cross posted at mLaw

Brain image

When will a study examine the effect of federal anti-drug money on scientist’s brains?

A recent study of the how funding sources of scientific studies impact the emotional honesty and decision making abilities of scientists revealed that researchers make fantastical presumptions, unfounded deductions and engage in deceptive conflations that are not supported by scientific evidence when speaking to the media about studies performed using monies provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center.

Recent research funded by America’s drug warring law enforcement/scientific agencies found that 20 casual cannabis users brains had measurable differences when reflected against a group of 20 subjects who were not casual cannabis smokers.

The scientists did not seek to discover if the differences that were measured resulted in any behavioral changes in the subjects, whether for good or for bad. The scientists did not attempt to understand if the changes measured equated in any way scientifically with addictive or criminal behaviors. The study did not attempt to qualify or quantify how the measured differences effected the study’s subjects decision making or emotional reactions or even if the measured changes were transitory or permanent – the researchers simply did not seek answers to these questions.

Analysts reviewed the statements of the doctors who performed the research to find, strikingly, that although the scientists (from well-respected medical learning institutions including Harvard, Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts) had not sought in any way in their study to understand the implications of the different brain measurements or the possible consequences for casual cannabis users whose brains reflected the different measurements from non-cannabis users brains in their study, reported in their statements to major US media outlets that their study demonstrates the dangers of even casual cannabis use – especially in young people.

The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Jodi Gilman told the media outlet the Boston Globe that her review of the results of the study led her to conclude that America should be concerned because, as the Globe reports, though the “researchers did not study whether (the) changes (found in the tested subjects brains) were linked to corresponding declines in brain function,” we have to be worried because: young people.

Gilman, careening wildly from scientific researcher to self-appointed cultural custodian opinion maker, responding to questions about the results of her scientific” study reminded the credulous Globe reporter of : young people, when, not speaking about any matter the researchers studied, she told the Globe;

This is when you are making major decisions in your life, when you are choosing a major, starting a career, making long-lasting friendships and relationships.

Of note, the Globe reporter did not ask the doctor if her team actually investigated topics such as selecting college majors or embarking upon long-lasting relationships relating to their discovery regarding brain measurements.

Though, as the Globe points out, the study “did not address whether the brain changes are permanent”, Gilman also made the speculative claim that the changes that the study revealed are related to addictive behavior in cannabis users stating that cannabis is, for the brain, “a sort of learning process” that allows the brain “to make connections that encourage further drug use.”

Another researcher involved in the government funded experiment, Dr. Hans Breiter, told the Washington Post that the research “raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” and, “people think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school, our data directly says this is not the case.”

In actuality the study says nothing of the sort as the scientists admit that they did not study, research or in any way test Breiter’s theories that the measurable differences in the brains of the test’s subjects were related to any changes in the behaviors of the subjects – whether good changes or bad changes, or if the measured changes promote, as Breiter frames it editorially as opposed to scientifically; “bad consequences.”

To his credit, it appears that the effect of receiving monies for the study on Breiter was less significant that it was on Gilman, as Breiter did actually throw a smattering of qualifiers in his answers to the Post. In a down column quote the good doctor drops this hedge to the unequivocal-ish statements he made to the Post’s reporter; “there are still many unanswered questions.”

Additionally, although both Gilman and Breiter endeavored to continually mention in their media interviews that the parts of the brain that exhibited differences in measurement in their study are neurological centers for both motivation and decision making, the study itself made no claims about or efforts to study the motivations or decision making of cannabis users. Analysts expressed concern about the motives behind the scientists’ decision to stress and discuss attributes that have long been conflated with cannabis use by prohibitionists in their description of the study that had nothing to do with motivation or decision making. The analysts suggested that mLaw seek input from well known cannabis users, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton and California Governor Jerry Brown to further understand the consequences of the impaired decision making abilities and debilitating a-motivational capacities that haunt college-age cannabis addicts and injure America as a nation.

The analysts pointed out that it should be noted that, in an act of journalistic honesty, the Post (unlike the researchers) does inform its readers; “The study did not look at the behavior of the pot smokers, only their brains.”

The analysts who reviewed the responses that the researchers gave to the major media outlets, while reminding in the strongest possible terms that in science, correlation does not prove causality and acknowledging that the study that they performed focused on an infinitesimally tiny number of federally supported scientists’ media claims, said the researchers, whether consciously or unconsciously, removed themselves from the realms of scientific study in their commentary to provide pseudo-psychological theories about the study’s subjects that (in general) are consistent with the overall policy goals of the science/law enforcement agencies who funded the study; specifically, the perpetuation of the unjust, unscientific and irrational prohibition of the substance cannabis, about which other scientific studies performed by American scientists advise;

Evidence accumulated during the last decade supports that the active components of Cannabis possess anti-cancer activity — National Institutes of Health

Creative Commons image via Wikimedia Commons.