Did Pot Trigger Giffords Shooting?

January 9th, 2011 at 12:56 am David Frum | 181 Comments |

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After horrific shootings, we hear calls for stricter regulation of guns. The Tucson shooting should remind us why we regulate marijuana.

Jared Lee Loughner, the man held as the Tucson shooter, has been described by those who know as a “pot smoking loner.”

He had two encounters with the law, one for possession of drug paraphanalia.

We are also learning that Loughner exhibited signs of severe mental illness, very likely schizophrenia.

The connection between marijuana and schizophrenia is both controversial and complicated. The raw association is strong:

  • Schizophrenics are twice as likely to smoke marijuana as non-schizophrenics.
  • People who smoke marijuana are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those who do not smoke.

But is correlation causation?

Increasingly experts seem to be saying: “Yes.”

Time had a good summary of the expert view in an article published in July 2010.

Marie-Odile Krebs, professor of psychiatry at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) laboratory in France, and her colleagues published a study in June that identified two broad groups of people with schizophrenia who used cannabis: those whose disease was profoundly affected by their drug use and those who were not.

Within Krebs’s study population of 190 patients (121 of whom had used cannabis), researchers found a subgroup of 44 whose disease was powerfully affected by the drug. These patients either developed schizophrenia within a month of beginning to smoke pot or saw their existing psychosis severely exacerbated with each successive exposure to the drug. Schizophrenia appeared in these patients nearly three years earlier than in other marijuana-users with the disease.

After the Tucson shooting, there may be renewed pressure to control the weapons that committed the crime. But what about the drugs that may have aggravated the killer’s mental disease? The trend these days seems toward a more casual attitude and easier access to those drugs. Among the things we should be discussing in the aftermath of this horror is the accumulating evidence of those drugs’ potential contribution to making some dangerous people even more dangerous than they might otherwise have been.


UPDATE: Read about the latest scientific research on the connection between Marijuana and Schizophrenia here.

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181 Comments so far ↓

  • houseny

    Frum is a bit out of sorts with this. The pot rhetoric is more suited to the time of Nixon, or Nancy Reagan, or at the early part of the 20th Century when pot was made illegal to oppress minorities. All of which were and are ridiculous. He should probably try pot before making outrageous claims about it, and its role in the horrible events this past weekend. Or better, stick to the important issues surrounding the shooting.

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  • BruceMajors

    Schizophrenics do supposedly become heavy chain smokers and NIH studies purport that they are self-medicating, because nicotine actually soothes them by alleviating their abnormal neuro-chemistry.

    Since the market economy has produced innovations in the tobacco market, including e-cigarettes and nicotine patches, one wants to ask Frum if a deregulated pot market wouldn’t allow for formulations of pot that are either less harmful or that even deliver helpful medications for schizophrenics (etc.).

    One also wants to ask if neoconservative cocktail parties should be outlawed, since the combination of alcohol consumption and a belief in a rigid, divinely given sexual division of labor has been shown to cause wife beating.

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  • lorika

    Nice try, but Loughner stopped smoking pot in 2008, and according to his longtime friend – got much worse.

    “After Loughner apparently gave up drugs and booze, “his theories got worse,” Tierney says. “After he quit, he was just off the wall.”"

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/01/jared-lee-loughner-friend-voicemail-phone-message?page=2

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  • blogenfreude

    A real stoner could barely load a gun, much less fire it with sufficient accuracy. This might be the dumbest thing written on the internets today.

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  • This guy has no clue

    It seems that David Frum has no common sense… Millions of people smoke pot everyday and dont go around shooting people… maybe it was all the acid and other drugs that worsened this young adults mental illness… Frum claims that pot is regulated, but it is not (its just illegal in all 50 states for recreational use) thats why it is the easiest substance for young adults to get their hands on… Anyways if anyone believes this frum scumbag then they are just as bad as him

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  • scott albert johnson

    Since we’re going to blame pot and the “casual attitude and easier access” to it… let’s also crack down on the even more casual attitude and even easier access to alcohol, which is directly responsible for hundreds of deaths daily, at the hands of schizophrenics and non-schizophrenics alike.

    What utter nonsense.

  • John38Chase

    Frum says “The Tucson shooting should remind us why we regulate marijuana” ??? Excuse me. Marijuana is not regulated; it’s PROHIBITED, enforced by felony law against minorities and the young. What more do you propose? Summary executions for smoking a joint… but only for minorities and the young…. or shall we now include social misfits?

  • Lucky

    ” Millions of people smoke pot everyday and dont go around shooting people…”

    Right — BUT… for those young people who have a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, pot functions as a trigger for its onset.

    Maybe that doesn’t fit in with the warm and fuzzy picture pot smokers want to paint of the substance, so they attack David Frum.

    Well, he’s right in this case…

    Pot these days has a much higher component of THC.

    Some studies do suggest that this produces a correspondingly lower component of CBD — cannabidiol — in the plant.

    Less CBD and more THC equals a product more likely to trigger psychotic breaks in those predisposed to them. That’s because CBD works to balance the effects of THC.

    It has sedative, rather than psychedelic, properties.

    Jared is at a typical age for the onset of schizophrenia, and high-test pot use could very well have been a turning point for him.

    A similar thing happened to a good friend of our family’s.

    He is now in custody because he stabbed two people.

    His psychiatrist stated that pot use had contributed to his slide into paranoid schizophrenia.

    So…

    Those old, hackneyed attacks (see most comments above)
    that potheads typically go for when someone questions
    their sacred herb have very little bearing on reality.

    Which isn’t surprising in the least, of course.

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  • typalmer

    If you click my name, TyPalmer, you will see the rest of my blog post regarding a rush to judgment on the marijuana issue regarding all users. Please read on:

    “…..The tragic shooting of people in Tucson, Arizona in the company of Representative Gabrielle Giffords is a sad event. Our thoughts go out to those who struggle to heal and those who grieve for the lives which were lost.

    Cannabis does not cause violence in the millions of people who are daily, habitual users of marijuana. In fact, quite the opposite. You may read sensationalized editorial pieces about the dangers of marijuana use by paranoid schizophrenics. Is there such a danger? Since I’m not a paranoid schizophrenic, and since nobody I have ever known or heard about using cannabis has ever been violent, I’m certain that I have nothing to worry about regarding my own habitual cannabis use and either violence or schizophrenia, paranoid or otherwise. Notice that you see only a few stories, thin on fact, fat with speculation, innuendo and wild assumptions….”

  • Geprodis

    This article shows Frum’s giant ignorance on the subject if Marijuana.

    Just one puff Frum, that’s all it takes to drive a person completely insane.

    Why stop at Marijuana though? We need to outlaw refined sugar and dairy products as well.

  • rgorman

    Frum, you are a freaking idiot!

  • Amvet55

    The real question is ; why was he allowed to own a gun in the first place? There were many red flags.

    Your attempt at blaming cannabis for this is stupid, but then I would expect nothing less from a former Bush propaganda “writer”.

    Next time, do us all a favor and blow it out your shorts, instead.

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