Repost from the old site. I received a mail today from someone who attended an interesting conference in the Midwest. At a Mental Illness and Criminal Justice Conference today in Omaha, Nebraska, Dr. Frederick Frese, who is the Coordinator of the Summit County Recovery Project and Assistant Prof of Psychology in Clinical Psychology at NEOUCOM and Case Western Reserve U, and on the Board of Trustees for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, gave a session on teenage cannabis use and schizophrenia. He has been a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic for 40 years. Frese stated that use of cannabis between the ages of 15 and 18 in persons who have a variant allele of the COMT gene will lead to an almost certain psychotic break by the age of 25. He said it’s because of the formative time that the brain is in during those years, in combination with that certain allele, together with cannabis use. He said that if you have do not have the variant allele, no problem. Frese is so concerned about this that he and his team are going to start setting up genetic testing booths for kids at rock concerts because of the very real danger that the studies show exist. I applaud Dr. Frese for the very real efforts he is taking to try to prevent schizophrenia in vulnerable youth. I am dubious about how many kids this will save. The rate of schizophrenia has not gone up since the cannabis era began. This suggests that use of cannabis if anything will cause schizophrenia to occur sooner than it would otherwise occur, and it would occur anyway, just later. The number of folks with this variant allele is high in absolute numbers, and many of them use MJ and don’t get schizophrenia. But it does cause a 10 times elevated risk. I think that Frese is wrong to say that it’s almost certain that these kids will get schizophrenia by 25 after smoking one jay between ages 15-18. As I’ve said before on this blog, I have known 1000’s of cannabis users over my lifetime, many heavy users. The number who went on develop schizophrenia? Zero. This is why this whole subject makes me yawn. I wish Frese good luck with his experiment though. Ideally, we could construct a good experiment this way. We could follow kids with the variant allele who wait til 19 to start MJ (Is this protective?) or avoid it period, with another group who did not avoid cannabis and see how many of each develop schiz and at what ages. Tell the truth, I am quite concerned about use of cannabis by minors. I wish they would not do it. Period. Wait til you’re an adult! I have OCD (another, though vastly less devastating, mental illness), and I have found that cannabis is actually a superb psychiatric drug for this illness. It works better than almost any med I have ever taken for this (The drugs work great at high doses, but nuke my sex drive, so what good are they?), and I have suffered for 26 yrs. No clinician believes me when I tell them this; all insist that pot makes you mentally ill or worsens all mental illness or caused my problem in the first place (The gall of them!?), and all try to steer me to drug treatment or drug counseling when I tell them I use. I’m really getting tired of this shit. I’m 50 years old, and I’m being treated like a child. I have some opinions about the mental health profession, but in general they are extremely low. For such a bunch of super-smart people, there sure is a lot of bullshit groupthink, scaredy-cat thinking and just general lack of an empirical outlook.
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