Reefer Madness: Feds Warn That Marijuana Makes Kids Crazy 5/6/05

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As part of what one leading drug reformer called "a barrage of bullshit," but which drug czar John Walters and his Office of National Drug Control Policy prefer to call a national media campaign to educate youth about the "serious consequences" of marijuana use, Walters and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) co-hosted a Tuesday press conference to warn that kids who smoke pot are more likely to develop mental health problems.

"Reefer Madness"
continues today.
The press conference was only the first act in a new campaign to link teen marijuana use and mental illness; the media campaign will next week publish an "open letter" to parents in 25 big city newspapers across the country to warn them of the danger. ONDCP's anti-drug campaign web site already contains new related materials, such as a "virtual tour" of the human brain "to learn how marijuana impairs, and even changes, the functionality of the centers responsible for maintaining overall mental health."

Based on a handful of controversial research reports, Walters trumpeted the claim that marijuana use increases the likelihood that anyone -- not just kids -- is more likely to go crazy. "A growing body of evidence now demonstrates that smoking marijuana can increase the risk of serious mental health problems," he told the press conference. Teenagers who expose themselves to marijuana, the drug czar said, have an "increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, and schizophrenia."

Among the studies cited by Walters was one done by SAMSHA that found adult marijuana users who began before the age of 12 (!) were twice as likely to have suffered from mental illness in the past year as those who began smoking after 18. That same study also found that teens who smoked three times a week or more were more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Other studies linked marijuana use with schizophrenia.

But while the studies appear to show a correlation -- or in Walters' words, "a clear link" -- between teen marijuana use and mental health problems, the question of cause and effect is still unanswered. Similarly, while the studies linking marijuana and schizophrenia would suggest a massive increase in the incidence of schizophrenia since the explosion in marijuana use in the 1960s, no such massive increase exists.

Still, the studies were good enough for Walters to enlist them in his crusade. "This is one more very, very serious and important reason for kids not to use drugs," he said. "Society is telling them marijuana is not a serious risk. That's deadly."

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Issue #385 -- 5/6/05

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Editorial: Bay State Agony | War on Drugs Shifts to War on Marijuana | Students at SUNY New Paltz Rally to Demand End of Marijuana Expulsions | "Marijuana Is Safer" -- Reformers Take Up a New Refrain | Announcement: DRCNet/Perry Fund Event to Feature US Rep. Jim McDermott, June 1 in Seattle | Medical Marijuana: Federal Bill Re-launched and Amendment Plans Announced at DC Press Conference | Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Asset Forfeiture: Albuquerque Police Broke Law with Seized Funds | Methamphetamine: Oregon Doctors Reject Proposal to Turn in Meth Users to Health Officials | Methamphetamine: Meth-Cooking Demo at School Perturbs Parents | Oxycontin: Massachusetts Lawmakers Weigh Ban on Popular Pain Reliever | Prisons: Some Architects Call for Profession to Reject Prison, Jail Design Jobs | Needle Exchange: New Jersey Cities Expect NEP Approval Today | Needle Exchange: Massachusetts Meltdown | Reefer Madness: Feds Warn That Marijuana Makes Kids Crazy | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Listing: Outreach Coordinator, Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (DRCNet) | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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