All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

2/25/2015

Disputing the Stats

I had a college professor that used to tell us in class: "there are three kinds of liars; liars, damned liars and statisticians".  This has proven to be one of the most accurate proverbs of the secular lexicon.

A statistician can make a number "say" just about anything they want it to.  It's not exactly lying they will claim, after all they will remind you, they clearly published the data and perimeters of the study.  How the data was presented and interpreted may not have been, get ready, "entirely consistent with the observable phenomenon".

Take for instance this little 3P Libertarian gem: Smoking Marijuana is 114 Times Safer Than Drinking Alcohol – Study

My first impression based solely on the headline is that someone has produced a scientific study that indicates that smoking marijuana is a reasonably safe activity.  After reading the story that is in fact the conclusion the author reaches after reviewing a sampling of material on the subject.

What I don't like about this type of reporting is that it involves what I see as a lie by implication.  The implication is that pot smoking is a relatively safe activity.  The article doesn't come right out and state that conclusion as a fact.  What they eventually do state is that "the Post noted that Wayne Hall of the World Health Organization said it’s nearly impossible for even those who smoke large amounts of cannabis to overdose on the drug."

This is a very important distinction to make.  "Safer" in this article is eventually defined as 'less likely to die from an overdose of the drug'.  Smoking pot then isn't really 114 times safer in every sense of the word, its just 114times less likely that a pot head will immediately OD from consuming the drug.  That very well may be an important bit of information, but its a long way from the blanket statement of being 114 times safer. 

We don't have easy access to the actual study that they base this on, so I'll only interject one further point.  We aren't told anything about deaths that occur as a result of using a mixture of marijuana and other substances.  It seems to me that this could be very important.

One of the medical benefits of marijuana is that it helps combat nausea.  This is an important feature we are told for people who are undergoing chemotherapy as it helps them keep food and drink in their stomach.  One other related medical benefit is what is sometimes referred to as "the munchies".  Apparently in some cases the use of marijuana stimulates the desire to eat and drink more than the person would normally.

I agree with the medical marijuana enthusiasts that these properties are present in the drug.

The principle way the human body deals with over consumption of alcohol is by vomiting excess liquor out of the stomach.  Puking ones guts out is the bodies method of protecting itself after drinking too much.  If a person smokes pot and drinks too much alcohol their body has ingested one drug that makes it impossible to expel a poisonous substance.

In cases where alcohol is the cause of death but THC is present in the blood stream, the cause of death is normally recorded as acute alcohol poisoning.  It would be interesting to know how many of the alcohol related deaths in the study had a THC component as a contributing factor.  My guess is if that data is added in marijuana smoking might not be found to be 114 times safer than booze.

11 comments:

  1. Susan4:24 PM

    Almost forgot. If that were true about the safety of pot vs alcohol, then why was the first miracle of Jesus water into very fine wine? To put people in danger would have been a sin, and would have disqualified Jesus from dying for us on the cross.
    I don't recall any verses about Jesus enjoying a smoke with the apostles, do you?

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  2. Susan4:27 PM

    How did my comment about marijuana get into a different post about accents? I am pretty sure I wasn't in that post quite yet.

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  3. WaterBoy5:29 PM

    Test

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  4. Rabbi B recently educated me about the water into wine miracle. It's a Jewish thing and interesting, because its best understood from their pov.

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  5. WaterBoy5:51 PM

    Susan: "I don't recall any verses about Jesus enjoying a smoke with the apostles, do you?"

    No. Nor do I recall any verses about tobacco, or beer, or coffee, or cola or tea, either.

    Guess the Mormons are right, then? ;)

    However, there is this from Genesis 1:

    12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

    29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.


    Notice the bolded parts: would this not cover all of the above items? Were they not also good?

    Cannabis was used in the region since before Jesus' time, so it's possible He encountered it even if there was no mention of it.

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  6. WaterBoy5:53 PM

    WTH? I published a long-ish response to the OP twice and it disappeared both times.

    Let me try breaking it up and see if it sticks...

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  7. WaterBoy5:56 PM

    1. The headline as listed appeared on the linked Lew Rockwell article, but it originally came from Russia Today, which has the same headline. But the Russia Today headline is based on a Tweet (embedded in their article) from some account named The Stoned Society, which itself referred to the original Washington Post article, which made no headline reference to safety. I suspect somebody at RT has an agenda, then.

    2. The study itself is available online here. There are numerous problems with it from an accuracy standpoint, not the least of which is that -- with the exception of alcohol -- the majority of its data comes from previously conducted animal studies. They also did population-wide studies based on chemical traces in sewage, and interviews with drug users.

    To extrapolate toxic levels of chemical overdose from relative levels of those chemicals in mice, rats, rabbits, etc, and to extrapolate individual exposure using predictive analysis from there, just does not lend itself to making the type of accuracy statement evidenced in the headline. That can only be attributed to shoddy journalism, as the study authors also did not make that claim.

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  8. WaterBoy5:56 PM

    3. The 114 times number itself comes from this table; it is the ratio of the Mean (average) Margin of Exposure (MOE) of alcohol (1.3) to THC (149). And is meaningless, IMO; it would be far more meaningful on a relative basis to use raw numbers, as is done in comparing deaths by dog bite to deaths by lightning strike (e.g., you're more likely to die from dog bite [2014:42] than you are from lightning [2014:26]).

    4. Apparently none of the data involved actual human deaths, so while the point about mixing alcohol and THC may be logical in theory, it cannot be derived from this study. Anecdotally, I can assure you that mixing the two does not prevent a person from vomiting excess alcohol -- I've been to too many parties and witnessed it happening too many times in my youth to give the theory general credence. (It could, however, be an individual response type thing, just as some people can die from eating peanuts because of allergy.)

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  9. WaterBoy6:22 PM

    Susan (from the other post): "Linda McCartney was a heavy pot smoker and died of breast cancer that metastasized into her lungs."

    ...and? Many women who contract breast cancer and subsequently die (my mother-in-law, metastasized throughout her body) never smoked pot once in their lives. Other women have smoked pot their entire lives and never got breast cancer. Until there's an actual causation effect pinpointed, this means nothing.

    Linda McCartney was also a tobacco smoker, so attributing it solely to pot is a bit of cherry-picking, too.

    "So I have a real problem with libertarians who try to tell me that pot is harmless. It is not. "

    I am not aware of any prominent libertarians who have ever made this claim, not even Bill Maher, who only claimed that it was "way less dangerous" than alcohol. And if this article is, in fact, correct -- he was right.

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  10. It could, however, be an individual response type thing,

    I agree. I also know via a cop friend of mine that locally we are seeing an increase locally in youth related alcohol poisoning where the kids are getting stoned and drunk at the same time and not being able to regurgitate the alcohol.

    In his opinion the quality of pot available to high school age kids has increased significantly due to being able to get it in CO cheaply. Also according to him, the trend in alcohol poisoning in the 14 to 20 age bracket has increased significantly in and around areas with pot legalization. His data comes from other law enforcement people.

    I suspect that kids are drinking about the same as they would. I suspect that they are over doing it about the same too. I think what may be happening is that the police are getting involved more either because of being called into the ER, or because being called out on 911 medical calls by paramedics. Otherwise, how would the cops find out? Plenty of kids get drunk and puke without anyone being the wiser. It only seems to be when someone is in serious trouble that they find out about it, so that may be a self selecting aspect that would effect his data too.

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  11. WaterBoy12:46 PM

    Res Ipsa: " Plenty of kids get drunk and puke without anyone being the wiser. It only seems to be when someone is in serious trouble that they find out about it, so that may be a self selecting aspect that would effect his data too."

    True. The ones who purge the alcohol from their systems before it can be absorbed to toxic levels won't even register in most cases.

    I ran across this "factsheet" from out of Australia, which seems to contradict the inability to regurgitate aspect and claims it can be precisely opposite:

    "What are the effects of mixing marijuana and alcohol?

    When people smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at the same time they can experience nausea and/or vomiting or they can react with panic, anxiety or paranoia. Mixing marijuana with alcohol can increase the risk of vulnerable people experiencing psychotic symptoms.

    There is some evidence to support that having alcohol in your blood causes a faster absorption of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxication). This can lead to the marijuana having a much stronger effect than it would normally have and could result in ‘greening out’. Greening out is a term commonly referred to in a situation where people feel sick after smoking marijuana. They can go pale and sweaty, feel dizzy, nauseous and may even start vomiting. They usually feel they have to lie down straight away.

    It appears that this is more likely to happen if a person has been drinking alcohol before smoking marijuana rather than the other way around.
    "

    No studies mentioned to support the "facts", so take them for what they're worth.

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