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Hans Breiter, a Northwestern medical doctor (Psychiatry) concocted one of the more anti-science scare articles outside of the World Nut Daily. He claimed to prove that casual use of marijuana could be detected in adverse MRI findings in the brain of smokers.

"Cannibis Use Is Qualitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users, Neurobiology of Disease, 34 (2014) 5529-5538.

The only problem is that is a collection of horse shit so dense and pervasive, that he should have timed the publishing for April Fools day, instead.


An honest investigator and researcher, say anyone who is not named Hans Breiter, realizes that for a test to have any significance, you have to minimize impacts that are not being studied, predicting what other factors may have an impact on your test results, and to set up a strict inclusion/exclusion criteria that makes your data the fairest and most accurate, given the parameters of your test.

For example, in placebo v. drug test, you want the diseases to be studied to be as close in progression as possible, and that your test subjects (rabbits, human inmates populating private prisons, or chimps) to be as close and as similar as possible. Otherwise, you will probably end up testing for garbage, which will clearly be reflected in your results.

One method of minimizing variation and loopy outside forces is by applying weighted "P Values," a standard statistical practice which is taught in Stats 101. If you miss this one, you flunk, because ALL OF YOUR RESULTS ARE GARBAGE.

One lesson we have learned with Problem One? Psychiatrists are really, really bad at math, and even worse at statistics. Case in point, Hans Breiter.  By design, willful ignorance, or ineffable stupidity, Breiter not only relied on RAW, UNCORRECTED P Values, he hunted those findings that only supported his intended result.

Rule of Thumb on P-Values: The larger your value (corrected) the more likely that you have a mess of a test, and that your findings are gibberish. The smaller the P Value (like 0.50 compared to 0.00023) the more likely that you have data that you can hang your hat on.

Liar? Fool? Or Paid Hack?

Causation vs. Correlation

Correlation is what gave us today's bible beating bastards. Take your average caveman. Take an earthquake, volcano, or massive drought. Add a virgin stolen from a nearby tribe. Stir carefully. 9 times out of 10,  your sacrifice of that poor, unfortunate virginal lass results in:

a. No more Earthquake
b. A shut down Volcano
c. Rain dense and sustained enough to solve your drought.

Under "Correlation," people really bad at logic, people with no mathematics training, folks with no statistical knowledge, woefully ignorant cavemen, and Hans Breiter would correlate the sequence of events, (Earthquake, Sacrifice, end of Earthquake) with their killing that poor innocent girl. In Breiter's case, I suspect he would proclaim that he created the psychiatrist's version of Earthquake prevention.

Causation is a far more peculiar, particular, and limited finding. For one thing, you need a number of studies, compared to each other, and you need to get repeated findings, time after time after time, assuming that you created the test parameters strictly enough with sufficient controls in the first place.

One result may be an outlier. 20 results not only suggest a trend, but they suggest causation, especially if all the noise factor is removed by careful data analysis and gathering. Causation, EVERY ARGUMENT about causation requires a significant amount of repeat studies that show identical (or strongly similar) results. Every time.

Boy Wonder Hans? He relies on ONE RESULT.  Again, back to Stats 101, this is such a bad misuse of data that I am surprised that he dared publish this crap. Let's just agree on one thing. One test result can never ever create a statistical basis for showing "Causation." "Qualitatively Associated?"  My ass, Dr. Breiter. My NU psych and Econ instructors would have reamed me a new asshole if I tried to pull some sort of garbage like that.

Liar? Fool? Or Paid Hack?


Frankly, there are so many problems with this study, that it is hard to know where to start. So, let us start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

Sample Size.

If I designed a rigorous, well-designed study, and I wanted to have a confidence level of between 90-100% (most of the best and serious studies look for a confidence level of 95%), depending on my study group, there are some long standing factors that determine how big your study group has to be to have any relevance or substance to it.  If I wanted to study the impact of marijuana on the brains of new smokers who had never toked up before, and I took many, many, many, many other precautions, (something that Hans admits he never even considered - because he HAND PICKED HIS SAMPLE GROUP!)  I would need a sample size 5-6 times as large as Hans', and that assumes that the sample group had significant controls to prevent hand-picking the target sample.

Not only was Hans' group way, way way (should I have 5 or 6 ways?) too small for any meaningful interpretation, that idiot hand-picked them to get the result he was looking for! With a sample size so small, you get nothing. Period. Nada. Nil. Zero. There are no reliable results upon which you can base any conclusion.

Liar? Fool? Or Paid Hack?

Liar? I am sure that Hans is good to his family and students, never picks up young coeds, and is truthful to the extent that any psychiatrist can know what any truth may actually be.

Fool? Anyone with his psychiatric background has had to study long and hard, and needed to convince others that he was able to be a psychiatrist. (An MD instead of a psychologist, who may only have a masters or a PhD) He is not a fool in his field.

BUT. . . THIS. . . IS . . .  NOT . . .  HIS . . . FIELD . . .! ! ! ! !

With all of the problems that are clearly visible, even to a lawyer like me, that were built-in to this study, it is clear that he wanted to make a splash, make a name for himself and the very well-funded anti-pot movement (think tobacco, national police orgs, and more) and publish some scary garbage solely for self-promotion, or because of his orders from Big Tobacco.

Here's what I think happened. Hans was hired to be a hack for Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, or some anti-pot police organization that sees the writing on the wall with legalization. So, they use Hans to muddy the waters, to scare people, to confuse them with outlandish, unsupported claims, and to put a stop to a growing movement towards medical marijuana.

I would suggest that Hans Breiter should be very ashamed of himself for putting out such a bogus and ridiculous study, but that would imply that this psychiatrist is capable of feeling shame. Of that, I remain unconvinced.

Originally posted to Church of Ineffable Stupidity on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.


Which is Hans Breiter?

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's like voting in Florida. You just toss (12+ / 0-)

    all the votes you don't like, and then you get the result that you want. THAT is how bad the statistics are in this study.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:11:44 PM PDT

  •  This crap is an example of Gish Gallop. (18+ / 0-)

    A collage of lies dressed up like science that takes an hour and a half to disassemble and refute.

    This is why I recommend the simple reply "Horseshit" as I see you did.

    It sells to aging, out of touch republicans and others who don't know shit about the issue.


    Legal means "good".
    [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

    by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:14:56 PM PDT

  •  Another trick these propagandists use (4+ / 0-)

    is conflating all the medical effects of every cannabinoid drug found in cannabis resins to the effects of smoking the dried female flowers and leaves of a few varieties of cannabis plants. They never talk about the effects of the actual cannabinoid drugs like THC and CBD absent the smoke. I wonder why?

    Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

    by RMForbes on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:34:47 PM PDT

  •  yes, a friend just loaned me Northwestern's Alumni (8+ / 0-)

    magazine that has an article about the study in it. I looked all over and couldn't seem to find the actual study to look at, though. If I missed it, can somebody link it?
        I thought 'horseshit' was a good description of the article, too. I gave it back to her with the precautions that before she reads the article she should give a minute's thought to what parameters she thinks make a 'study'.

    How many? How much? How good were their memories before they began smoking? How disciplined are their study/life/work patterns and how organized were the subjects as children...Sooooo many questions, and a bunch of baloney for answers dressed as conclusions.

    I am so glad you did this diary because besides my friend, I had no one else to rant to.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 02:36:15 PM PDT

    •  That is why "paid hack" stands out so brightly (4+ / 0-)

      Bet he is getting a six figure donation for further studies, too.

      Then, they hire someone at the NYT and WSJ to cite it (favorably), and have Holder explain the common knowledge that pot is bad, since every study shows that to be the case.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 03:01:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Study shows being a Republican causes insanity (11+ / 0-)

    I've studied my aunt subject in great depth.  She is a Republican.  She speaks in tongues.  She visits with my dead grandmother (who usually stops by to get something to eat). And she sees Jesus sitting on her lamp.  No doubt she is bat-shit crazy.  Did I mention you are going to hell.  Yes, YOU.  Along wih mostly everyone else--particularly her doctors and nurses (especially that Middle Eastern looking one.)

    She's crazy AND she's a Republican.  Conclusion: Being a Repbulican causes insanity.  

    Sure my sample is small, but so what. I got the conclusion I was looking for.  

  •  Captain Obvious. (3+ / 0-)

    Bullshit is bullshit.

  •  First, Northwestern got rid of its football team. (0+ / 0-)

    Is the medical school next?

    "Takes more than guns to kill a man" Joe Hill

    by sajiocity on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 05:12:23 PM PDT

    •  Naw, they are just Onion-izing. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If Hans teaches at the med skule, well, I hope he has a better curriculum than Big Pharma's.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 05:21:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Joints (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, OHdog

    Thanks for the update. I was thinking about cutting back to 2 joints/day.

    •  That sounds "Sublime" I wish the lead had follwed (0+ / 0-)

      his advice and left H alone.

      I smoke two joints in the morning
      I smoke two joints at night
      I smoke two joints in the afternoon
      It makes me feel all right

      I smoke two joints in time of peace
      And two in time of war
      I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints,
      And then I smoke two more

      Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

      by OHdog on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:07:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We really need some good longitudinal studies... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    freerad, agnostic

    With the pot debate reaching such a crescendo, we really need to have the NIH or CDC release some serious funding for a series of large, longitudinal studies to clarify what is really going on. I'm going to have to disagree with you in your thinking that this study is simply bogus and should be ignored. However, I will also very strongly disagree with the conservative press that feels this study definitively shows how bad pot is for you - it certainly doesn't do that, either. Certain abnormalities were noted. What these abnormalities mean and whether they are permanent or reversible, we don't know.

    At this point, we just don't know how bad smoking pot is for a healthy individual. There are certainly some good medicinal properties that should be thoroughly explored for those with certain maladies. However, we simply don't know what the benefits or risks are for a healthy smoker (other than the acknowledged recreational high).

    My personal belief is that we will find that occasional recreational pot smoking is going to fall somewhere on the harm scale between light consumption of alcohol (which has been proven to be beneficial for many) to light usage of tobacco products (which we know are dangerous in any amount). I think that heavy recreational pot smokers will be in for a surprise in their state of denial. There are too many recent studies that are hinting at possible problems (including genetic involvements). To be sure, none of these are definitive, but I would not go about believing that getting stoned every evening does me no harm. I think that, too, is being disingenuous.

    In the end, once we finally do determine what the real story is, recreational smokers will need to make their own decisions on whether the high is worth the potential risks. I'm sure that many will feel it is. Doctors and their patients will need to determine if legitimate medicinal cannabis is worth the potential problems in treating their afflictions (just as is the case of any drug). Hopefully with proper research and regulation, we will get to the point of having legitimate medical cannabis products available. We are no where near that at this point.

    •  Well, this will be my 421 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      comment. I should have stopped.  All of your arguments are valid though cautious. Not all people should even attempt to smoke pot as not all should try other pleasure vices.

      Genetics, situation, culture and many other variables individually or in concert can coincide to make for a pleasant or otherwise disastrous outcome with any substance that might be ingested.

    •  But there is a hue diff between causation & (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      correlation. And this study's use of statistics is bent, spindled, mutilated, punched, torn, folded, stapled, crumpled, and raped just to be able to hint at a correlation.

      Why do mentally ill have so many other problems like alcohol and drug addiction? Are they ill because they abuse drugs, or do their untreated conditions lead them to self-medicate in some desperate effort to minimize the impact of their personal mental hell?

      It is studies like these that prevent good testing and research from even starting up.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 06:50:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Smoking anything is not heathy but herbal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      cannabis does not need to to smoked to receive medicinal benefit. I don't know of anything that is better for insomnia than a nice hot cup of herbal cannabis tea. I know a lot of medical cannabis users and few smoke it anymore. Plus, higher CBD concentration strains of cannabis are gaining popularity among medicinal users because they give relief without producing any possible impairment.

      Smoke has many components that are detrimental to living tissue but the cannabinoid drugs found in cannabis resins are not. Herbal cannabinoids mimic the natural cannabinoids produced by our body's endocannabinoid system which is a regulatory system that regulates our blood chemistry, metabolism and immune system at the cellular level. Cannabinoids are not toxic at all, they are necessary for our good health.

      When the federal Department of Health and Human Services first began studying the medicinal effects of cannabinoids they found more than 250 ailments that are effectively treated or even cured by herbal cannabinoids. Unfortunately, this did not agree with the political mythology created around marijuana, the studies were suppressed and the doctors that wrote the studies were fired. When we divorce the cannabiniod drugs from the hot gasses and chemicals in smoke it makes a big difference.

      Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

      by RMForbes on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:10:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I will agree that a huge problem with cannabis... (0+ / 0-)

        is that people continue to want to smoke it. That might be the easiest way to obtain a recreational high, but I'm sure research will show that that method of ingestion has serious downsides.

        If the medicinal cannabis market ever becomes legitimized, I'm sure that smoking will not be one of the recommended delivery methods.

        •  Did you watch the video? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There are far less downsides to using cannabinoids than using aspirin and far more medicinal benefits even if it's smoked. Smoking will become less popular as herbal cannabis becomes more available and completely decriminalized. Edibles will become even more popular than they are already once the wholesale prices for high quality herbal cannabis extracts goes down.

          From where I sit the medicinal cannabis market is already very legitimate, even more legitimate than the vitamin and supplement market. The only thing holding it back is the federal prohibition which is currently falling apart. As we progress more and more medicinal users will move away from smoking it. I've already seen this in the medicinal cannabis users that I know.    

          Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

          by RMForbes on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 05:35:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  When I say legitimate... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I mean regulated and properly inspected with standardized dosage and purity controls. This would include regular inspections of all levels of the production and distribution channel by the FDA or other appropriate agencies. I completely agree that once we can get away from smoking as the preferred delivery vehicle, then things get a lot easier and healthier as far as medicinal cannabis is concerned. I agree that means that full legalization as a drug will be required so that stronger extracts can be formulated.

            As for aspirin...I think everyone is aware of the thought that if aspirin suddenly came on the market today, it would never be approved because it has way too many contraindications.

            •  I don't believe that our modern corporate (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              controlled pharmaceutical industry is all that legitimate and I don't really want to turn cannabis and/or cannabinoids into patentable drugs controlled by any of these big transnational pharmaceutical corporations. I prefer being able to grow our medicine locally for local use. Yes, it should be tested for purity like we are already doing today but I disagree that this far older herbal approach is anyway illegitimate.  

              Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

              by RMForbes on Sun Apr 20, 2014 at 10:49:53 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Century 21 version of Gabriel Nahaus, the original (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, OHdog, RMForbes

    pot causes brain damage. When Playboy Magazine, yes you heard that correctly, obtained the FULL study and not merely the abstract that almost the entire lazy stenographers of the traditional media used to regurgitate that lie, they learned the study author used sleight of hand?

    How did Nausas fake it? He forced monkeys to smoke cannabis through an oxygen mass. He forced these HIGHER ORDERED primates to smoke so much that they died of hypoxia or lack of oxygen to the brain. As a result, he autopsied the monkeys  versus monkeys who weren't cruelly suffocated and voila the pot smoking monkeys had fewer brain cells. Ergo, smoking pot kills brain cells. No, smoking pot killed the monkeys who had fewer brain cells because they were starved of oxygen.

    •  I actually did read the articles in my yute. (0+ / 0-)

      Most of the time.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 06:51:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  His NYTimes obit included this quote (0+ / 0-)

      "The New England Journal of Medicine once described his work as “psychopharmacological McCarthyism that compels him to use half-truths, innuendo and unverifiable assertions.”

      Life is just a bowl of Cherries, that stain your hands and clothes and have pits that break your teeth.

      by OHdog on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 09:14:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah, when the Olde Grey Lady told truths (0+ / 0-)

        instead of whatever it is that they do these days.

        What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

        by agnostic on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:01:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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