30 Oct PCC Complaint – Daily Mail 30th October 2011
Sent to the PCC
Daily Mail 26th October 2011
"Just ONE cannabis joint 'can bring on schizophrenia' as well as damaging memory"
I wish to complain about the above article, I do so in a private capacity and also as the editor of the website www.ukcia.org , a cannabis law reform site. The article would seem to clearly violate the PCC code in that:
* It amounts to deliberate falsification of evidence and would therefore seem to breach the editors code.
* It breaches clause 1.i) of the code in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
* It breaches clause 1.iii) in that it fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
1: The report concerned a study by Matt Jones and others at Bristol University entitled "Dysfunctional Prefrontal Cortical Network Activity and Interactions following Cannabinoid Receptor Activation". The Daily Mail represented this as demonstrating a causal role for cannabis in the development of serious mental illness. That was not the point of the study, nor was it a conclusion of that study.
2: The headline contained the phrase 'can bring on schizophrenia' which is contained in quote marks, implying it is a quote from someone. It is not attributed to anyone however and seems to not actually be a quote, it is therefore misleading.
3: A sub-heading states "Strongest evidence yet, claim scientists", yet no scientist seems to have made that claim and it was not a conclusion of the study.
4: It states that "Smoking just one cannabis joint can bring on symptoms of schizophrenia, a study has found". The study did not find that conclusion.
5: It states that "Researchers at the University of Bristol have, for the first time, looked in detail at the changes in the brains of cannabis users". This is untrue and in fact there have been several studies of the effect of cannabis on the human brain, never mind those of rats. For example the work of Philip McGuire and Zerrin Atakan from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's, Jose Crippa from Ribeirão Preto, Brazil and Rocio Martin-Santos in Barcelona, Spain (http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/news/default.aspx?id=274&).
6: The item reported that "They found the drug disrupts the same parts of the brain as the psychotic illness, those associated with memory and decision-making" and "Cannabis abuse has previously been linked with increased rates of schizophrenia but this is the strongest evidence yet that the drug mimics its effects". This is not a discovery made by this study, in fact it is well understood and has been for some time that cannabis mimics some of the effects of psychosis, which is why such drugs are called "psychedelics". As there has been no recorded increase in the overall rates of psychotic illness in the UK (Frisher et al http://www.schres-journal.com/article/S0920-9964%2809%2900269-2/abstract) it cannot be claimed that cannabis has been linked with an increase.
7: The report stated: "The scientists studied rats who had been given the active ingredient of cannabis – in a similar dose to a person smoking a joint". This is an utter fabrication. The drug used in the experiment was a pharmaceutical product not found in cannabis known as CP55940 and this was made clear in the original paper. It simply isn't possible to make dose comparisons with any degree of certainty, but it is likely, allowing for the weight difference between a rat and a human that the dose administered would have been vastly higher than a normal cannabis joint would deliver. The essential point however is the chemical used was not one found in cannabis, much less was a it a reflection of the profile of chemicals found in real cannabis.
I would like to request in the strongest terms that immediate and strong action be taken against the Daily Mail to both correct this totally falsified report and to prevent similar false reporting in future.
I've also bloged it over on UKCIA http://ukcia.org/wordpress/?p=963&cpage=1#comment-5961