Highland Park: Does cannabis use and pot lead to mass shootings? | Opinion
Following the horrific shooting at a 4th of July parade, Robert “Bobby” Crimo III was described by someone who knew him on Reddit as a “typical stoner type guy.”
Another person who talked about making music with Crimo many years ago tweeted this“He was a lone stoner who completely lost touch with reality.”
The last part is clear, at least. Anyone willing to perpetuate such an unthinkable massacre has, by definition, “lost touch with reality”.
But the combination of Crimo’s prominent facial tattoos, his habit of publicly dressing in costume, his wildly crazy music videos and bizarre Twitter feed, his obsession with the numbers “7” and “4,” and a brochure that ‘he composed entirely of figures reveal a detachment from reality that is particularly striking.
Could this be related to his seemingly well-known habit of regularly using marijuana?
Without a doubt. This was not lost on commentators last week, including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, who saw the potential influence of this pot-psychosis connection on violence as at least worth mentioning. Ingraham spoke of the “accumulating scientific evidence” linking violent behavior among young people to sustained cannabis use. “What can regular pot use trigger in young men in particular? Psychosis and other violent personality changes,” she said.
Of course, others vehemently deny such a connection. And in fairness to those critics, while other mass shooters have been marijuana users or influenced by other psychoactive substances, any clear, proximal cause of violent behavior is notoriously difficult to confirm.
But there is a correlation which is not difficult to confirm and is not so controversial among scientists: the strong and robust correlation between regular marijuana use and psychosis itself.
Tracing back to a 1987 Swedish study finding that soldiers who had used cannabis more than 50 times had an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, this pot-psychosis correlation has been repeatedly confirmed in the years since by a surprising number of studies respected. For example, in 2019 Lancet Psychiatry published a study of 901 Europeans between the ages of 18 and 64 who were diagnosed with their first episode of psychosis. The researchers found that daily cannabis use was associated with three times the risk of psychosis – a likelihood that increased to five times with “daily use of high-potency types of cannabis” (defined as products containing more than 10 % tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is also increasingly dominant in the United States, according to a recent potency analysis).
It is especially this high potency cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids that carry the greatest risk. A 2015 study of the same high-intensity “skunk-like cannabis” in 410 people showed an approximately three times higher risk of psychotic disorder in users compared to those who never used the drug.
This is the link that comes up time and time again in studies, even adjusting for early symptoms of schizophrenia, parental psychosis and other addictions, as confirmed by a 2018 British Journal of Psychiatry study.
Nor are the risks explained by a genetic predisposition.
These results have been confirmed by multiple methodologies – case-control studies, epidemiological studies, long-term observational studies, and even “studies of studies”.
Many of these studies also find a dose-response relationship, such as a 2009 study of 280 people in the British Journal of Psychiatry which found that “people with first-episode psychosis smoked cannabis stronger, longer, and with a greater frequency. ”
And age is also an important factor, as one research team summed up: “Any negatives are magnified if use begins in early adolescence.” Another researcher found that “acute psychotic-like symptoms were positively associated with age of first cannabis use.” And in one particularly well-controlled study, researchers found a particularly impaired ‘inhibitory’ process in adolescents who used marijuana, as well as a reduced ability to feel ‘satiety’ – both leading to a greater likelihood of continuing. more powerful use.
Some have wondered, if cannabis somehow contributes to psychosis, why wouldn’t we see an increase in this mental health condition? This is precisely what the 2019 European study confirmed, providing compelling evidence that cities where high-THC weed is more readily available and commonly used (London, Paris and Amsterdam) had, in fact, a statistically significantly higher rate of new diagnoses of psychosis compared to other cities in the study.
Research from Finland and Denmark, two countries with uniquely accurate mental illness tracking systems, also shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use.
All of this underscores why, for so many mental health professionals, the cavalier and flippant attitude of many American political and community leaders toward cannabis is striking. With recreational use now legal in 19 states, the rate of heavy use has increased in America. There is no doubt that the widespread perception of marijuana as a “safe” drug helps make it one of the most common drugs in America.
Some are sounding the alarm. As one research team concluded, the evidence that cannabis was a “constitutive cause of psychosis is now sufficient for public health messaging describing risk.” Another team agreed that “there is enough evidence to justify harm reduction prevention programs.”
These calls are particularly relevant given the increasing concentration of the primary active ingredient in commonly available strains of recreational marijuana and the decreasing age at which young Americans consume.
Although the link between marijuana use and violence is more disputed, it is generally well accepted that psychosis can be a legitimate risk factor for violence. A 2007 study examining 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes found that nearly two-thirds said they had abused cannabis – a higher figure than alcohol and amphetamines combined. And in the years since, the higher likelihood of violence against others by people with psychosis has been repeatedly confirmed.
All of this, of course, needs to be discussed with sensitivity for the many people struggling with serious mental illness, which is influenced by a wide variety of factors. It’s also important to recognize that not all cannabis users will experience these kinds of disconcerting side effects. And we must be careful to prevent these kinds of scientific realities from getting caught up in more narrow and hyperpartisan debates.
For example, it is possible to seriously think about the potential role of drug-induced psychosis and violence, while talking about gun regulations that could make a difference, as well as public health efforts to combat it. a number of other factors predisposing to mass shootings.
But as part of this in-depth conversation, it’s time to openly acknowledge the strong and robust link between long-term cannabis use (particularly at high doses, especially in young people) and psychosis.
The really crazy thing would be to ignore it.
Jacob Hess is editor of Public Square Magazine and served on the board of the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation. He has worked to promote liberal-conservative understanding since publishing “You’re Not As Mad As I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong)” with Phil Neisser. Along with Carrie Skarda, Kyle Anderson, and Ty Mansfield, Hess also wrote “The Power of Stillness: Mindful Living for Latter-day Saints.”