Cannabis Increases 'Brain Noise' - Why This Study Is Flawed
The right-wing media is at it again, trying to use scare tactics to damage the growing support for legalised cannabis. This time, half a joint can cause psychosis-like effects. Here’s why they’re wrong.
According to new reports from such media outlets as the Daily Mail, just half a joint can induce enough random neural activity in the brain that it is comparable to symptoms of schizophrenia. The news is based on new research from Yale University, which found that when injecting pure THC “at doses roughly equivalent to half or a single joint, delta-9-THC produced psychosis-like effects and increased neural noise in humans.”
Not only this, but the editor of the journal it was published in goes on to say that this research is an instrumental part of assessing the debate for legalisation.
To start with, we do not doubt the actual findings of this study. There is a good chance that injecting pure THC, even the equivalent of half a joint, may take the brain to an unprecedented level of neural activity – to the user’s detriment. However, what most sensationalist news outlets seem willing to ignore is the fact that this is in no way relevant or transferable to actual cannabis use.
The main flaw of this study is that absolutely no one injects pure THC or any cannabis derivative for that matter.
Pure THC? Say What!?
Let’s first look at the part one of the flaw. No one uses pure THC in any form. Cannabis contains roughly 111 cannabinoids, and a myriad of other compounds that all affect the way cannabinoids interact with the body. Many of them, like CBD, adjust and counteract the effects of THC, allowing for a pleasurable high without this “refer madness.” Even cannabis concentrates that have been produced to have extremely potent levels of THC in them don’t get anywhere near pure, and always have a counterbalancing content.
To suggest that anyone who uses cannabis is undergoing the same kind of neural reaction as those in this study is not only misguided but also irresponsible. It would be like saying a glass of beer will kill you because a glass of pure alcohol will.
Shooting Up Stoners
The second part of this major flaw revolves around the method of use. Injecting is not something that happens when it comes to cannabis; it is either inhaled or ingested. By injecting participants, researchers make it very hard to make their finding applicable to real life situations, as it could throw up unforeseen variables.
A MINOR FLAW
Another flaw of this research is that it only used 25 participants. The results from such a small group cannot act as anything more than a base for further enquiry. The fact that the major flaw in this study is present almost makes this point irrelevant, as it cannot be taken seriously anyway, but if it weren't, it would be another reason this research needs a lot more thought put into it.
SCIENCE SAYS NO, CANNABIS DOESN’T CAUSE SCHIZOPHRENIA
When it comes to actually assessing the effects of cannabis on the mind, there are many more comprehensive and in-depth studies, all concluding that there is no link between cannabis and schizophrenia. Funny that you don’t see these being reported in the news. This includes research from Harvard, Oxford, and Calgary Universities.
TO THE RESEARCHER’S CREDIT
Although there are certainly flaws with this research, the flaws are not really with the research itself, but the way in which the results have been interpreted and used. From an academic standing, it is very interesting to see what pure THC can do to the mind, and can open up new avenues of investigation to improve our knowledge of schizophrenia and the way the brain works. If you are not trying to apply these findings to everyday cannabis users, then the flaws do not apply, and the research is actually quite sound. In all likelihood, this is what the researchers set out to do, and did not really intended for it to be taken out of hand and applied to real life situations in the way the media, and even the journal’s editor, have tried to do. One thing is for sure, if science wants to assess the potentials of cannabis, then cannabis needs to be used, not an isolated compound. As soon as this happens, it is no longer a research article about cannabis at all.