Washington, DC: The results of a recent British review reporting an association between pot use and mental illness neither implicates cannabis as a cause of psychotic behavior, nor suggests that cultures with abnormally high rates of cannabis consumption have experienced increased incidences of mental ailments, NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano said today.
The widely reported meta-analysis, published Friday in the British medical journal The Lancet, cites a series of previous published studies that have observed a dose-dependent association between cannabis use and increased incidences of mental illness. However, authors of the study affirmed that this association "does not necessarily reflect a causal relation" between consuming cannabis and triggering psychotic behavior.
Armentano said that there are several explanations for the observed correlation. "Individuals suffering from mental illness such as schizophrenia tend to use all intoxicants – particularly alcohol and tobacco – at greater rates than the general population," he noted. "Not surprisingly, many of these individuals also use cannabis."
Armentano also noted that many of those patients who use cannabis report consuming the drug to self-medicate various symptoms of their illness, such a depression or mania.
Lastly, Armentano emphasized that investigators failed to report any evidence that trends in mental illness have paralleled rising trends in cannabis use around the globe. "Despite the enormous popularity of cannabis in the 1960s and 1970s in numerous Western cultures, rates of psychotic disorders haven't increased since then in any of these societies," he said.
Armentano concluded by stating that those concerned over pot’s potential impact on health should support legally regulating cannabis rather than criminally prohibiting its use. "By legalizing and regulating marijuana, public officials would better be able to educate users to its potential risks, and they would also be able to more effectively enact safeguards restricting its use among potentially vulnerable populations, especially young people," he said. "Even if taken at face value, The Lancet’s findings no more warrant the continued criminalization of pot than does the desire that pregnant women refrain from alcohol warrant the blanket prohibition of booze."
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is available in the NORML White Paper, "Cannabis, Mental Health, and Context," available online at: http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6798. Additional audio commentary on the Lancet report is available on the August 1, 2007 broadcast of the NORML Audio Stash at: http://www.normlaudiostash.com.