Dr. Phil Believes Smoking Weed Makes You Dumb and Violent

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Dr. Phil McGraw, the host of the Dr. Phil Show, revealed his stance against smoking weed. He explained why he believes it’s actually bad for you. According to Vice, the world’s favorite American unlicensed psychologist (he does, however, actually have a doctorate in clinical psychology!) believes that cannabis use will fry your brain. He compared it to “opening your computer and pouring water inside.”

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The topic came about on his talk show when the mother of an 11-year-old boy named JJ, described the preteen as having violent behavior. He also was allegedly smoking marijuana, and his mother described how JJ had once even threatened her with a steak knife. Dr. Phil took the opportunity to make some misleading claims about marijuana use that Vice disproved through Michael Verbora. A doctor with Aleafia Total Health Network, an organization that helps Canadians access medical cannabis.

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Let’s see what they said:

Dr. Phil: “Your brain grows until you’re 25 at least and it’s constantly changing. When you get to be 18, 19, 20, it’s actually pruning itself back. When you smoke marijuana it’s like opening your computer up and pouring water inside, a lot of things short out and it connects where it’s not supposed to and really creates problems.”

Dr. Verbora says that although “weed relaxes some of the chemicals secreted by the brain that cause anxiety or pain, ‘there is no evidence that any type of rewiring is taking place.'”

Dr. Phil: “Even occasional marijuana smokers will look at a multi-point drop in IQ. Even with just occasional use like once a week or two or three times a month. You’ll see IQ drop and motivation will drop across time.”

Dr. Verbora referenced three separate studies that revealed that cannabis use had only a little effect on cognitive function or IQ decline in teenagers. Also that that tiny effect on cognitive function actually went away when the marijuana user stopped smoking for 72 hours. He told Vice, “That’s been debunked.”

Dr. Phil: “For a 10-year-old child to be smoking dope, he’s self-medicating his anxiety. So you understand why I said this child can’t go home.” He went on to threaten JJ’s mother by saying that if she refused to send him in for treatment, that he would, “have to report it within 24 hours and the child will be removed.”

Dr. Verbora explained that young people smoke weed for mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. And although advising other treatment options for mental illness would be more appropriate, he called out Dr. Phil’s ignorant use of the word “dope” in referring to cannabis. He said that it negatively brands weed smokers. “No intelligent physician or doctor would ever use the word ‘dope’ to describe cannabis,” he said.

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David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, also explained how Dr. Phil should be drawing his attention more to other substances. “Maybe Dr. Phil should redirect hyperbole to alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and benzos, all of which are considerably more harmful, as is exploiting your troubled preteen on national television,” he said.

Dr. Phil: Vice pointed out that he framed “JJ as a ‘gun toting, pot smoking’ kid. Along with the photo of him smoking weed and holding a gun seem to imply that cannabis is tied to his violent tendencies.”

Dr. Verbora explained that he found no evidence that smoking weed causes aggressive behavior. “I’ve treated 5,000 patients and 5,000 out of my 5,000 say cannabis makes them feel relaxed and calm.”

Rebecca Haines-Saah, a public health policy expert and professor at the University of Calgary, also explained that clearly JJ and his family have other complex and behavioral issues besides marijuana use. In noting that it’s concerning that Dr. Phil was naively linking violence to marijuana without the proper data behind his conjecture. She said, “Kids with complex problems drop out or don’t succeed in school because those problems are not addressed. Occasional cannabis use is not the risk here.”

Dr. Verbora added in commenting on JJ’s case, “We don’t really have those pieces to the story. We don’t know if this is causal use, episodic use, or whether it’s actually causing harm.”

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