Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If you got them?

Interesting news in the world of smoke:

From Live Science, an interesting article on the effects of nicotine on the brain. I seems that (at least for those who don't usually smoke) nicotine dulls the anger response mechanism. Subjects were given a (fake) opponent to race to click the fastest when a red mark appeared on the screen. The winner got to blast their opponent with a white noise, and could also see what level they were going to get blasted with if they lost. Those who were given a nicotine patch were less easily provoked by manipulated variables, and would also give shorter punishments.
The study postulates that those who are more likely to be easily stressed or angrier are more likely to smoke.

A Canadian study done based on interviews with 63 adolescents who regularly smoked marijuana had some interesting findings. This article appeared in the April 22 issue of Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy. But it's linked here from Forbes (of all places). About one-third of the adolescents reported that they were using marijuana as a medication rather than for getting high. The main substitute treatment was, not surprisingly, for emotional problems, but also teens reported usage for insomnia, chronic pain relief, and difficulty with concentration.

Some thoughts:

1. Why does the first study remind me of the James Bond movie "Never Say Never Again?" Ready for World Domination, anybody?

2. The first study was mean, man! Tricking people into thinking an opponent had it in for them! Using loud blasts of white noise! Good thing there weren't studying the effects of THC, they might have had a few paranoid subjects afterward.

3. Of course the study has to have the sciento-political (just made that word up, folks) caveat: "But in the long run, smoking boosts the risk of vascular diseases that lead to heart attacks and stroke, which kill more smokers than all cancers combined. And second-hand smoke has proven as deadly for pets as it is for human partners." As if people will read this and suddenly run out to buy a pack of Luckies.

4. A deeper look at the second study shows some significant misreporting. The actual interviews for this data was only in 20 individuals out of the 63 in the study, as noted in the original article. The current article does not provide much in the way of specifics, and uses fuzzy language throughout. It is "mostly" devoid of scientific methodology.

5. That being said, it is interesting that the teens reported experience with health care was "uniformly negative." Many studies have shown that there is likely significant co-morbidity to those who have chronic marijuana use, so this "self-medicating" number is probably conservative.

6. Difficulty with concentration? Tough sell on that one.

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