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  • American Cannabis Report Editorial Staff

Loose Use of Scary Psych Terms Misleads Public About Cannabis

The headline in "Medical News Today" screams with propaganda - like vigor: "Marijuana use linked to greater psychosis risk in teens".

Our readers with radar for anti-cannabis propaganda will see what we did there - - we said the headline is propaganda-like, not actual propaganda. And they also know that often the person who writes the headline is NOT the person who researched and wrote the article. So there's no telling how a Canadian university study that collected data about "psychotic-like experiences" produces a health industry newsletter headline about actual "psychosis risk". They also know that the American Cannabis Report champions medicinal cannabis applications and NOT recreational use, and does not support teens using cannabis, though we recognize that teens do lots of things they're not supposed to do.)

Having said all that, most thoughtful readers will quickly recognize the danger inherent in such alarming headlines.

Question #2: - is a "psychotic-like experience" (in the study) the same as an actual psychosis (in the headline)? Well, let's allow the National Institute of Mental Health define "psychosis":

"The word psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality... During a period of psychosis, a person’s thoughts and perceptions are disturbed and the individual may have difficulty understanding what is real and what is not. Symptoms of psychosis include delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear). Other symptoms include incoherent or nonsense speech, and behavior that is inappropriate for the situation.

A brief of the study in question defines a "Psychotic-like experiences are defined as perceptual abnormalities (e.g. mild hallucinatory experi-ences) and delusional thoughts that fall well below DSM-5 diagnostic criteria of psychosis (Kelleher &Cannon, 2016; van Os, Linscott, Myin-Germeys,Delespaul, & Krabbendam, 2009).

In other words, a psychotic-like experience is NOT psychosis.

Question 3#: as the Merovingian says in the Matrix movies - issue #3 is "causality".

  • Are teens prone to depressive episodes? Most would say Yes.

  • Are they caused by social, economic, or hormonal realities, perceptions, and/or changes in either or both? Most likely Yes.

  • Do teens seek relief from cannabis or other means? Again, most would answer Yes.

  • Do some teens have underlying mental health issues that are typically revealed during the 'teens and 20's? Cambridge researchers say Yes.

  • BUT... Is there a definitive causal relationship between cannabis and psychosis? Does underlying psychosis cause cannabis use (as a relief), or does cannabis use cause psychosis?

On this last point, the causal relationship cannot be irrefutably made. Therefore, the study seems inconclusive to this reader, but more importantly, the Medical News Today headline is alarming and misleading.

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