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February 28, 2013

Signs of the Times?

The February 23 issue of Science News contains a long article by Laura Sanders on the the dearth of effective new psychotropic drugs and the generally dismal record of Big Pharma in developing new therapeutic agents for treating mental illness. The article leads off with a report of the “crushing” failure of stage three clinical trials of a new drug, LY2140023, being developed by Lilly to treat schizophrenia.

It’s apparently not a new problem, “Not a single drug designed to treat a psychiatric illness in a novel way has reached patients in more than 30 years,” observed a prominent academic psychiatrist quoted by Sanders. My own modest clinical study of cannabis use and users, now embracing nearly 7000 Californians seeking to use “weed” legally, suggests the answer: ever since Richard Nixon and John Mitchell pulled a fast one on Science by substituting rhetoric for research via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, federal policy has been directing the Pharmaceutical industry away from “herbal" medicines and in the direction of synthetic molecules. What my study also points to are two important areas in urgent need of honest investigation.

One is the role of families in producing the chronic dysphoria that leads vulnerable teens to experiment with multiple illegal "drugs of abuse." The other is the role played by cannabis in protecting its chronic users against use of the two more dangerous legal drugs- alcohol and tobacco. What my focused questioning made clear is that the substitution effect noted by Mikuriya and others was not a conscious choice; rather it was something that happens very predictably after patients make cannabis their drug of choice and began self-medicating with with it. Those patterns were revealed by detailed questioning that directly compares their use of all three "starter" drugs which are further distinguished by the fact that all applicants had initiated cannabis by getting high, all had also tried alcohol by getting drunk at least once, and 96% had inhaled smoke from at least one cigarette.

Such focused questioning clearly shows that rather than merely substituting for the two more problematic agents, cannabis seems to reduce use use of both, probably by treating the same symptoms of stress and anxiety more safely and effectively.

At least as importantly, the study conclusively exposes Nixon’s outdated CSA as a false guide to pharmacological reality. Nevertheless the "drug war" that broke out almost overnight after the CSA was signed into law has been been endorsed by both Psychiatry and Big Pharma for four decades. If nothing else, the unseemly haste with which an obviously deceptive piece of new legislation was embraced by supposed "experts" should raise doubts about their competence. In the case of Psychiatry, the problem is one of errant classification: the DSM is simply not an objective classification despite the claims of its authors, who have been revising it almost continuously since 1952.

On another front, the drug war is taking its lumps from Hollywood as indicated by the release of a film exposing America’s anomalous prison system entitled The House I Live In. The theme of the film (which I haven't seen yet) is that the "land of the free and the home of the brave" is now imprisoned- both morally and financially- in a bogus theoretical prison of its own making which, like our runaway “Corrections” Industry, is also a creature of the drug war.

When its financial and human costs are examined objectively, an expensively failing drug war seems like an exorbitant price to pay for Richard Nixon's unhappy childhood.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 28, 2013 08:00 PM