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May 03, 2005
Marijuana, Schizophrenia and the White House
Better late than never I suppose - today the White House finally caught up with the scientific research that has accumulated during the past decade that links marijuana to schizophrenia incidence . Of course, given the rebelious nature of teen agers - White House support of any anti-drug programs probably only raises the skepticism levels amoung the portion of the US student population that is more likely to use Marijuana / Pot / Cannabis - so unless money flows into true educational programs (and not just quick press releases and short-term marketing programs that make it look like the government is doing something) and further research on how marijuana impacts the brain, the support of the White House is not likely to mean much.
I can only hope that NAMI is working closely with John Walters et al - since its NAMI member families that are at the highest risk in relation to drugs and schizophrenia (given the proven family susceptibility to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.).
Still, with experts estimating that marijuana is involved in only approximately 8% to 13% of the cases of schizophrenia, its clear that much more needs to be done in the area of schizophrenia prevention and treatment.
Also of note, are news reports that "The White House's drugs policy places emphasis on the treatment of users. Student testing programmes allow 100,000 users access to faith-based [i.e. religious groups'] care programs each year".
Given that there are over many millions of high-school age students that are potentially impacted by marijuana - we have to wonder how much effort is going into non-religous group oriented student testing programs? It would be these non-religious programs that have the best chance to address the largest portion of the marijuana-using student population, I suspect.
Press Release/Marketing Release below:
White House Drug Czar, Research and Mental Health Communities Warn Parents That Marijuana Use Can Lead to Depression, Suicidal Thoughts and Schizophrenia; Serious Psychiatric Impact of Marijuana Use Evident in Growing Body of Research
WASHINGTON, May 3 - The Nation's Drug Czar, John P. Walters, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator, Charles G. Curie, joined with scientists and experts from the leading mental health organizations today to alert parents about the danger marijuana poses to their teens' mental health.
"A growing body of evidence now demonstrates that smoking marijuana can increase the risk of serious mental health problems," said Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "New research being conducted here and abroad illustrates that marijuana use, particularly during the teen years, can lead to depression, thoughts of suicide, and schizophrenia. This is yet another reason that parents must stay closely involved with their teens and ensure that they are not smoking marijuana."
A number of prominent studies have recently identified a direct link between marijuana use and increased risk of mental health problems. Recent research makes a stronger case that cannabis smoking itself is a causal agent in psychiatric symptoms, particularly schizophrenia. During the past three years, these studies have strengthened that association and further found that the age when marijuana is first smoked is a crucial risk factor in later development of mental health problems.
A report released today from SAMSHA found that adults who first used marijuana before age 12 were twice as likely as adults who first used marijuana at age 18 or older to be classified as having serious mental illness in the past year than were adults who first used marijuana at age 18 or older.
"Kids today are using marijuana at younger ages, putting them at greater risk," said Charles G. Curie, SAMHSA Administrator. "We have found that the younger a person starts smoking marijuana, the greater the likelihood they have of developing an addiction and serious mental illness later in life."
"Mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia contribute to the mortality of our citizens, and suicide is one of the leading preventable causes of death," said U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S. "As a society we must do everything we can to promote mental health and prevent mental illness - and that includes keeping our kids drug-free. Parents and teens alike must realize the long-term effects marijuana can have on the brain."
Several recent studies have linked youth marijuana use with depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia:
-- Young people who use marijuana weekly have double the risk of
Evidence has recently emerged that some people's genetic make-up may predispose them to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of marijuana on mental health. For instance, a major study out of the Netherlands concluded that use of the drug "moderately increases" the risk of psychotic symptoms in young people but has "a much stronger effect" in those with evidence of predisposition.
"The nonchalance about marijuana in Europe and the U.S. is worrisome," said Neil McKeganey, Ph.D., Professor of Drug Misuse Research and Director, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland. "Marijuana is the first illegal drug that many young people use and teens don't view it as a serious drug, and when children are exposed only to advice from kids like themselves, the risks seem meaningless. We're starting to see marijuana in a new light given recent research into the connection between marijuana and mental illness."
This new evidence comes with a warning to parents, as they are the most important influence in their teens' lives when it comes to drugs. "Tell your teens the facts and tell them not to use marijuana," said Robert L. DuPont, M.D., President of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., and a leading advocate for the power of parents in preventing drug use. "Take meaningful actions to see that they do not. A vital part of your job as a parent is helping your teen grow up drug-free."
On the Media Campaign's Web site for parents, http://theantidrug.com/ , adults can learn more about how marijuana affects the developing teen brain, including the links between marijuana and depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia. Visitors can take a virtual tour of a human brain to learn how marijuana impairs, and even changes, the functionality of the centers responsible for maintaining overall mental health. Parents can also view responses from a qualified psychiatrist on the most common questions regarding marijuana and mental health.
International News reports suggested that:
The meeting signals the latest step taken by the White House to dispel what Mr Walters has called a culture of "cynicism" and "misinformation" that has seen cannabis widely regarded as a soft drug.
The drugs czar describes cannabis abuse as a "paediatric-onset disease" and supports confidential, non-punitive drug testing for teenagers as a way for them to get help while raising awareness of the drug's effects among their peers.
Earlier this year, MrWalters, who co-ordinates all federal drug programmes and spending, urged European countries to focus on treating users rather than simply tolerating drug use through reclassification, and raised concerns over cannabis, which he called "one of the biggest areas of ignorance".
"The US administration is conscious of the dangers of heroin and cocaine, but it has a very different approach from the UK government and the Scottish Executive in that it also regards cannabis as a serious risk. There is a clear distance in policy."
The White House's drugs policy places emphasis on the treatment of users. Student testing programs allow 100,000 users access to faith-based care programmes each year, while drugs courts offer minor offenders drug education courses instead of jail."
For more information on the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, visit http://www.mediacampaign.org/
The Sentencing Project: http://www.sentencingproject.org
Office of National Drug Control Policy: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov
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