Weeding Out Dubious Marijuana Science

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RxCowboy

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From WSJ oped page:

Weeding Out Dubious Marijuana Science
Researchers find ways to minimize increases in crime and traffic deaths that followed legalization.
By Alex Berenson
May 5, 2019 5:01 p.m. ET

Academics depict the peer-review process as the gold standard for intellectual honesty, ensuring published scholarly work is unbiased and accurate. But ideological conformity makes peer review a far thinner defense than advertised.

In January I published a book about the mental-health and violence risks of cannabis. Several dozen scholars signed a petition expressing in unison their objection to my work. Thus I’ve recently spent an inordinate amount of time reading papers seeking to prove that marijuana is a cure-all whose deleterious consequences are a figment of our collective imagination. The shoddiness of much of the work has shocked me.

Example: Driving deaths have risen more than 30% in Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, since dispensaries opened there in 2014. That rise is more than double the national change. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported in October that the number of vehicle accidents overall were up faster in legalized states than the rest of the nation.

Nonetheless, researchers have claimed legalization doesn’t increase driving deaths. Last year, Benjamin Hansen of the University of Oregon and two other researchers wrote a paper looking at the rise in vehicular deaths in which drivers had THC in their blood. They found such deaths rose in Colorado and Washington at rates “similar” to those in other states.

In fact, the data showed that legalization explains about half the increase in Colorado and Washington. But because the data were limited, the results had wide confidence intervals, which means it’s possible but not probable that the postlegalization gap was the result of chance. A more honest way to report the results would have been to say that the paper had found a worrisome trend in cannabis-linked deaths, which more data might confirm.

Violent crime has also soared in the legalized states since 2013. Yet last month two criminologists claimed in a Seattle Times op-ed that they had found “no increase in violent crime that can be directly attributed to marijuana legalization.” That formulation makes the statement a trivial truth. Without examining every murder, no one can say legalization has directly driven the increase.

The authors explain in the op-ed that they based their statement on a paper they co-wrote. They don’t name it, but the only published paper listing them as co-authors is a 2018 study called “Marijuana Legalization and Crime Clearance Rates.” It didn’t even examine whether crime had risen or fallen. It looked only at whether police were likelier to solve, or clear, crimes after legalization. But so what? If murders double from 100 to 200, and the police solve 50 the first year and 110 the second, the clearance rate has risen, but so has the crime rate.

Some of the research is comical. A paper published in March reported that cannabis use seemed to increase “satisfactory orgasms” in women. The paper divided subjects into three categories: nonusers, users who answered yes when asked if they used the drug “before sex,” and users who answered no. But it presented results on sexual satisfaction only from the last two categories—not from women who don’t use marijuana at all. The paper provides no data at all comparing users with nonusers.

I could offer a half-dozen other examples of dubious scientific practices—using nonstandard data sets, relying unnecessarily on “synthesized comparators” that are inherently vulnerable to manipulation, and “p-hacking” by looking at endless secondary outcomes until one pops up that reaches the threshold for statistical significance.

The tricks can be hard to find—and journalists, who are almost never trained in science or statistical analysis, often parrot the results unskeptically, especially when the findings confirm their own biases toward ideology or sensationalism. When car accidents and violent crime are involved, the results can be deadly.

Mr. Berenson is a former reporter for the New York Times and author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.”
 

RxCowboy

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https://www.amazon.com/Tell-Your-Children-Marijuana-Violence/dp/1982103663/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2YWY3IKZZP7WB&keywords=alex+berenson+tell+your+children&qid=1557747516&s=gateway&sprefix=alex+berenson%2Caps%2C229&sr=8-1


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steross

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Below is the NTHSA Colorado data. A few points:
1. The overall fatality rates are increasing significantly since the passage of medical marijuana. Meanwhile, the fatalities per 100 million miles are bouncing up and down and not trending nearly as much. It appears that as the economy gets better, people drive more. As they drive more, they have more accidents. Go figure.
2. The alcohol-impaired rate is increasing.
3. The speeding-related is jumping by huge amounts. After coming back to the US, I have noticed speed limits have become higher and seem to be treated as a mere suggestion.

I do agree with one thing he says, beware of dubious claims. Particularly claims of causation when it doesn't exist and the confounders are readily apparent.

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 8.43.24 AM.png
 

steross

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Great, have convinced my dad to talk to his doctor about a prescription since they have legalized it in NY.
In my inbox today:
Medical Cannabis Safe, Effective for Neurologic Symptoms in the Elderly

Caroline Cassels
May 06, 2019

PHILADELPHIA — Medical cannabis may be safe and effective in the treatment of a wide range of chronic symptoms related to various neurologic illnesses in elderly patients, early research suggests.
In a preliminary study, investigators at the Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, New York, found that the drug provided elderly patients relief from chronic pain, sleep disorders, and anxiety related to diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson disease, neuropathy, spinal cord damage, and multiple sclerosis.
"Our findings show that medical marijuana is well-tolerated in people age 75 and older and may improve symptoms like chronic pain and anxiety," study investigator Laszlo Mechtler, MD, said in a release.
"With legalization in many states, medical marijuana has become a popular treatment option among people with chronic diseases and disorders, yet there is limited research, especially in older people," he added.

The findings were presented here at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 2019 Annual Meeting.

Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that approximately 80% of older adults in the United States have at least one chronic condition. In addition, it is estimated that 2.1 million Americans use medical cannabis.
To evaluate the efficacy and adverse events of medical cannabis in an elderly population, the investigators conducted a retrospective chart review of patients aged 75 years or older who were attending a neurologic outpatient clinic.
The study included 204 patients (129 women and 75 men) enrolled in New York State's Medical Marijuana Program. The average age of the participants was 81. The patients took tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the main active ingredients in cannabis, in various ratios for an average of 4 months and had regular follow-up visits.
Medical cannabis was taken by mouth as a liquid extract tincture, capsule, or via an electronic vaporizer.
Results of the retrospective study showed that 69% of participants experienced some symptom relief. The most common conditions that improved were pain, for which 49% of patients experienced relief; sleep symptoms, for which 18% experienced relief; neuropathy, for which 15% experienced improvement; and anxiety, for which 10% experienced relief.
Initially, 34% of the cohort experienced side effects. However, after adjusting the dose, only 21% reported side effects. The most common side effects were sleepiness (13%), balance problems (7%), and gastrointestinal disturbances (7%). Three percent discontinued use because of adverse events.

Interestingly, the results showed a decrease in opioid use in 32% of participants.
 

SLVRBK

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Thanks @steross I sent that up to him.
He had back surgery several years ago, scar tissue formed so the pain is as bad as it was prior to surgery. Doc told him they can clean it out but can't guarantee the scar tissue will not redevelop. He is 80 and looking for anything that will work consistently.
 

llcoolw

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#12
Thanks @steross I sent that up to him.
He had back surgery several years ago, scar tissue formed so the pain is as bad as it was prior to surgery. Doc told him they can clean it out but can't guarantee the scar tissue will not redevelop. He is 80 and looking for anything that will work consistently.
Very long time user and never believed it worked for pain as it always made me focus on it more while in use. The past 2 years have proved me very wrong. There's one that's almost 30%thc. It'll stick to a wall. I enjoyed it yet no stone to it, instead there was a numbness in my chronic areas of issue. I'm a believer now and my experiences have been long been sought out.
 

SLVRBK

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Very long time user and never believed it worked for pain as it always made me focus on it more while in use. The past 2 years have proved me very wrong. There's one that's almost 30%thc. It'll stick to a wall. I enjoyed it yet no stone to it, instead there was a numbness in my chronic areas of issue. I'm a believer now and my experiences have been long been sought out.
Thanks and good to know, dad is not looking for the high and is perhaps a little scared of that effect.