Sniffing Out Research Bias And Data Distortion In Cannabis Science
Here at IwantmyCBD.org, we feel that in order to do build support for the CBD movement, we must remain as objective as possible in bringing our readers the most up-to-date and relevant information backed by sound science.
Unfortunately, research bias can influence the outcome of any study – which can lead to questionable conclusions that influence people’s opinions and even public policy. This problem is usually exacerbated by news outlets in search of sensational stories. Journalists will often publish findings of studies before they have been properly critiqued by peer review or worse, they ignore the peer reviews altogether and publish their stories anyway. In the realm of cannabis science, this use and abuse of data is an all too common occurrence – regardless of whether the data is for or against the use of cannabis.
That’s why it’s important to know that there is plenty of controversial research on both sides of the aisle. It’s also why we take it upon ourselves to sift through the research and bring our readers the facts that matter most.
With that being said, I’d like to highlight a couple of the ways in which research bias can impact the outcomes of studies on cannabis. Hopefully this exercise, can help you distinguish the difference between sound science and questionable science so that you can gain a richer, more meaningful understanding of cannabis.
Examples Of Research Bias
Financial conflicts of interest can plague research and threaten scientific integrity and this is especially true in the realm of cannabis.
For example, a large number of studies in the U.S. are funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) whose mandate is to focus on drug abuse and addiction. Not surprisingly, they fund studies that are designed to prove the deleterious effects of cannabis while simultaneously blocking inquiry into its potential benefits.
Scientists seeking research money from NIDA are well aware of this fact. As a result, they emphasize the negative effects of drugs to get their research funded. This is why in the U.S., the majority of scientific literature you read today is biased towards the negative aspects of cannabis use.
One recent study clearly illustrates this problem. A 2014 study published by a team from NIDA reported that heavy cannabis use may damage the brain’s pleasure center. They tested 24 cannabis abusers and found that a drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) that normally elevates dopamine levels on control subjects was not as effective on the test subjects. This led them to conclude that the decreased dopamine brain reactivity might contribute to their negative emotionality (increased stress reactivity and irritability) and addictive behaviors.
But if a test subject is given Ritalin and nothing happens, it’s also equally plausible that perhaps cannabis decreases the effects of Ritalin on the body. In this particular instance, the authors chose to interpret the data in a different way and thus were able to link heavy cannabis use with negative emotions and addictive behaviors.
On the flipside, there are ways in which positive bias manifests itself in studies as well. For example, in an article published in 2015 the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, researchers from Brazil reviewed the scientific literature regarding phytocannabinoids and epilepsy.
Although they found cannabinoids – especially CBD and CBDV – to be potent anticonvulsants with few side effects, the authors acknowledged that there was contradictory information on their effects.
“There is contradictory information that support both anti- and pro- convulsant effects of smoked cannabis, and results from preclinical studies using isolated cannabinoid agonists are equally divergent. Conflicting results have also been observed with cannabinoid antagonists, with some studies showing anticonvulsant effects, others failing to report such effects, others reporting a reduction of maximal seizure threshold after pharmacological blockade of CB1 receptors and others reporting increased seizure severity after genetic deletion of CB1 receptors.”
In an attempt to explain the contradictory reports, the authors pointed to the use of different phytocannabinoids with potentially conflicting pharmacology as well as the use of different animal models of seizures. They also pointed to differences in administered doses, routes of administration, mechanisms of action, and binding affinities of different cannabinoids as potential causes for the differences in results as well.
But if there is even a small chance that a medication is proconvulsant, it could be fatal for a patient with severe epilepsy. In this instance, although the authors acknowledged the contradictory information, they attempted to downplay the results to fit nicely into their position that these compounds “are in general potent anticonvulsants that produce few side effects.”
Not surprisingly, the group disclosed that they own a patent for fluorinated CBD compounds and have financial interests related to the issues discussed in the article.
When It Comes To Cannabis Science, Educate Yourself
Whether you’re an advocate for or a person who opposes the use of cannabis and CBD, we like to urge our readers to be cautious and to always take what you read with a grain of salt. Research bias exists all around, so it’s important to stay objective and to always look at both sides of the coin. Hopefully by doing your own research in this manner, you can cut through the noise and come to an informed decision.
Of course if you are seeking alternative therapies for health conditions, there is absolutely no substitute for expert advice from trained medical professionals. Even if you feel you have become an expert in this field, you should always consult your doctor before you embark on any experimental drug treatment.
Here at IwantmyCBD.org, we are dedicated to ensuring your right to obtain CBD legally. We are working hard to make sure CBD rich hemp oil remains a dietary supplement. To see what we are up to, sign up for the I want my CBD Newsletter. If you feel that CBD is right for you and want to join the fight to protect your access to CBD, you can help by liking us on Facebook, or following us on Twitter or Pinterest. Join us in spreading the word on CBD and let’s keep the momentum going!
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