Mary Brett … a cause for concern.

Well it’s been some time comin,g but now feels about the right time to look at some of the ‘scientific’ information that talking about cannabis plan to distribute to schools and parents.  On the Talking About Cannabis website parents and children are invited to download a document written by one Mary Brett, spokesperson for Europe Against Drugs (EURAD … and we’re getting round to them).

Unfortunately facts seem in fairly short supply in this document. You really can’t blame poor old Brett, no matter how often she dishonestly refers to herself as a biologist her lowly BSc and career in an all boys Grammar School clearly marks her down as a teacher … and if her ability to construct a legible sentence is anything to go by then perhaps not a very good one.

Brett’s trick is to trawl through scientific studies of varying legitamacy and then present as fact results which even the original researchers ackowledge are as yet unproven.

Any studies which disagree with Brett’s opinion are studiously ignored, which is a shame for her because most studies do tend to disagree with Brett’s biased conculsions.

Let’s start with a quote from the Lancet (real scientists) who in an editorial in 1995 said:

The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health.”

Whilst the possibility that cannabis may have some link to psychosis remains an, as yet unproven concern, the scientific consensus regarding the physical risks of cannabis remain much the same as stated in the above editorial.

That doesn’t stop Brett though who claims:

“Just one joint per week will ensure a permanent presence of THC. Functioning of all the other neurotransmitters is affected New nerve connections cannot be made
Concentration, learning and memory are all badly affected.

There is now strong suggestive evidence from animal experiments and brain scans of humans that some of these cells may die. “

So let’s have the facts. The myth that cannabis kills brain cells is largely down to one study in the 1970’s in which three Rhesus monkeys were heavily dosed with cannabis and structural changes (not cell death) in the brain were observed.

This study was heavily criticised at the time and the results have never been replicated. Much larger monkey studies, one by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research (1) and the other by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International(2),  failed to any evidence of physical alteration in the brains of monkeys exposed to daily doses of cannabis for up to a year.

Human studies of heavy users in Jamaica and Costa Rica also found no evidence of abnormalities in brain physiology (3).

So Brett’s claim that cannabis causes:

“permanent brain damage – slow, subtle, insidious and cumulative.”

and that

“Few children, using cannabis even occasionally, will achieve their full potential.”

have no actual basis in fact whatsoever. Anyone would think she had an agenda.

Brett also gets very upset over the fact that THC is fat soluble (like many substances) and therefore tends to hang about in the body for some time. Brett claims:

“Airline pilots on flight simulators could not ‘land’ their planes properly even 24 hours and more after a joint”

As ever the truth is far less dramatic. Presumably Brett is referring to a pair of flight simulator studies by Leirer, Yesavage, and Morrow, which reported effects on a flight simulator performance up to 24 hours after using cannabis. (4)

Whilst the study did find some impact on pilot’s performance Leirer himself said the effects were “very subtle” and “very marginal,” and were less than those noted due to pilots ages.

A later flight simulator study by the same group failed to find any effects beyond 4 hours after using cannabis. (5)

So once again Brett has twisted the facts to suit her own agenda.

Onto the issue of whether cannabis is addictive Brett claims:

“More young people treated in the USA for marijuana than alcohol dependence”

What Brett fails to mention is that at least half of all young people in the US are in treatment programmes for cannabis due to court orders. It should also be noted that many parents and schools who listen to the hysterical ramblings of the likes of Brett may refer their children into treatment regardless of whether they have a problem.

Brett claims that physical dependance to cannabis is not as severe as heroin addiction because THC stored in the body reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Which frankly, is fucking nonsense.

There is no compulsive scientific evidence that cannabis can cause physical dependance. The study “Clinical Studies of Cannabis Tolerance and Dependence,” concluded that:

“When human subjects were administered daily oral doses of 180-210 mg of THC – the equivalent of 15-20 joints per day – abrupt cessation produced adverse symptoms, including disturbed sleep, restlessness, nausea, decreased appetite, and sweating.

The authors interpreted these symptoms as evidence of physical dependence. However, they noted the syndrome’s relatively mild nature and remained skeptical of its occurrence when marijuana is consumed in usual doses and situations.” (6)

Evidence has also been presented that suggests when humans are allowed to control consumption, even high doses are not followed by adverse withdrawal symptoms.(7)

Meanwhile national epidemiological surveys in the US show that the large majority of people who use cannabis do not become regular users.

In 1993, among Americans age 12 and over, about 34% had used marijuana sometime in their life, but only 9% had used it in the past year, 4.3% in the past month, and 2.8% in the past week. (8)

So once again Brett’s scare-mongering fails to match up to the scientific evidence.

The effect of cannabis on mental health is too large an issue for the scope of this document. We will note that the debate is not helped by Brett’s claim that:

“Cannabis increases the amount of the neurotransmitter, dopamine in the brain.
Too much dopamine causes schizophrenia.”

The dopamine theory of schizophrenia is just that, a theory – not a fact. It has largely been discredited as far too simplistic an approach and in any event the idea that cannabis causes an increase of dopamine in the brain has not been established beyond doubt.

Sex, shopping and chocolate all cause an increase of dopamine in the brain.

As for Brett’s comment that:

“Even on one joint per month or six weeks, a cannabis personality emerges.”

Which presumably is something that she just made up ‘cos it sounded good, long live the Brett school of science.

And finally Brett chucks in a few hand-grenades at the end claiming that cannabis causes head and neck cancers, the immune system is damaged and that babies born to cannabis using mothers are smaller, hyperactive and have behaviour and learning problems .

With regard to her claim that young people who smoke are developing head and neck cancers, the truth of this unfounded allegation can be found on EURAD’s own website:

“in a cohort study with 8 years of follow-up, marijuana use was not associated with increased risks of all cancers or smoking-related cancers. Further epidemiological studies are necessary to confirm the association of marijuana smoking with head and neck cancers and to examine marijuana smoking as a risk factor for lung cancer. ” (9)

The research which has been carried out suggesting cannabis may damage the immune system has typically involved lab animals being given huge doses of THC. According to a review on the subject by Dr. Leo Hollister(10):

“The evidence [on immune suppression] has been contradictory and is more supportive of some degree of immunosuppression only when one considers in vitro studies. These have been seriously flawed by the very high concentrations of drug used to produce immunosuppression. The closer that experimental studies have been to actual clinical situations, the less compelling has been the evidence.”

Once again Brett produces scant evidence as scientific fact.

And as to a risk to unborn babies, once again the evidence is far from conclusive with one study suggesting that cannabis use had a positive impact on birthweight during the third trimester of pregnancy with no adverse behavioral consequences.(11)

A further study of Jamaican women who had used cannabis throughout pregnancy found that their babies registered higher on developmental scores at 30 days, whilst experiencing no significant effects on birthweight or length. (12)

Finally Brett seeks to simplify and discredit medical cannabis with the dramatic claim that cannabis contains over 400 chemicals.

Brewed coffee contains around 800.

The rest of Brett’s leaflet contains brief details on the effects of other drugs, which although in some cases are not entirely accurate, they are not covered in anywhere near the same detail as cannabis.

Brett and her cohorts may wish to consider what the kids will make of this info after being subjected to a diatribe of dishonest and unscientific drivel on the subject of cannabis.

And those MP’s and charities which have offered Talking About Cannabis support may wish to consider whether they really support lying to young people about drugs.

Net-savvy teenagers can easily find all of the information presented above.

Are they likely to believe anything they are told about drugs at all if this kind of malicious propaganda becomes the norm in schools?

(1) William Slikker et al., Chronic Marijuana Smoke Exposure in the Rhesus Monkey, Fundamental and Applied Toxicology 17: 321-32 (1991).
(2) Charles Rebert & Gordon Pryor – Chronic Inhalation of Marijuana Smoke and Brain Electrophysiology of Rhesus Monkeys, International Journal of Psychophysiology V 14, p.144, 1993.
(4) V.O. Leirer, J.A. Yesavage and D.G. Morrow, “Marijuana Carry-Over Effects on Aircraft Pilot Performance,” Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine 62: 221-7 (March 1991); Yesavage, Leirer, et al., “Carry-Over effects of marijuana intoxication on aircraft pilot performance: a preliminary report,” American Journal of Psychiatry 142: 1325-9 (1985).
(5) Leirer, Yesavage and Morrow, “Marijuana, Aging and Task Difficulty Effects on Pilot Performance,” Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine 60: 1145-52 (Dec. 1989).
(6) Jones, R.T. et al, “Clinical Studies of Cannabis Tolerance and Dependence,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 282:221-39 (1976).
(7) Stefanis. C. et al, “Experimental Observations of a 3-Day Hashish Abstinence Period and Reintroduction of Use,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 282:113-20 (1976); Cohen, S. et al, “The 94-Day Study,” pp 621-26 in M.C. Braude and S. Szara (eds), The Pharmacology of Marijuana, New York: Raven Press (1976).
(8) Preliminary Estimates from the 1993 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1994).
(9) Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2002;42:103S-107S
(10) Dr. Leo Hollister, Marijuana and Immunity, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 20(1): 3-8 (Jan/Mar 1988).
(11) Nancy Day et al., Prenatal Marijuana Use and Neonatal Outcome, Neurotoxicology and Teratology 13: 329-34 (1992).
(12) Janice Hayes, Melanie Dreher and J. Kevin Nugent, Newborn Outcomes With Maternal Marihuana Use in Jamaican Women, Pediatric Nursing 14 #2: 107-10 (Mar-Apr. 1988).

31 responses to “Mary Brett … a cause for concern.

  1. Any idea what it would cost to mount a legal case against Mary Brett and her lies?
    We have all the evidence and research on our side.


  2. problem is i’m not sure she’s actually breaking any laws

    although if any has any inside info on the funding on EURAD i’d be interested

  3. Correct me if i’m wrong but you can’t make claims which are not true, and if some wants to challenge you in court for damages or whatever, they can. Plenty of newspaper editors get dragged into court for lies they come up with.

  4. nah, you cant make claims about individuals or organisations which arent true

    you can say what you want about a plant

  5. Pingback: Now Brown Talks Bollocks About Cannabis « the void

  6. Decline and Fall

    speaking as a non-user of cannabis, (coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate, the historically named “small drugs” are more my thing,) but having sat through a few sad parties where I was the only one not giggling, I am interested in the opinion of a close friend who uses and says they should really be asking why so many people seem to need to be altering their mental state so often, be it with alcohol, cream buns, or what ever. Is reality so bad that staring it in the face has become unbearable for people and staring at telly is preferable to social interaction?
    Just asking. Any ideas that don’t involve the usual junk about oppression etc?

    Decline and Fall

  7. excellent question

    decline and fall, I love your question. I wonder if we wish to alter our mental state simply because we can. Even animals will do this. WHY? we don’t know. I guess we are creatures of habit and if we’re smart, then we’ll at least have habits which are pleasant.

    I’m a consistent hot tea drinker. I enjoy it because I’m aware of my senses. It’s an acquired taste but it tastes AWESOME. It feels warm on my throat. It also contains natural caffeine which provides an easy up and an easy come down (unlike energy drinks, coffee, cocaine, etc). If you love you senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling) then most likely you will love cannabis. There is more to it then just feeling high and “away from reality”. Cannabis magnifies all of your senses and perceptions.

    I recall a lifetime of giggling with my friends DECADES before I had tried any psychoactive drugs (even alcohol). Have you ever been in a bad mood and had to hang out with friends who were having a good day? It’s pretty awful at first. You can get pissed that they are “high” and you are “low”. Or you can use those punks to help you feel better.

    I see cannabis as sitting on the fence: one can love life and cherish it even more with cannabis (as one could cherish life with the accompaniment of a significant other, family, a nice shower, a nice car, air conditioning, vacation) or/and, one can feel oppressed by life and reality and use cannabis as a “time out”.

    You can remove ‘Cannabis’ from the above paragraph and replace it with “TV”. If you’re using to TV to run away from reality then that’s as unhealthy as using anything to hide.

    I’m a cannabis user and a recent college graduate. I don’t think i could have finished if it WASN’T for pot. With the constant stress of working, going to school, watching my personal freedoms deteriorate on a daily basis, and dealing with relationships, I’m happy that cannabis has been there for me and that I haven’t ended up using hard drugs such as alcohol, speed, and pills. Those drugs work great, they just aren’t as friendly and usually screw you over in the long run 🙂

    Cannabis fits more in your “small drug” category than you think 🙂

  8. “excellent question” you talk bullshit. Maybe your beloved cannabis has destroyed some brain cells of you so you talk that way…

  9. well done dimitris, you’re argument seems perfectly inline with the current prohibitionist movement

    it would seem to be cannabis is bad because i say so, is that a correct summary?

  10. Er, I’m fairly sure the reason people alter their mental state isn’t because reality is bad, but more that users find reality is better when their mental state is altered by cannabis.

  11. While apt criticism is presented against the arguments of Ms. Brett the position is weakened by the ad hominem against her credentials, to wit. “lowly Bsc) and “…marks her down as a teacher…”

    The sought argumentative position is clear but the means to attain it immediately taint the following arguments as ad homimen and are likely to repel a casual reader.

  12. Ms. Brett is simply irresponsible.

    Teachers indoctrinated with this unsubstantiated rubbish will be inadvertently giving the young people in their care bad advice. Bad advice helps nobody and will likely exacerbate the social and health problems associated with cannabis prohibition.

    If anyone’s interested, hop over to Ben Goldacre’s site: He’s a journalist who specialises in debunking this science-abuse. One of the things he advocates (and I agree with) is that critical evaluation of scientific literature is something we should be teaching people in schools. It’s an essential skill these days.

    @Pro Diabole: the ad hominem is surely appropriate when the “victim” uses authority to advance their argument. She isn’t a qualified or practising biologist, and aims to mislead people by claiming to be.

  13. I’ve got an Honours degree, just like Mary Brett and mines a science degree to boot. I don’t usually make much of a fuss about it though and I certainly don’t try and impress people with the fact I’ve got it.

    The only reason I mention it now is that the one thing I had drilled into me throughout my undergrad career was that if you can’t measure it, you can’t do science on it. Indeed, science is all about measurement and quantifying things.

    Now an important aspect of measuring things is the requirment to ensure the methods used to sampel the data are statistically valid, you can’t jsut go out there, measure a few things at random and assume they are typical. That, however, is what we do with illegal drugs.

    Being illegal it’s impossible to properly sample the study group, ergo, any sampling you do is badly compromised at best. There’s a saying which covers this: Garbage in, garbage out.

    Now to an extent this can be acknowledge if the limitations of a study are included in the write-up of the study. Indeed, any real scientific study will include a section which outlines the limitations of the methods used and hence the conclusions drawn. It is rare indeed to see such limitations in studies concerning illegal drugs and pretty well totally missing from Mary’s writing.

    Interestingly her “Cannabis facts” section has been dropped by both Debby Bells nasty little talking about cannabis site and the newer talk about cannabis and skunk offspin run by Mary herself (see the Void’s next blog entry)

  14. I’m right with Derek23 (and I’ve got an honours science degree too). The science we’ve got on cannabis is terrible – all we can say with near certainty is that whatever damage it causes cannot be very great. I thought it possible that cannabis is indeed causally linked to “psychosis” – but the longer this argument goes on the more likely it’s another red-herring.

    But is that what we should be shouting from the rafters, trying to claim that cannabis is “harmless”? No it isn’t – we should be shouting that illegal drugs are glamorized by the law. In fact, without the “War on Drugs” many drugs (including some that are quite nasty) would have disappeared.

  15. a friend of cannabis

    Mary Brett is full of shit.

    Cannabis is fine as long as you are sensible, its all about moderation.

    Anyone says one joint a month is gonna harm you is just a fucking pussy.

  16. Ex addict now dir. rehab 40 beds.
    Sorry but Mary Brett is right.
    very right.

  17. Sorry remko, but I think you’re wrong, very wrong, rehab credentials notwithstanding. I have smoked mj for 40 odd years, these days only once or twice a week, but in the past on a near daily basis. It’s true that I prefer shake to skunk, because I like to be able to function when stoned. It hasn’t led me to harder drugs or alcohol or a rehab centre. It hasn’t interfered with my occupation. I don’t deny that there are people who can and will become addicted, whether to mj or something stronger. I have met more than a few, and would suggest that these people fall into two general types: those who use it as a means to escape psychological issues which should be otherwise dealt with, and those who have an addictive and often abusive personality. Brett’s findings are at best a curate’s egg–good in part. Unfortunately her errors are frequent enough and serious enough to undermine completely the value of her research.

  18. mr. jorritsma, waar bent u verslaafd aan geweest?

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  20. Is the following article lies and rubbish as well?

    Smoking skunk raises risk of pyschosis, study finds
    Tuesday, December 1 12:09 am

    Kate Kelland

    People who smoke “skunk” — a potent form of cannabis — are almost seven times more likely to develop psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia than those who smoke “hash” or cannabis resin, according to research. Skip related content

    Scientists from King’s College London’s institute of psychiatry said their study was the first to look specifically at skunk, rather than normal cannabis, and suggested high levels of tretrahydrocannabinol, or THC, were to blame for the drug’s effect on mental health.

    “The risk of psychosis is much greater among people who are frequent cannabis users, especially among those using skunk, rather than among occasional users of traditional hash,” said Marta di Forti, the psychiatrist who led the study.
    Di Forti and colleagues, whose work was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on Tuesday, studied 280 patients who had experienced a first psychotic episode and 174 healthy people from the area of London where the research was conducted.
    They found that those who had been diagnosed with psychosis serious enough to last a week and warrant admission to hospital were twice as likely to have used cannabis for longer than five years and more than six times more likely to use it every day.
    And among all those who had used cannabis — from both the healthy group and the psychotic group — those with psychosis were almost seven times more likely to use skunk, a finding the researchers described as “striking.”
    The potential dangers of cannabis sparked a row between British politicians and scientists last month after the government sacked its chief drugs adviser for arguing that cannabis was no more harmful than alcohol..
    Previous studies have suggested smoking cannabis can double the risk of developing psychosis, Di Forti said, but hers is the first to look at skunk — a drug she said was now taking over from cannabis resin in the illegal drug trade in many countries.
    The two main constituents of cannabis are THC — the psychoactive ingredient which can produce psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and paranoia — and cannabidiol.
    The researchers said cannabidiol appeared to have anti-psychotics properties and could be counteracting the THC.
    Skunk traded illegally in southeast London, where the study was carried out, has around 12 to 18 percent THC and 1.5 percent cannabidiol, while regular cannabis resin has an average THC of around 3.4 percent and an equal amount of cannabidiol.
    “It seems that with hash the equal amounts of THC and cannabidiol may be reducing the effect, but with skunk that balance is not there,” Di Forti told Reuters after a briefing.
    “Unfortunately skunk is displacing traditional cannabis preparations in many countries,” she said, adding that while skunk had been more expensive than hash in the past, it was now selling for a similar price — under 5 pounds a gram.

  21. Pingback: Debra Bell’s Last Stand: Talking About Cannabis Play Last Hand « the void

  22. Haha, I was taught by Mary Brett… 5+ years ago! I remember, once asked a question on cannabis, she boasted how she was “very involved in the drugs industry” to howls of laughter… and questions about how much for an 1/8…

  23. dear mary,

    have you ever smoked a joint? if the answer is no, you are no expert. i have and it has helped me enormously – psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and physically. this is because we are hard wired as a species to take cannabis.

  24. What many people fail to realise, is that regardless of whether cannabis is safe or toxic, prohibition makes all situations surrounding it’s use worse.

    If you are truly worried about young people, then reduce their access to cannabis by not criminalising those involved with it’s distribution to adults.

  25. Wow! Just want to congratulate everyone who has taken time to comment on this. Well done, regardless of what you have said you have at least considered what has been posted.

    Mary is a typical example of a phenomena that occurs because we let it. If you say nothing except for “Someone should say something about that..” nothing will EVER happen. We must exercise our will if we wish to see any changes come to pass. Congrats to the author for taking that step and to all of those who read it.

    I posted a similar but nowhere near as comprehensive look at a similar ‘factsheet’ being perpetrated on Australian youth.

    Well done the Void, you have my respect.

    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities – Voltaire

  26. Here’s something to try.If you go on to Mary Brett’s EURAD website and try to comment you will be censored.
    I’ve placed two comment on there which were well written and not rude in the slightest and they both disappeared.
    This shows us that either
    1:A counter argument is not welcome.
    2:They have no comments ever or
    3:Their website is continually encountering problems.
    What an absolute joke this woman is.
    On the plus side she is probably doing more for the anti-prohibition cause than a thousand marches could ever do!
    Keep up the lies Mary, who knows, maybe one day you’ll even convince yourself…

  27. Whoever wrote this is obviously a cannabis smoker, which just goes to go the amount of harm that this vile substance can do.
    Give it up sweetheart and get a life.

  28. Pingback: More skunk lies from Mary Brett in the UK media

  29. Dear Mr Void,

    Well written and well researched – agree with the ad hominem observation though.

    I don’t think it’s right to label skunk as harmless (not that you were). It carries risks, and apparently more so than hash, of sometimes helping to precipitate chronic psychological problems IN THOSE SUSCEPTIBLE.

    Herbal cannabis has the potential to freak you out acutely, probably more so than hashish.

    All the above problems can be avoided with EDUCATION. If it were legal, quality control, strength and dangers labeling, and keeping it out of the hands of the vulnerable would all be easier. Then the choice people make as to whether they want to take cannabis or not would be an educated one.

    There is no logical reason why cannabis should remain illegal when alcohol and tobacco are legal.

    @Jenny Longshaw “which just goes to go the amount of…”
    – hic

  30. You’ve got it the wrong way round.

    There is no logical reason why alcohol and tobacco should be legal when cannabis is so wisely and logically illegal !

    Kenneth Eckersley, CEO ARTS

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