Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph Misrepresents ‘Skunk’ Cannabis Mental Health Cases With Figure of 82,000. True Figure is 1,600.

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Martina Lees

Two almost identical articles were published in The Daily Telegraph on 11th and 12th August 2017

Does smoking skunk trigger psychosis? And if so… why aren’t we doing more about it?

The secrets of skunk

In both articles, journalist Martina Lees wrote that:

“…hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders have more than doubled over the past decade, to almost 82,000 a year. Most are believed to be cannabis-related.”

This is a combination of wildly misleading manipulation of data and brazen falsehood.

Hospital Episode Statistics are maintained in great detail by the NHS using a system of coding called ICD10 – a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO). containing codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases.

The specific code for ‘mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids’ is F12.  For the past 11 years, ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for F12 have averaged 973, so the claim that most of the 82,000 are cannabis-related is simply false. (Unless of course, Ms Lees is going to claim she made a mistake.)

So where does the extraordinary figure of 82,000 come from (the exact figure is 81,904)?

Firstly, it is for all illicit drugs or ‘drug misuse’ including the following ICD10 codes:

F11 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of opioids
F12 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids
F13 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of sedatives or hypnotics
F14 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cocaine
F15 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of other stimulants, including caffeine
F16 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of hallucinogens
F18 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of volatile solvents
F19 Mental and behavioural disorders due to multiple drug use and use of other psychoactive substances

Secondly, the figure is not just for primary diagnosis but for secondary diagnosis.  So the primary reason for one of these cases might be a broken leg or any other medical condition. The secondary diagnosis might be that the person was high on speed or any of the drugs mentioned.  The primary diagnoses for all these codes adds up to about 8,000 FAEs but the figure is inflated ten-fold by the inclusion of secondary diagnoses.  Why do this?  Why have the figures been presented in this way?  With what purpose?

If the whole premise of her article is about the mental health effects of cannabis, why does Martina Lees use this massively larger figure for all illicit drugs when the specific figure for cannabinoids is easily available?  And if the purpose of the article is to investigate the effect of cannabis on mental health, why look at secondary diagnoses – except that it handily inflates the figure ten-fold?

Three other important points about this data:

1. ‘Finished admission episodes’ is not the same as people, its caseload, so those 1606 cases in 2015-16 almost certainly includes cases where the same person has been admitted more than once.

2. ‘Cannabinoids’ includes synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and anyone with any knowledge of current affairs will know how problems with Spice have exploded in recent years.  It is a fact that Spice is much more harmful to mental health than cannabis so the increase in F12 FAEs in recent years is almost certainly explained by this.

3.  I’m not a believer in always comparing any data about cannabis with equivalent data for alcohol but it is worth noting, to put these figures into perspective, in 2015-16 the number of FAEs for mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol was 44,491.   As there about 10 times more people use alcohol regularly than cannabis, that means anyone is nearly three times as likely to be admitted for ‘alcohol psychosis’ as ‘cannabis psychosis’.

I have written to Martina Lees asking her to comment on this data and explain why she has used it in such misleading fashion.

 

 

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Irresponsible, Reckless BBC Broadcasts Dangerous Claim That So-Called ‘Skunk’ is More Harmful Than Heroin.

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Louisa Philips Kulukundis. Psychotherapist at Soul Counselling, counsellor at Steps2Recovery, member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

“I would say give me a room full of heroin addicts than skunk addicts…

I remember saying to my older son I would prefer you to take heroin than to smoke skunk…

There will be generations of kids with severe mental health issues.”

Source: ‘Cannabis: Time for a Change?’ From 28:20

There is huge and justifiable righteous anger about the idiotic words spoken by this woman on the BBC Newsbeat documentary ‘Cannabis: Time for a Change?’

It would be easy to launch into a tirade against Ms Kulukundis but her words and their crass stupidity speak for themselves. I wonder how many kids, listening to her recommendation on the BBC’s ‘yoof’ channel will think ‘Well I’ve smoked weed loads of times with no trouble, now this woman who’s an expert says heroin is safer, maybe I’ll see if I can get hold of some.’

I understand that Ms Kulukundis supports the idea that cannabis with a higher proportion of CBD should be legally available instead of so-called ‘skunk’ which with zero or very little CBD dominates today’s illegal market.  She deserves credit for this and I would be very surprised if she wasn’t already regretting the very serious mistake she has made.

Ms Kulukundis does however subscribe to the falsehood that cannabis is a major cause of mental health problems.  The facts of hospital admissions and GP/community health service treatment prove this is not the case.  While we shouldn’t turn away from protecting those very few people who can be vulnerable, it is about time that the media started reporting accurately instead of the gross distortions and misrepresentation seen recently, particularly from the brazenly dishonest and ‘fake news’ Daily Telegraph.

Far, far more serious and the place where responsibility really lies for this broadcast is with the BBC.  Its negligence in allowing these words to be broadcast is unforgivable and CLEAR is pursuing a complaint.  The BBC’s complaints procedure is of course notorious for its determination to brush aside viewers’ concerns with anodyne responses that mean nothing. Many don’t realise that until you get to stage three you’re not even communicating with the BBC but with Capita to whom it outsources its complaints handling.  We will pursue this complaint until it reaches the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit and if necessary we will appeal it to OFCOM which, with the demise of the BBC Trust, is now the independent regulator.

It is a shame that the BBC has spoiled what is a clear shift in its position on cannabis.  Instead of mindless obedience to the government’s bad science and propaganda it is now recognising that reform is the only rational way forward.  As usual its coverage is dominated by stereotypical caricatures of what it regards as cannabis users.  It still seems incapable of recognising that most of the three million regular cannabis consumers in the UK are not relics of the hippy era but hardworking people with families and ‘ordinary’ lifestyles.  It also allowed its debate programme ‘Newsbeat Debates. Legalising Cannabis’ to be dominated by the ‘Gateway Theory’, an idea comprehensively disproven many times over, which even our prohibitionist government recognises is invalid.  What is the point of debate if it is hijacked by misinformation and not informed by science and evidence?

The BBC should take the initiative in apologising, correcting and broadcasting a full explanatuion of why Ms Kulukundis’ claim is scientifically inaccurate and extremely dangerous. Sadly, it will almost certainly have to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide any meaningful response at all.

 

 

 

Even The Guardian Is Now On The ‘Skunk Scaremongering’ Bandwagon.

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guardian cannabis psychosis headline picRead The Guardian’s Editorial Here

In the last couple of years, even the Daily Mail has shifted its stance on cannabis as it sees opportunities to sensationalise ‘miracle cures’ from medicinal use – the epileptic child now smiling, the cancer patient whose tumour has disappeared. Truth and balance are irrelevant when a dramatic headline is all you’re after.

The Daily Telegraph has become the new home of ‘reefer madness’ with bad science, nasty prejudice and booze-fuelled fear of a safer recreational drug threatening the massive profits of the alcohol industry.

Now, even the Guardian jumps on the ‘skunk scaremongering’ bandwagon with the exaggerated claim that “the risks of heavy teenage cannabis consumption should frighten all of us”. In a backhanded editorial it suggests legalisation because cannabis is dangerous. It claims the consequences of cannabis “abuse are devastating. Psychotic breakdowns smash up lives and can lead to full-blown schizophrenia.” There is little evidence to support such hysteria. In reality, such effects are so rare as to be virtually unheard of and it’s impossible to prove they are caused by cannabis.

Of course we must protect young people, particularly from the high-THC/low-CBD ‘moonshine’ varieties that are a direct result of government policy. However, we cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into scare stories will somehow reduce harm. The only way to protect children is by legal regulation with mandatory age limits.

The Guardian makes much of Public Health England’s (PHE) figure that “there are more than 13,000 under-18s in treatment for the consequences of heavy cannabis use in England”. It neglects to mention that PHE also publishes more than 69% are referred by the criminal justice, education and social care systems while only 17% are referred from healthcare and just 11% by themselves or their family. Thus, more than two-thirds are receiving coercive treatment and only 11% actually consider they have a problem.

It is government propaganda that thousands of young people are suffering from mental health problems due to cannabis. Why is The Guardian promoting this myth? Last year, in answer to a Parliamentary question, Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for ‘cannabis-induced psychosis’ in young people for each of the past five years.

Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, ‘cannabis psychosis’ is of negligible significance. To put it into perspective, there are an estimated 3,000 FAEs for peanut allergy each year but we don’t waste £500 million pa on futile law enforcement efforts to ban peanuts!

For 50 years, the Home Office has systematically misled and misinformed the British people about cannabis. Successive generations of young people know they have been lied to. Such dishonest health information is counterproductive. As a result, many children may think that heroin or crack are not as harmful as they have been told.

Cannabis is not harmless but neither is it ‘dangerous’. If you apply that description to it you also have to apply it to energy drinks, over-the-counter painkillers and hay fever remedies. Similarly, whatever scaremongering there is about ‘addiction’, the scientific evidence is that dependency amongst regular cannabis users is slightly less than caffeine dependency amongst regular coffee drinkers – and withdrawal symptoms are similar in nature and intensity.

What we need is evidence-based policy. Government needs to take responsibility for the £6 billion pa cannabis market instead of abandoning our young people and communities to street dealers and criminal gangs. The benefits to be gained from cannabis law reform are reduced health and social harms, massive public expenditure savings, increased tax revenue and proper protection for the vulnerable, including children.

References

Young people’s statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), Public Health England, December 2015
Drugs: Young People. Department of Health written question – answered on 20th March 2015.
Relative Addictiveness of Drugs, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, NIDA and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, UCLA, 1994

Cannabis Saves Lives And Cannabis Prohibition Ruins Lives Every Day. All the Media Can Worry About Is Djokovic’s Nose.

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“Someone is getting high, can you smell it?”

The BBC, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, countless international publications, blogs and websites have published this ridiculous story.

Apparently, Novak Djokovic felt “dizzy” because he could smell cannabis during his Rogers Cup semi-final win over Jérémy Chardy in Montreal.  Now let’s be clear, the smell of cannabis comes from terpenes, not from cannabinoids.  It cannot get you high or dizzy.

I’m pleased that Novak recognises the delightful smell of weed.  More and more sportspeople are using it as an aid to recovery.  NFL and rugby players are advised to use it to protect against the dangers of concussion or brain injury.  Stimulating the endocannabinoid system helps to promote healing and growth. Not long before cannabis is ruled out of sport as a performance enhancer, not just because of blind prejudice against a safer recreational drug.

But it is sickening that so much coverage is given to this when across the world there are so many more important stories about the almost miraculous,  life saving, therapeutic effects of cannabis.  Similarly, there are important but tragic stories of people being incarcerated for growing the plant or treating their illness with it.  There are disgusting stories of corruption in governments, parliaments and bureaucracies where lies and misinformation about cannabis are promoted, mainly to protect vested interests in the alcohol and law enforcement industries.

All the media is interested in is this sort of trivial nonsense, unless of course it’s some mythological scare story about mental illness or deranged axe murderers.  A free press is a valuable and essential part of our pretence at democracy. We also need freedom from the lies, misinformation and corrupt agendas of press barons and editors.

Massive, Long Term Study Shows No Health Harms From Cannabis. Where Are The Headlines?

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apa-logoLong term cannabis use by teenage boys is not linked to later physical or mental health issues according to a very large, long term study published by the American Psychological Association.

Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness

Where are the front page headlines, the hysterical editorials, the hand wringing, bleating and scaremongering from the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail? They seem to be very quiet on this one. To be fair the Mail has covered it but the leaders in anti-cannabis propaganda at the Telegraph have ignored it and so have the BBC. What a surprise! Even Jon ‘Skunk’ Snow, the latest journalist to sacrifice his integrity on the altar of reefer madness, is completely silent. No grandstanding opportunities on this one.

Jon 'Skunk' Snow

Jon ‘Skunk’ Snow

This is a huge study of 408 males tracked from adolescence into their mid-30s.  The results have been published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and comprehensively demolish the many, much smaller, ‘snapshot’ studies that the Mail, the Telegraph and the BBC have given massive prominence to in the past.

Even more important than the study itself is the insight this provides into the blatant dishonesty, misrepresentation and falsehood which UK newspapers and TV routinely engage in when reporting on cannabis. The usual bigots and deceivers such as Kathy Gyngell, Dr Max Pemberton, Simon Heffer and Melanie Phillips are notable only for their absence.  This is the way the debate on cannabis is conducted in the UK.  The media misrepresent the evidence, report only what supports their editorial position and our weak, cowardly political leaders dutifully follow what Fleet Street tells them to do.

The Barclay Brothers, Owners of the Daily Telegraph

The Barclay Brothers, Owners of the Daily Telegraph

What is particularly important is that this is a longitudinal study, following real people in real life over a long period of time. It’s a large number of people and its accuracy and reliability eclipses virtually all the research that the prohibition supporters report on at great length.

Paul Dacre, The Butcher of Truth at the Daily Mail

Paul Dacre, The Butcher of Truth at the Daily Mail

This is the real cannabis psychosis. A pathological dishonesty affecting editors, journalists, civil servants and politicians. Nothing demonstrates the seriousness of this widespread illness than the lack of coverage given to this remarkable research.

Remember this next time you see some ridiculous newspaper column misinforming about cannabis or some pompous fool of an MP bellowing their ignorant views in the House of Commons.

Farage On Marr. A Towering Performance.

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Nigel Farage, The Andrew Marr Show, 1st June 2014

Nigel Farage, The Marr Show, 1st June 2014

This was Nigel Farage at his very best: the man of the people, relaxed but determined, fair minded but firm, tolerant but strong, patriotic but generous.  Really it couldn’t have gone any better.

All the vile abuse hurled at him by the small men and women of the media and the political establishment, the disgraceful BBC bias, the blatant hypocrisy of Tory and Labour that ferment conflict within our country every day.  Nigel dealt with them all with a smile and good grace.

He is stronger than ever.  The UKIP policies that he hinted at seem sensible and popular. Protest votes will be hardening into solid support.  Britain now despises the identikit Cameron, Miliband, Duncan Smith, Balls and the rest.  The chattering idiots at the Guardian and the BBC  and the Bullingdon Club associate members at the Telegraph and the Times.  They’re all as out of touch as each other.  The Fleet Street Mafia is as disgraced as the members of the cabinet and shadow cabinet.  We want none of you anymore!

Horrible Pictures From Hyde Park Cause Dreadful Damage To Cannabis Campaign.

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Yesterday, the annual Hyde Park 420 event took place.  420 is an American term for cannabis and these events take place all over the world on 20th April.  Why?  For very obscure and esoteric reasons! They are variously described as celebrations of cannabis or protests for legalisation.  Yesterday in Hyde Park was a disaster.

Violent arrests, open dealing of cannabis, hash cookies decorated to appeal to children – these are terrible images that will cause immense harm to the way that cannabis and cannabis users are seen.  CLEAR will not be publishing any of these pictures.

It matters not that these arrests were fundamentally unjust.  The police officers concerned were only doing their job.  The Daily Telegraph and other media are ramping up hysteria over two deaths in Colorado associated with ‘edibles’; so cannabis cookies in kids style was a spectacular own goal. Close-ups of bags of weed being sold alongside the names of the organisers is not just stupid, it is crazy.

We will never win the support of the public by behaving this way.  Inevitably, of the hundreds there, many seemed barely out of their teens.  The images and messages this sends through the media and to our political leaders are destructive of all the positive work that is being done towards reform. These demos, protests,  ‘smoke ups’ and ‘smoke outs’ have never had any positive effect so what makes anyone think they will now?

I know that many involved with the organisers are sincere but if I wanted to plan how to subvert and undermine the campaign, yesterday in Hyde Park would be a good model.

We have MPs, opinion leaders and powerful people on our side but unsurprisingly they will not be associated with such events.  Let’s move on and put this as far behind us as we can. The key to winning this war is to demonstrate that we can behave responsibily, to win hearts and minds which have been subject to propaganda for nearly a century.  Reform in the US has been achieved despite, not because of such events.

So what can you do? Write to your MP, arrange to meet your MP, ask your MP to arrange a meeting with a minister. This is what works. This is what is actually making progress. Let’s not mess it up.