don't attitude.

    nonk
    Member

    could someone explain genetic disposition to alchohol abuse?

    Sorry,should have written predisposition,in the general population there are huge variations in response to alcohol,with varying degrees of liver damage for the same amount of intake.Geneticists and liver specialists feel that there is an inherited tendency towards alcohol dependency and liver damage,the highest incidence being in Japan and SE Asia.I don't think it is a concidence that there are strict social constraints on drinking in Japan.
    Ian

    Kramer
    Member

    at the end of the day, if your dumb enough to take any substance without first understanding the risks your a moron.

    Most (just about everyone) people have very little understanding of risk.

    Whats the issue is chronic problems like mental illness, the average drinker would be unlucky to suffer liver failiure within their lifetime. The average cannabis user is fairly likely to suffer mental distress (if they use cannabis like the average adult uses drink, i.e. 2-3 times a week).

    Many drinkers run a significant risk of harm to their physical and mental health as well, and that's before you add in the multitude of social and secondary problems that it causes as well.

    However, we should continue to allow adults the choice to drink, it's just that we should stop demonising and criminalising those who choose to imbibe their psychoactive substances in alternative forms.

    thisisnotaspoon – Member

    The average cannabis user is fairly likely to suffer mental distress (if they use cannabis like the average adult uses drink, i.e. 2-3 times a week).

    Rubbish old chap – millions of people use cannabis like this with no ill effects. The odds of mental health problems are low and no clear causal relationship has been established

    coffeeking
    Member

    Rubbish old chap – millions of people use cannabis like this with no ill effects. The odds of mental health problems are low and no clear causal relationship has been established

    The problem is that while you suggest this, there ARE those in teh scientific community that disagree with you (I can't name them, I've seen them discussing it on TV though!) and personal annecdotal evidence based on observation of a relatively large group of friends would suggest you're wrong. Not exactly a scientific reasoning, but with the lack of data to disprove it I'm happy to run with my current experience-based viewpoint for now.

    You should look at the data then. For starters.

    http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinformation/mentalhealthproblems/alcoholanddrugs/cannabisandmentalhealth.aspx

    This is a pessimistic view from my reading around he subject – underestimate of how many smoke which would inflate the proportion of people suffering harm. there is no doubt it can cause harm and that there is a link with mental health issues but no causal link has been established and the rates are low – a doubling of risk of psychotic episodes in this piece for example

    Kramer
    Member

    The problem is that while you suggest this, there ARE those in teh scientific community that disagree with you (I can't name them, I've seen them discussing it on TV though!) and personal annecdotal evidence based on observation of a relatively large group of friends would suggest you're wrong. Not exactly a scientific reasoning, but with the lack of data to disprove it I'm happy to run with my current experience-based viewpoint for now.

    Except the current scientific consensus is as Prof Nutt claimed, which disagrees with you.

    Also your personal experience is quite probably biased on many levels, as well as the fact that people with mental illness tend to self medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol.

    Essentially you're taking the same position of ignorance as the government- "I know that drugs are bad, it's what I've always been told, and it's what I've seen with my own two eyes, so the scientists must be wrong, I know better."

    alpin
    Member

    nonk – Member
    could someone explain genetic disposition to alchohol abuse?

    watched this a while back and thought it was interesting re. the genetic disposition to alcohol abuse.

    drunk monkeys

    Junkyard
    Member

    coffeeking – Member

    Rubbish old chap – millions of people use cannabis like this with no ill effects. The odds of mental health problems are low and no clear causal relationship has been established

    The problem is that while you suggest this, there ARE those in teh scientific community that disagree with you (I can't name them, I've seen them discussing it on TV though!) and personal annecdotal evidence based on observation of a relatively large group of friends would suggest you're wrong. Not exactly a scientific reasoning,

    Indeed it is not. We gave up with anecdotal evidence as it is unreliable. none of people I smoked with have developed mental health problems so which is true me or you?. Can we go with the research please?

    Personally think this shows why politicians need to make the decisions. Clearly any drug (or activity like say MTB) has risks.However the risks of drugs – due in partto the war on drugs and just say no campaign]- are vastly iver rated by the person in the street – of which coffeking [no offence] illustrtes well. On the other hand you have the legalise it will all be fine end [illustaretd by myself]

    This is essentially a moral decision.The science clearly shows it to be less risky ,or safer if you prefer, than other perfectly legal activities and drugs. Thatis why education can never work on the war in drugs our laws clearly legalise the most dangeous one (smoking kills 1/3 of all smokers via a smoking related disease).

    Scientists have their place but some issues are about judgements not facts
    Drug policy, GM food, foetal experiments , genetic screening of babies,cloning etc.

    gusamc
    Member

    "Mental health problems
    There is growing evidence that people with serious mental illness, including depression and psychosis, are more likely to use cannabis or have used it for long periods of time in the past. Regular use of the drug has appeared to double the risk of developing a psychotic episode or long-term schizophrenia. However, does cannabis cause depression and schizophrenia or do people with these disorders use it as a medication?

    Over the past few years, research has strongly suggested that there is a clear link between early cannabis use and later mental health problems in those with a genetic vulnerability – and that there is a particular issue with the use of cannabis by adolescents."

    The trouble with facts is that there are so many of them.

    "The link between cannabis and psychosis is well established, and recent studies have found a link between use of marijuana and depression.4-7 Does cannabis cause these conditions, or do patients use cannabis to relieve their distress?

    The explanation most accepted is that cannabis triggers the onset or relapse of schizophrenia in predisposed people and also exacerbates the symptoms generally. 4 5 Establishing direction of causality is difficult and is most . . . [Full text of this article]"

    But to be fair my mum was a Fri/Sat night A+E nurse and she never got puncheed in the face by somebody who'd smoked too much (*or eaten too many pies)

    Junkyard
    Member

    read and make up your own mind

    anyone read the actual report

    it is hardly a smokers charter

    Premier Icon kimbers
    Subscriber

    second what gusamc says

    its hard to figure out the relationship between cannabis and mental health problems

    has anyone here ever had to go to a&e on a saturday night
    id say 99% of the bloodied, vomitting, violent, abusive and or comatose people are there because of alcohol

    coffeeking
    Member

    Indeed it is not. We gave up with anecdotal evidence as it is unreliable. none of people I smoked with have developed mental health problems so which is true me or you?. Can we go with the research please?

    Good luck to you, I'd rather not take the risk and not recommend it as relatively harmless. We spend millions in research into curing the problems we suspect may (in some cases) be caused by it. Why risk giving it the apparent green light (in they eyes of the public who won't read a charter)?

    But to be fair my mum was a Fri/Sat night A+E nurse and she never got puncheed in the face by somebody who'd smoked too much (*or eaten too many pies)

    No, but I know a couple of mental health nurses that regularly get punched in the face by schizophrenic patients who also have fairly hefty pot usage. I also know of one who, while in one of their moments, ran around punching and kicking everyone who tried to get near them thinking everyone was "after" them. While the causality is unclear, as far as I'm aware that's because the process of proving the cause is rather more difficult than "have you taken cannabis & do you have schizophrenia?".

    Beats me, but I've seen several close friends crumble under regular pot smoking, not immediate problems but long term change of attitude to life. One or two have turned themselves around and stopped using, the difference in them is night and day. None of my non-pot-smoking friends (all from similar backgrounds and families) has ever had such problems, that annecdotal evidence alone is enough to flag a warning sign with me and make me avoid it.

    But all of this is OT.

    sq225917
    Member

    Some of us are of an age to remember when weed was weed, not uber skunk strains and all that brings with it. When was the last time you saw a decent bit of Leb or squidgy black? Never, it's all hardcore high THC content skunk.

    Out of my original circle of toking friends, back in the late 80's none of them developed any form of use related psychosis. The same can't be said for these smoking these days. It's the type of gear that has lead to increased risk, that and penetration further down the age range.

    Prof's Nutt comments are all fair enough, in context, but that's the trouble with context… However the government should know better, wtf is the point of having independent scientific investigative committees if you are going to ignore what they find, because you think you know better…

    tsk tsk..

    Premier Icon kimbers
    Subscriber

    ooohh cannabis has turned into a superdrug

    sounds like that squidgy black has made you paranoid to me

    alpin
    Member

    i'm off to buy drugs now. see you tomorrow.

    jond
    Member

    >and personal annecdotal evidence based on observation of a relatively large group of friends would suggest you're wrong

    And like another poster, I have several friends (not to mention their friends) that would indicate he's right – none of 'em have any mental health issues.

    Coffeeking – ISTR you've science/engineering background. Anecdotal evidence is worth buggerall – the sample size it too small for it to have any statistical significance. As you said, 'fairly hefty pot useage'. That's probably just what you'd expect from the statistics – ie for the majority of users there's no problem – and probably less risk than with alcohol in terms of related behavior..ever seen anyone stoned get in a fight? Wrt mental health hurses – I suspect that pales into insignificance compared to the average friday or sat at an A&E.

    haddock
    Member

    When was the last time you saw a decent bit of Leb or squidgy black?

    Not for a long time! good job really seen as the Corporation swab test my gob these days. I think weed is good a regulating its own usage. Do to much or do it to often, you get paranoid, so do less or stop for a bit. If you start getting heart palpations or being paranoid after drinking sessions, your probably drinking to much…..simples,

    goverment intervention not really required, good on the scientists.

    coffeeking
    Member

    Coffeeking – ISTR you've science/engineering background. Anecdotal evidence is worth buggerall – the sample size it too small for it to have any statistical significance

    Of course, as I said from the start. But with a lack of good statistical evidence you can only go on intuition. The fact is that there are very good *links* and that there's only a lack of proof of causality, it's not like there's no evidence of a link at all. So we have a statistical likelyhood that it's linked but no evidence to show exactly how, and plenty of people who've degraded while using (hence all these studies came about in the first place, it wasn't just a random thought process). So my intuition and experience tell me not to go near it. If yours tell you something different, thats fine, but its the job of the government to provide clear advice, and in the lack of clear evidence their advice should err on the side of caution. And to be honest I'm bordering on being happy with banning alcohol too, since there's no way to protect those that dont take it to excess from the damage and expense caused by those who do.

    Regardless, 2 of the people I knew later diagnosed with troubles, initially were completely unaware that they were changing, but more than one person commented on it.

    It's full of unknowns and for something that's effectively equivalent to having a beer (socially) it seems like odd priorities to choose to do it.

    Addictive.
    Damaging mentally and physically.
    Socially even less acceptable than smoking cigs now is.

    Just can't see why you would, that's all I'm saying. That and the comment on government policy erring on the side of caution.

    Premier Icon tonyg2003
    Subscriber

    Genetic predisposition to alcohol. People from Asia generally have a polymorphism that makes them produce less alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme that breaks down ethanol) hence they get drunk quicker. Not sure whether this makes them more likely to be addicted too.

    Some people definitely have this and/or a addictive personality, which long term is a very poor combination for health.

    The way our bodies work biochemically (phenotype) is largely due to genetic predisposition and this is begining to be better understand. Even things like mental disorders.

    Part of the problem with any drug (alcohol or other) is that until you take it you don't know the pharmogenomic effects. Hence you might be the 0.1% of the population that cannibis has very serious mental side effects too (or whatever the proportion is) but you won't know in advance.

    This gives me a break from explaining this sort of stuff to my customers!

    The issue with Nutts seems to me to be that he's talking about the stark figures of relative risk factors not social attitudes eg. ecstasy vs horse riding is a good example. The figures don't say that one is legal and one illegal. It's like if I suggested a highly addictive new drug, that cost a fortune per gram, that had many side effects such as heart disease, lung disease and a massively raised risk of cancer, it would be made instantly illegal. But it's socialy fairly acceptible, Smoking eh!

    ianpv
    Member

    I've read the report and my favorite bit is this:

    The effects of cannabis on the heart and blood vessels are similar to the effects of moderate exercise and do not constitute a risk in healthy adolescents or adults.

    If I take that out of context, we should all add a joint or two to our training routine. The report takes about as long to read as this thread, and answers pretty much all the issues raised here, but I guess it is much more fun to argue about something rather than try and actually find out what we're arguing about…

    Kramer
    Member

    And to be honest I'm bordering on being happy with banning alcohol too, since there's no way to protect those that dont take it to excess from the damage and expense caused by those who do.

    And we know from history how well that works don't we?

    The problem with banning a substance when there's a desire for it amongst elements of the population is that it instantly creates a black market, with all that that entails.

    Once again, the advisors weren't trying to say that these drugs carried no risk, just that the best evidence available points to them being relatively low risk. The problem that the government has is that it has painted itself into a corner (both sides) by mindlessly courting the simple solutions to the 'drugs problem' for many years. They then asked a question, and when they didn't get the answer they wanted and expected, they lacked the moral fortitude to go forward with it.

    In this country most people who believe drugs are bad do so not because they've investigated it for themselves, but because they've heard it so many times from authoratitive sources that it has become dogma. Couple this with the associations that drug use has with various other social problems, and a cowardly and lazy media (for the most part, although the Telegraph did run a campaign on this a few years back) who indulge in sensationalist reporting and give exceptionally biased credibility and coverage to those who really don't deserve it (Leah Betts family anyone?) and it becomes 'common sense' that drugs are bad.

    To use heroin as an example, what is in actual fact a very useful drug indeed has been demonised to a level where it is ok for any doctor
    to prescribe it for pain relief, palliative care, or heart failure, however if that same doctor wishes to prescribe the same drug, at the same doseage, in the same patient in order to treat their addiction, the doctor has to be individually approved by the home office. This despite the evidence that is starting to emerge that treating addicts with heroin works better than treating them with methodone.

    For too many people in this country, having the debate about drugs means repeating the dogma that has been spoon fed them since Grange Hill, the politicians had a chance to start to move us on from that, and they **** it.

    coffeeking
    Member

    And we know from history how well that works don't we?

    Agreed, it was a conceptual comment, rather than a practical implementation. I'm well aware of the social, media, policing etc problems with banning things and drug use. As I've said from the start, I'm happy with people killing themselves and to some extent driving themselves insane with whatever they choose. If I wasn't I'd not be a risk taker myself. As I've said from the start, the government is there to provide guidance and information – I've not argued with the outcomes of Nutts research (despite it not exactly following my feelings and experience, though fairly close) but I dont think he should have been quoted out of context in soundbite fashion, nor do I think the government should ignore his work. Personally I have never read a newspaper in my entire life and only tend to watch BBC news, but I generally base my decisions on more reliable data. And what I was saying above is that in the absence of reliable data, I follow my intuition and "common sense", which may be different to others.

    As a purely curiosity driven question and thinking outloud, if being a regular smoker of weed has no effect on peoples normal daily life (as the lovers of it often tell me), how come I can fairly accurately predict whether someone is a user within hours of getting to know them in a work environment, based on nothing but appearance, motor responses and speech? Now obviously this is, yet again, unscientific in nature, but much the same as people have a "gaydar" and pick up on traits, its fairly easy to pick up on the traits of a weed smoker, generally due to slower responses, poorer co-ordination and poorer memory. None of these things help in a large percentage of jobs, so it's fair to assume it does affect daily/work life unless you're a milkman? Obviously the same could be said for heavy drinkers, but it seems that despite the prevalence of heavy drinking, none of its traits seem to "show up". I wonder if they're just more easily hidden?

    Kramer
    Member

    Drinkers are notorious for hiding their habit, but they can be spotted.

    Um, couple of points about drinking, smoking, scientific risk assessments and government assessments.

    During WW2 they looked at the damage caused to bombers (planes, not forks) to see where they should improve the strength. Lots of the bombers returning from Germany had holes in the fuselage so they armoured it. No improvement in the losses. The reason was the losses were caused by the wings being blown off and those planes didn't get home.

    Sounds spurious until you realise that most of the medical statistics are based on people receiving treatment. If a bloke comes into A&E pissed it is alcohol related. If he comes in stoned it is drug related. If he doesn't come in at all it isn't recorded.

    That means either he is happy at home or dead. They extrapolate the facts of the A&E cases to guess which.

    Kramer
    Member

    Deaths get recorded as well.

    Junkyard
    Member

    The fact is that there are very good *links* and that there's only a lack of proof of causality, it's not like there's no evidence of a link at all. So we have a statistical likelyhood that it's linked but no evidence to show exactly how

    You are making a leap that is NOT fully supported by the evidence. Perhaps there is a link perhaps there is not as the experts [who have done research rather than observed their mates] state

    Although there is a consistent (though weak) association, from longitudinal studies, between cannabis use and the development of psychotic illness, this is not reflected in the available evidence on the incidence of psychotic conditions*.

    *Cannabis use has increased since the 60's yet we have NOT had an increase in mental health issues during that time. The evidence is NOT as clear as you claim.
    Essentially a small number of cannabis users will experience problems, like a small number of those who use alcohol or those who gamble. Causality, predisposition, or a myriad of interacting factors? I go for the later.

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