Dr. Joe McSherry is a neurologist in Vermont with over thirty years of clinical experience and published research. He’s also an expert in medical cannabis and recently examined the media reports of cannabis exacerbating the schizophrenia of Tucson shooter Jared Loughner:
(FireDogLake) The trajectory from imaginative middle school kid to frustrated, angry, dysfunctional young adult living in an alternate reality is consistent with the premorbid function, prodrome and onset of psychosis (Compton et al, in press). What, if any, psychiatric diagnosis will ever be applied to the shooter is unknown to the public. But putative explanations published have included “pot head.” The usual “stoner” image of an amotivational syndrome does not fit as he was frustrated by repeated rejections from work, working out, and off drugs for two years, according to friends. Indeed stopping nicotine and cannabis was associated with his “theories” going off the wall.
The prohibitionists identify cannabis as the cause of psychotic disorders, schizophrenia. This has been hard, or impossible to prove. This is in part because the onset of illegal drug use (underage nicotine, alcohol and cannabis) overlaps the onset of schizophrenia. So the greater drug use by schizophrenic patients may be contributory, or self treatment – adult patients use drugs at a higher rate than their peers to mitigate the discomfort of their disease (Bottorff et al, 2009). Or the association in youngsters may be coincidence, along with getting a driver’s license and going off the parent’s dole, explaining the impossibility of proving a connection. In populations, at least, there is no increase in the incidence of schizophrenia when the use of cannabis among youth increases, and cultures that have low rates of cannabis use are not preserved from typical rates of schizophrenia (Frisher et al 2009). In medical school we are taught “to listen to the patient.” Schizophrenic patients do not believe cannabis contributes to their disease (Buadze et al 2010). The prohibitionists are wrong. . . .
The shooter attributed his frustration to the inability to get a job because he had misdemeanor crimes in his history. Apparently he was prosecuted as a teenager for drug and drug paraphernalia possession. Pot and a bong? Unusual for a white kid to be prosecuted. The government that did that to him, threatening prison as well, fueled his anger. What good for the shooter or society came from that arrest and prosecution? He quit smoking cigarettes, and that is good. It was a lost opportunity to recognize the disturbed thinking and initiate diagnosis and treatment.