Women are being underrepresented in cannabis research, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of York reviewed current research to gain an understanding of possible gaps in the understanding of the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia.

As well as finding a “gender bias” in research, the researchers also found that there is “insufficient information and knowledge about who is at risk of developing cannabis psychosis prior to cannabis exposure to reliably produce a public health prevention strategy.”

The research also presents a serious challenge to the accusation that cannabis causes schizophrenia, with the authors suggesting that there is not enough evidence to link cannabis as a causation of psychosis, claiming the evidence “has so far not been established.”

The study found that the majority of research conducted trying to establish a link between cannabis use and psychosis has focused nearly-exclusively on male cannabis users.

Lead author of the study, Ian Hamilton, explained to the Mail Online how women are underrepresented in the current body of research:

“Research is letting women down.

“We should be spending research money on improving the information we have about the risk women face when using cannabis.

“The research to date is completely biased towards men, a situation not helped by mainly men being in control of this research.”

Hamilton believes the reason for the lack of women in research studies is due to them being conducted by males:

“Research needs to extend beyond males.

“In effect there are too many male researchers observing male cannabis users.

“We know very little about what the risks of psychosis are for women who use cannabis.

“If you had some females in senior positions guiding research, they would bring a woman’s perspective to it.”

While Hamilton criticised previous studies for their gender bias towards males, the veteran drug researcher defended their authors, believing the omission of women was due to east of access, rather than malice:

“For researchers its a lot of easier to get people in treatment because they are already there.

“But the problem of doing that is there is more men in treatment than women, so this is also added to this distorted view of cannabis and psychosis.

“We don’t know enough about young women.”

Another problem the researchers found with current studies on cannabis relates to the gap in knowledge about cannabis use outside of Europe and America:

“We are missing a large population size in not focusing study in areas outside of America, Europe, and Australia.

“We could gain much more knowledge on the risk of cannabis psychosis by including other countries and cultures,” the researchers suggested.

Hamilton’s previous research offers some of the most significant evidence in the argument for legalising cannabis on a global scale.

Reviewing hundreds of previous studies investigating cannabis as a causation of schizophrenia, Hamilton found that there is a much lower chance of developing psychosis as a result of using cannabis than is believed by the mainstream:

“A new review of research carried out since then has concluded that ‘at a population level the increased risk is weak and the vulnerabilities relatively rare.

“To put this in perspective we would need to prevent 23,000 people using cannabis to prevent one case of psychosis.”

According to Hamilton, the greatest danger presented by UK cannabis use is the fact that a significant number of cannabis users add tobacco:

“So although the public health message about the link between cannabis and psychosis has been a difficult one to communicate the clearest advice we can offer with the greatest potential health benefit health is leave out the tobacco from your joint.”

The apparent link between cannabis use and developing mental illnesses such as psychosis has long been used as a reason to keep cannabis illegal across the world.

The fact that the evidence for this claim does not hold up to scientific scrutiny should ring alarm bells across world Governments.

Maintaining a ban on a non-toxic, non-addictive substance, despite scientific evidence rejecting a central claim for initially banning said substance, offers no benefit to society. In fact, there’s significant evidence that prohibition of cannabis has caused untold damage to the most vulnerable members of British society.

Basing policy on scientific evidence is central to a progressive society. Is it time that the British Government legalises cannabis for all?

References and further Reading

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11920-019-1044-x