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Health

University of Toronto Study Finds Teen Marijuana Use Tied To Dramatic Increased Risk Of Psychosis

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3 minute read

From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By KATE ANDERSON

 

A study published Wednesday found that teens who use cannabis are 11 times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, according to NBC News.

The study was led by researchers from the University of Toronto and examined teenage patients who used cannabis within the last year and those who did not, according to NBC News. When the study was further limited to teens who were sent to the emergency room or hospitalized, it showed a 27-fold increase in the likelihood of being diagnosed with psychotic illness.

“I think that there’s enough evidence out there for us to give recommendations that teens probably shouldn’t be using cannabis,” Andre McDonald, a postdoctoral research fellow at McMaster University and lead author of the study, said, according to NBC News. “If we can somehow ask teens to delay their use until their brain has developed a little further, I think that would be good for public health.”

While the research does not prove that cannabis use by teens causes psychosis, Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, a child psychiatrist who was not involved with the study, argued it was unlikely that the teens were already predisposed to these kinds of mental health issues, according to NBC News. The study noted that the risk of psychosis did not spike for users between the ages of 20 and 33 and Dr. Kevin Gray, a professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina who was not a part of the study, told NBC News that the increase in risk of psychosis likely had to do with brain development at different stages of life.

“There’s something about that stage of brain development that we haven’t yet fully characterized — where there’s a window of time where cannabis use may increase the risk of psychosis,” Gray said. “This study really puts a fine point on delaying cannabis use until your 20s may mitigate one of the most potentially serious risks.”

Another study from July 2023 found that marijuana addiction made individuals four times more likely to later be diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms and two times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Recreational marijuana use has been legalized in 24 states and Washington D.C., and 13 states have legalized the substance for medical use, according to CBS News.

Fraser Institute

Enough talk, we need to actually do something about Canadian health care

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From the Macdonald Laurier Institute

By J. Edward Les for Inside Policy

Canada spends more on health care as a percentage of GDP than almost all other OECD countries, yet we rank behind most of them when it comes to outcomes that matter.

I drove a stretch of road near Calgary’s South Health Campus the other day, a section with a series of three intersections in a span of less than a few hundred metres. That is, I tried to drive it – but spent far more time idling than moving.

At each intersection, after an interminable wait, the light turned green just as the next one flipped to red, grinding traffic to a halt just after it got rolling. It was excruciating; I’m quite sure I spied a snail on crutches racing by – no doubt making a beeline (snail-line?) for the ER a stone’s throw away.

The street’s sluggishness is perhaps reflective of the hospital next to it, given that our once-cherished universal health care system has crumbled into a universal waiting system – a system seemingly crafted (like that road) to obstruct flow rather than enable it. In fact, the pace of medical care delivery in this country has become so glacial that even a parking lot by comparison feels like the Indianapolis Speedway.

The health care crisis grows more dire by the day. Reforms are long overdue. Canada spends more on health care as a percentage of GDP than almost all other OECD countries, yet we rank behind most of them when it comes to outcomes that matter.

And we’re paying with our lives: according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, thousands of Canadians die each and every year because of the inefficiencies of our system.

Yet for all that we are paralyzed by the enormity and complexity of the mushrooming disaster. We talk about solutions – and then we talk and talk some more. But for all the talking, precious little action is taken.

I’m reminded of an Anne Lamotte vignette, related in her bestselling book Bird By Bird:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

So it is with Canadian health care: we’ve wasted years wringing our hands about the woeful state of affairs, while doing precious little about it.

Enough procrastinating. It’s time to tackle the crisis, bird by bird.

One thing we can do is to let doctors be doctors.  A few weeks ago, in a piece titled “Should Doctors Mind Their Own Business?”, I questioned the customary habit of doctors hanging out their shingles in small independent community practices. Physicians spend long years of training to master their craft, years during which they receive no training in business methods whatsoever, and then we expect them to master those skills off to the side of their exam rooms. Some do it well, but many do not – and it detracts from their attention to patients.

We don’t install newly minted teachers in classrooms and at the same time task them with the keeping the lights on, managing the supply chain, overseeing staffing and payroll, and all the other mechanics of running schools. Why do we expect that of doctors?

Keeping doctors embedded within large, expensive, inefficient, bureaucracy-choked hospitals isn’t the solution, either.

There’s a better way, I argued in my essay: regional medical centres – centres built and administered in partnership with the private sector.

Such centres would allow practitioners currently practicing in the community to ply their trade unencumbered by the nuts and bolts of running a business; and they would allow us to decant a host of services from hospitals, which should be reserved for what only hospitals can do: emergency services, inpatient care, surgeries, and the like.

In short, we should let doctors be doctors, and hospitals be hospitals.

To garner feedback, I dumped my musings into a couple of online physician forums to which I belong, tagged with the query: “Food for thought, or fodder for the compost bin?”

The verdict? Hands down, the compost bin.

I was a bit taken aback, initially. Offended, even – because who among us isn’t in love with their own ideas?

But it quickly became evident from my peers’ comments that I’d been misunderstood. Not because my doctor friends are dim, but because I hadn’t been clear.

When I proposed in my essay that we “leave the administration and day-to-day tasks of running those centres to business folks who know what they’re doing,” my colleagues took that to mean that doctors would be serving at the beck and call of a tranche of ill-informed government-enabled administrators – and they reacted to the notion with anaphylactic derision. And understandably so: too many of us have long and painful experience with thick layers of health care bureaucracy seemingly organized according to the Peter Principle, with people promoted to – and permanently stuck at – the level of their incompetence.

But I didn’t mean to suggest – not for a minute – that doctors shouldn’t be engaged in running these centres. I also wrote: “None of which is to suggest that doctors shouldn’t be involved, by aptitude and inclination, in influencing the set-up and management of regional centres – of course, they should.”

Of course they should. There are plenty of physicians equipped with both the skills and interest needed to administer these centres; and they should absolutely be front and centre in leading them.

But more than that: everyone should have skin in the game. All workers have the right to share in the success of an enterprise; and when they do, everybody wins.  When everyone is pulling in the same direction because everyone shares in the wins, waste and inefficiencies are rooted out like magic.

Contrast that to how hospitals are run, with scarcely anyone aware of the actual cost of the blood tests or CT scans they order or the packets of suture and gauze they rip open, and with the motivations of administrative staff, nurses, doctors, and other personnel running off in more directions than a flock of headless chickens. The capacity for waste and inefficiencies is almost limitless.

I don’t mean to suggest that the goal of regional medical centres should be to turn a profit; but fiscal prudence and economic accountability are to be celebrated, because money not wasted is money that can be allocated to enhancing patient care.

Nor do I mean to intimate that sensible resource management should be the only parameter tracked; patient outcomes and patient satisfaction are paramount.

What should government’s role be in all this? Initially, to incentivize the creation of these centres via public-private partnerships; and then, crucially, to encourage competition among them and to reward innovation and performance, with optimization of the three key metrics – patient outcomes, patient satisfaction, and economic accountability – always in focus.

No one should be mandated to work in non-hospital regional medical centres. It’s a free country (or it should be): doctors should be free to hang out their own community shingles if they wish. But if we build the model correctly, my contention is that most medical professionals will prefer to work collaboratively under one roof with a diverse group of colleagues, unencumbered by the mundanities of running a business, but also free of choking hospital bureaucracy.

I connected a couple weeks ago with the always insightful economist Jack Mintz (who is also a distinguished fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute). Mintz sits on the board of a Toronto-area hospital and sees first-hand “the problems with the lack of supply, population growth, long wait times between admission and getting a bed, emergency room overuse,” and so on.

“Something has to give,” he said. “Probably more resources but better managed. We really need major reform.”

On that we can all agree. We can’t carry on this way.

So, let’s stop idling; and let’s green-light some fixes.

As Samwise Gamgee said in The Lord of the Rings, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”


Dr. J. Edward Les is a pediatrician in Calgary who writes on politics, social issues, and other matters.

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Brownstone Institute

The Trouble with Testing

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From the Brownstone Institute

By Jeffrey A. Tucker

Deborah Birx is at it again, urging mass testing for the detection of bird flu. She wants cows and dairy workers examined to ferret out asymptomatic infections and exposures in animals and people. We have the technology so why not use it, she demands to know. We are making the same mistake we made with Covid early on, she argues.

The role of testing is relatively uncontroversial but it probably should be. Early on in the Covid crisis, though completely against the lockdowns, I was an enthusiast for testing simply because I thought doing so would overcome the epistemic void that was driving public panic.

If you are scared of a disease and have no means to discover whether or not you have it, what is your choice but to hop around in a frenzy and comply with every edict? That was my thinking in any case. We live and learn.

What’s left out of the testing issue is the great question of why. Is it track, trace, and isolate? That has been proven impossible – and long known to be impossible – in the case of a fast-spreading and fast-mutating respiratory virus with a zoonotic reservoir. They tried it anyway with many states quickly hiring tens of thousands of contact tracers.

The iTunes and Google app stores had contact tracing programs you could download. That way if you came close to someone who had tested positive, you would be alerted. It worked like a digital leper’s bell. In fact, even now, the airlines are still doing Covid contact tracing for flying in and out of the country.

Another possible rationale is likely the one in the mind of Birx. She was formed in the AIDS era where the goal was zero infections. Early on, she was a proponent of zero Covid and made that very clear. She is a virus exterminationist: every policy is structured to drive infections, cases, and even exposure to zero, despite the utter impossibility of this goal.

Another possible rationale would be to discern early intervention therapies for people who need them. But realizing that goal is contingent on two other conditions: having therapeutics available and knowing with some sense of confidence that an asymptomatic infection is certainly going to get worse.

Think of the movie Contagion (2011) in this way. It was a killer virus that you get and get worse and then die, all rather quickly. In the movie, the job of the health authorities was always to find the infected and notify everyone with whom they had contact. By the way, this didn’t even work in the film but we are presented with some impressive disease forensics that ended up isolating patient zero.

Again, the question beckons: why are we doing all this? The goals of stopping the spread, driving exposure to zero, and actually treating the sick (if they are sick versus just exposed) are certainly in tension with each other. If you are going to embark on an elaborate and invasive scheme to find and isolate every instance of the pathogen, it’s a good idea to know what precisely you are trying to achieve with the effort. No interviewer has been smart enough to ask this fundamental question of Birx.

And keep in mind that Birx does not want to limit testing to people. She wants cows and chickens tested too, and there’s no particular reason to limit it to that. It could include every member of the animal kingdom, every four-legged creature, and every fish and foul. The expense would be enormous and truly unthinkable, driving the cost of meat production sky-high, especially given the inevitable slaughters that would be mandated.

This is made worse, as we learned last time, by PCR tests that can be set at any cycle rate to discover the mere presence of a virus in just about anything. The last time, this led to unwarranted assumptions of contagiousness, up to 90 percent in 2020, as reported by the New York Times. Because there was and is so much confusion about this piece, let’s quote it directly.

The PCR test amplifies genetic matter from the virus in cycles; the fewer cycles required, the greater the amount of virus, or viral load, in the sample. The greater the viral load, the more likely the patient is to be contagious.

This number of amplification cycles needed to find the virus, called the cycle threshold, is never included in the results sent to doctors and coronavirus patients, although it could tell them how infectious the patients are.

In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.

On Thursday, the United States recorded 45,604 new coronavirus cases, according to a database maintained by The Times. If the rates of contagiousness in Massachusetts and New York were to apply nationwide, then perhaps only 4,500 of those people may actually need to isolate and submit to contact tracing.

While it’s not quite precise to say that the PCR tests generate 90% false positives, it is correct to say that in those tests looked at by the NYT at the height of the pandemic, 90 percent of positive results did not warrant concern at all. They should have been thrown out entirely.

That’s a serious problem for the test, track, trace, and isolate regime that Birx is proposing. Is it any wonder that people today are highly suspicious of this entire idea? Rightly so. Nothing is to be gained by throwing the whole of society into a mysophobic panic when the tests themselves are so poor at discerning the difference between a mild exposure and a medically significant case.

For more on this, see my interview with Jay Bhattacharya, who was onto this problem very early on.

Indeed it was precisely the PCR tests that created this wild confusion between an exposure, an infection, and an actual case. The word case in the past had been reserved for someone actually sick and needing some medical intervention. For reasons never explained, that entire language was blown up, such that OurWorldinData suddenly started listing every documented PCR exposure as a case, creating the feeling of disaster when actually life was functioning entirely normally. The better the authorities got at testing, and the more universal the testing mandates, the sicker the population seemed to be getting.

This all depends on the conflation of exposure, infection, and cases.

Once the disease panic is created, what’s left to do about it remains entirely within the realm of public health authorities. Already last week, the authorities ordered 4 million chickens to be slaughtered. Already more than 90 million birds have been killed since 2022.

As Joe Salatin points out: “The policy of mass extermination without regard to immunity, without even researching why some birds flourish while all around are dying, is insane. The most fundamental principles of animal husbandry and breeding demand that farmers select for healthy immune systems. We farmers have been doing that for millennia. We pick the most robust specimens as genetic material to propagate, whether it’s plants, animals, or microbes.”

This is precisely where this obsession with testing gets us. Whether it is animals or humans, the power of government to compel disease tests and act on the results has led to destructive policies in every instance. You might think we would have learned. Instead, reporters just let Birx ramble on without asking fundamental questions about severity, purpose, viability, or consequences.

There has probably in the history of government never been a more presumptuous aspiration than for bureaucrats to seek to manage the whole of the microbial kingdom. But that is where we are. There’s never been a better time for every citizen of a would-be free nation to proclaim: my biology is none of the government’s business.

Author

Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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