St. Lukes University Hospital Network recently presented findings of a recent study at the American Heart Association’s annual science conference in New Orleans which suggests that marijuana use may increase risk of adverse cardiovascular phenomena – stress cardiomyopathy.
Before we examine the claim that marijuana weakens heart muscles and leads to health problems, lets take a look at the atmosphere in which such results are being produced.
An increasing number of scientists are beginning to come out about the many issues that exist within science. From prematurely reporting unverified conclusions, to an inability to reproduce test results that have already been published as fact, and the academic and corporate systems in which science is funded and conducted. Each of these problems is bad enough, but together they necessitate a high amount of scrutiny over individual scientific studies and conclusions.
Next, add to the the cultural scientism in which the method is reduced to a religious-like belief system by people who know little about science or its underlying premises, and you have a real problem.
People who are doing science badly are misinforming a general public who doesn’t know any better, but have enough faith to sustain all of this junk pop science.
The new study referenced at the beginning of this article suffers from many of the above issues, and then some. Here is a list of issues I can spot just from three different readings of it.
- This is ONE study. It has not been reproduced by any independent researchers. In good science, drawing such conclusions from a single study is highly irresponsible.
- There has not even been peer review of the study. The findings were presented in a weekend holiday for biology nerds, not presented in an established scientific journal for scrutiny by other scientists. Which is a chief function of science.
- The sample group was only 10 people. There is not enough diversity in such a small number of people to exclude all of the many other control factors.
- The control factors used were themselves flawed, since they did not necessarily differentiate between marijuana users who smoked cigarettes or engaged in other behaviors which increase cardio risk factors.
- A major missing control factor was ingestion type. Not only is ingesting marijuana in ways other than smoking less harmful, it produces different chemical compounds that may have different effects on the heart. While smoking may produce the type of THC that increases risk, vaping or edibles produce other kinds of the chemicals that may be beneficial. So to blanket it under ‘marijuana’ shows a deep ignorance for the science of that plant in the very premises of the study.
There were other problems, as well. Both the researchers and the organization which hosted the conference – where the results were announced prematurely and irresponsibly to the public – receive funding from corporate sources that bring up all sorts of conflicts of interest and ethical issues.
And the news outlets printing them pander to public fearmongering by adding frightening newspeak which they bolster with scientific jiggery pokery. Because they too are sponsored by the same megacorporations that have benefited from the insanity of prohibition and the War on drugs.
Now, that all being said, it might turn out to be true. Many in the cannabis community have taken such a radically pro-pot stance that they ignore that pretty much everything can be dangerous in some way to someone. Weed is no different. As more research is done we will likely find many ways in which weed can be dangerous for some people, for some reasons, some of the time. Denying that is just as irresponsible as denying the many medical benefits which I would bet far outweigh the risks even after more scientific information is available.
Oftentimes exceptions prove the rule. And there is hope that future studies which determine causative factors between marijuana use and adverse health may lead to new marijuana medicines that can correct the problem rather than cause it. What seems like damaging information can also be the basis for some really great science.
And finally, you are your greatest health expert. Know what works for you and know your limitations. You don’t need an expert to measure how much better you feel.