Reefer Madness

If you read Time magazine, you may be under the impression that smoking marijuana increases one’s risk of stroke.  To quote the relevant article, “[i]n one presentation to the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found an increased risk of stroke among those smoking marijuana compared to those who did not.”

Researchers at Auckland University, yesterday

Step away from the doobie, son.  Or, on the other hand, maybe don’t.  The article, predictably, gave rise to a flood of comments below the line, since all the stoners were sitting on the couch with their laptops, anyway.  The gist of the response was nicely summed up at

“Researcher: “Marijuana users have double the risk of stroke.” Data: “All but 1 marijuana user also tested positive for nicotine”. TFA: “Cigarettes quadruple risk of stroke.” Math: “Study suggests marijuana halves risk of stroke in smokers”

That’s enough of a slam on its own, but, quite apart from being tickled by the researchers inability to control for one of the biggest contributory factors to a stroke, I also enjoyed reading about the methodology of the study.  First, let’s note that the study focused on survivors of ischemic, clot-based strokes, so I clearly have no dog in this fight, mmm kay?

What he said.

Secondly, the study “included 160 patients aged 18 to 55… who agreed to have their urine tested for marijuana within 72 hours of the stroke.”  What, were they high?  Eh?  Oh.  Again, my stroke wasn’t ischemic, but I was hugely sedated for the first portion of my stay in the ICU in a desperate attempt to keep my blood pressure under control.  Giving any useful information to a researcher would have been pretty tricky as it was.  But if I’d been high as well, the most coherent thing I could have come up with would have been “The Orb are better if you’re stoned.”

All music’s better when you’re high, Einstein.

If I’d smoked enough dope to be totally paranoid, I’d suggest that the squares are just coming up with their conclusions and narrative first, then interpreting the data accordingly.  “Earlier research… found that the hour after smoking marijuana is associated with a two-fold to five-fold increase in the risk of heart attack, roughly the same risk seen within an hour of sexual activity.”  But I haven’t come across anyone with the guts to suggest that we all refrain from batter dipping the corn dog, bouncing the old pogo stick, or dipping the wick.

Ouch! You should see the euphimisms that were rejected on grounds of taste.

Well, apart from my doctors.  But even they relented just about as soon as they came up with the idea, and the next day, one of them was dispatched to furtively kneel by my bed and give me the go ahead (no, not like that).  In fact, they were about equally committed to curtailing marijuana use and, er, cock use.  What the medical team were really interested in was ensuring the absence of cocaine use.  From the moment the initial admissions nurse asked about it, detailed her coke-using husband’s death by ruptured aneurysm and complained about how her son still wouldn’t heed her coke-related warnings, that was the message.  And, again, responsible drinking.  So, follow Iggy’s advice, and be good, kids.

Click here for the rock’n’roll bit.
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