27 Apr Reefer Madness Is Alive, Well And Promoted By Drug Therapy Charlatans

Sarah Graham

Addiction or dependency is a very complex condition. Usually, it’s not just about a particular substance or behaviour but about deeper personal issues. The most difficult addiction problems are around alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, gambling and severe eating disorders. Depression or PTSD may be a background factor. There can be no doubt that there are honourable, sincere people, medically qualified and counsellors, who do good work helping people with these sort of conditions.

There are also charlatans, confidence tricksters and rogues who scaremonger vulnerable people, often parents, into parting with huge amounts of money for therapy that is nothing more nor less than fraud.

I’ve written about the Castle Craig rehab clinic before. In my judgement it provides genuine services to some but my previous article was prompted by a ridiculous piece from Rupert Wolfe-Murray, its PR Advisor: <“Can Cannabis Drive You Crazy?”. This is nothing but an underhand attempt to drum up business.

No surprise then to discover that Rupert eagerly endorses the work of Sarah Graham who defines herself by her Twitter handle as ‘AddictionExpert‘.

I’ve met Sarah. We were joint interviewees on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show in October 2012. Sarah provided some literature to the people in the control room at the studio which provoked some quizzical looks at her claim to treat ‘chocolate addiction‘. When she also wanted to perform ‘magnet therapy‘ on Jeremy’s ears, eyes were raised to the ceiling.

I really don’t want this to come across as a personal attack on Sarah. She’s a very pleasant, likeable and well-intentioned woman who has written about overcoming her own cocaine problem so she deserves respect for that. It’s her ideas, misleading propaganda and wildly exaggerated scare stories that concern me. I believe these are a real danger to our society, to young people and to understanding about the reality of drugs, particularly cannabis. What should be of enormous concern is that Sarah’s wacky ideas are endorsed by the UK government through her membership of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). This says more about the idiots in charge of UK drugs policy than it does about Sarah. She’s entitled to her views but giving her a seat on the ACMD is like having a witch doctor on the General Medical Council.

holistic thgerrapist

Last week Sarah published an extraordinary article in Holistic Therapist Magazine. It’s reprise of some of the most extreme ‘reefer madness‘ which started back in 1930s America but updated with hysterical, baseless new myths about ‘skunk‘.

The one that jumped out at me is the ridiculous claim reproduced above. Of course, it is the prohibition of cannabis that has caused organised crime and gangs to take over the market but Sarah’s claim is that ‘skunk use‘ causes gangs and violence. This is absurd. There is no evidence at all to support this ludicrous idea.

Sarah misuses the word ‘skunk‘ in the most unprofessional way but she’s not alone in this. Skunk is one of hundreds of strains of cannabis and by no means the one with the highest THC content. The word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations. Sarah uses similar techniques to stir up fear. For instance, she publishes this long list of so called effects of cannabis but offers not one item of evidence to support her hysteria.

…hallucinations, loss of coordination, shaking, sweating, nausea, mood swings, panic attacks, memory loss, cognitive function problems, sleep disturbance, angry outbursts, uncontrollable giggling, ravings for the drug, binge-eating, or loss of appetite, diarrhoea, self-harming, reduced fertility and psychotic illnesses including schizophrenia.”

She claims that treating “cannabis addiction” “takes longer” and is “more challenging” than hard drugs because cannabis stays in the system longer. This is a false representation of the science and an intelligent woman like Sarah must know this. Cannabinoids are natural substances, compatible with our body chemistry, so their inactive metabolites are not excreted quickly but any effect wears off within a few hours at most.

The article is just sheer drivel and can only have been written to scare parents and create new business for Sarah’s company, Sarah Graham Solutions. It is a dreadful confidence trick. She even distorts the “latest neuroscience“, repeating the misleading newspaper claims of “permanent brain damage” which the author of the study has herself refuted.

I share Sarah’s concern that children need to be protected from cannabis. The most urgent and vital step towards this is to take the market out of the hands of criminals and regulate it properly. I have suggested to Sarah that CLEAR could work with her to promote accurate education about cannabis and to raise funds for for such work. Regrettably, she hasn’t taken up this offer. Instead she seems to think it’s wise to write ridiculous articles as described.

I think it is wrong that someone who espouses the ideas and bad science that I have described here is on the ACMD. Witch doctors, juju, David Icke-type nonsense, tabloid-style hysteria should have no place on a scientific committee.