THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

 Sunday 22nd February 2015

I don’t use cookies on this website so the information I can get about site visitors is limited to anonymous figures for visits to individual pages and the like. On Friday morning I noticed from my website statistics that this page had suddenly jumped to be the third highest visited on the previous day. It was the same again this morning so I decided to see if I could find out why.

If you haven’t clicked through to see what it was about I’ll tell you; it discusses Kathy Gyngell’s reaction to a poll showing support for an examination of the effectiveness of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

When I went looking for ‘Kathy Gyngell’ on Google I found that she’d been at it again; this time with a piece for ‘Conservative Woman’* about the article in Lancet Psychiatry that was widely distorted by the media after the Mail apparently broke the embargo on it last weekend.

*It would be easy to let myself be distracted by a consideration of why there is such a thing as ‘The Conservative Woman’. But I’ll leave the reader to think about that.

I’ll try and not repeat what I wrote two years ago and this time, instead of taking one paragraph and analysing it in detail, I will go to the core flaws in Gyngell’s piece.

That means I can jump over all the early stuff about how nobody liked her at university and how she makes her refusal to use cannabis the reason for that dislike. For the record, I’m one month older than Ms Gyngell and I never used cannabis at university but still had plenty of friends.

It’s is just as well that I can make that jump because it takes her until the thirteenth paragraph to get to the reason for writing her piece; that article in the Lancet offshoot.
But the good stuff comes in paragraph fourteen;

‘It shows that cannabis use triples psychosis risk and that use of high potency strains is responsible for 24 per cent of new cases of psychotic mental illness.’

Of course, Prof Murray’s colleagues say nothing of the sort. What the actual piece says is;

‘…if a causal role for cannabis is assumed (emphasis added), skunk use alone was responsible for 24% of those adults presenting with first-episode psychosis to the psychiatric services in south London.’

The authors are very clear that they cannot say that there is a causal link, that they are referring to high-THC low CBD cannabis* and that they are referring to a particular area of the country and not to the general population.

*There’s been a lot of discussion of the vocabulary used and whether it is meaningful. What one person calls ‘skunk’ is not necessarily what the hearer understands ‘skunk’ to be. As so often with cannabis research most of the evaluation of dose and strength is highly subjective. I tweeted that the methods used to determine cannabis use are like measuring alcohol consumption by looking at the size of the glasses in the drinks’ cabinet.

Gyngell chooses to ignore those qualifications and pretend that the study refers to cannabis in all its forms and is applicable everywhere.

Given that Prof Murray has been working in this area for many years you might expect that a causal link would have been established if it were that distinct. To understand more about what Murray actually has to say I recommend listening to his 2012 interview with Jim al-Khalili on the Radio4 programme ‘The Life Scientific’ Listening to the whole programme is best but, if you’re in a hurry, start at 18 minutes in.

It is very clear that Murray thinks cannabis is a factor in psychosis so his predisposition is to find reasons to blame it but even he says;

‘I’m not saying a couple of puffs at week end are going to send you mad. You have to try quite hard. But if you’re smoking four or five joints a day for five years then you certainly do increase your risk of psychosis…If you start smoking cannabis by 15 then 95% of people will be OK but 5% would have a psychotic reaction. Now, that’s not to say that they would go on to severe schizophrenia.’

‘95% of people will be OK’ and not all of the remaining 5% will suffer severe problems.

Gyngell takes her false representation of what the article says and adds to it all her other previous falsehoods about the effects of cannabis.

What Gyngell cannot see is that, like Peter Hitchens, her approach increases the harm caused by cannabis. With Hitchens, his claim that cannabis is in the same league as heroin when it comes to causing harm is a positive encouragement for anyone who has used cannabis without problems to move on to heroin. With Gyngell, her suppression of any openness about drug use (‘I came down like a ton of bricks – boys who ‘did drugs’ were absolutely not welcome in my home.  I ‘banned’, as far as I could, all social contact with families where the parents had a liberal attitude to drugs’) is the perfect way to create barriers in family relationships potentially leading to harmful breakdowns.

I wonder if anyone has ever looked at the harm resulting from family breakups caused not by cannabis itself but by the attitude of ill-informed parents towards the whole subject of substance use.

Submit a Comment

You can send comments via the contact page but please be sure to say what blog entry you are commenting on.

Follow @thepoisongarden on Twitter

Full Entries


Saturday 20th August 2016 Sunday 6th March 2016 Wednesday 3rd February 2016


Saturday 28th November 2015 Friday 27th November 2015 Monday 17th August 2015 Wednesday 15th July 2015 Friday 26th June 2015 Thursday 25th June 2015 Thursday 30th April 2015 Wednesday 29th April 2015 Wednesday 11th March 2015 Tuesday 3rd March 2015 Saturday 28th February 2015 Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014


Monday 24th November 2014 Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014 Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014 Saturday 16th August 2014 Tuesday 5th August 2014 Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014 Wednesday 23rd July 2014 Sunday 13th July 2014 Sunday 6th July 2014 Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014 Tuesday 24th June 2014 Sunday 22nd June 2014 Monday 9th June 2014 Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014 Sunday 18th May 2014 Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014 Saturday 5th April 2014 Thursday 3rd April 2014 Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014 Tuesday 25th March 2014 Friday 21st March 2014 Monday 17th March 2014 Sunday 16th March 2014 Tuesday 11th March 2014 Thursday 6th March 2014 Wednesday 5th March 2014 Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014 Monday 24th February 2014 Wednesday 19th February 2014 Monday 17th February 2014 Thursday 13th February 2014 Monday 4th February 2014 Monday 3rd February 2014 Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014 Thursday 23rd January 2014 Friday 17th January 2014 Wednesday 15th January 2014 Monday 13th January 2014 Thursday 9th January 2014 Tuesday 7th January 2014 Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013 Friday 20th December 2013 Tuesday 17th December 2013 Friday 14th December 2013 Thursday 12th December 2013 Sunday 8th December 2013 Wednesday 4th December 2013 Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013 Wednesday 27th November 2013 Tuesday 26th November 2013 Friday 22nd November 2013 Monday 18th November 2013 Friday 15th November 2013 Thursday 14th November 2013 Sunday 10th November 2013 Thursday 7th November 2013 Wednesday 6th November 2013 Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013 Sunday 27th October 2013 Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Monday 21st October 2013 Friday 18th October 2013 Friday 11th October 2013 Wednesday 9th October 2013 Tuesday 8th October 2013 Monday 7th October 2013 Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013 Saturday 28th September 2013 Friday 27th September 2013 Monday 23rd September 2013 Sunday 15th September 2013 Monday 9th September 2013 Sunday 8th September 2013 Tuesday 3rd September 2013 Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013 Sunday 25th August 2013 Monday 19th August 2013 Friday 16th August 2013 Tuesday 13th August 2013 Friday 9th August 2013 Friday 2nd August 2013 Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013 Sunday 21st July 2013 Wednesday 17th July 2013 Monday 15th July 2013 Saturday 13th July 2013 Friday 12th July 2013 Thursday 11th July 2013 Wednesday 10th July 2013 Tuesday 9th July 2013 Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013 Tuesday 25th June 2013 Friday 21st June 2013 Thursday 20th June 2013 Wednesday 19th June 2013 Saturday 15th June 2013 Sunday 9th June 2013 Saturday 8th June 2013 Saturday 1st June 2013

May 2013April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 blog June 2012 blog May 2012 blog April 2012 blog March 2012 blog February 2012 blog January 2012 blog December 2011 blog November 2011 blog October 2011 blog September 2011 blog August 2011 blog July 2011 blog June 2011 blog


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.