There’s nothing I dislike more than bogus government statistics. Like baseball, all statistics should be examined closely because behind them lies an actual truth. Unlike baseball, government statistics are routinely cooked for better media effect. Therefore it takes true talent to figure out what’s going on behind statistics.
This week Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles of McGill University Health Centre released a fibromyalgia study that’s beyond bogus. It’s so full of schwag and seed I don’t even know where to start. Having fibromyalgia, I was very interested in what this respected university was reporting, but the headline from the Sun News really caught my attention: “Illegal marijuana used by 10 per cent of fibromyalgia patients: Study”
Ten percent of fibromyalgia users admit to buying illegal marijuana to treat their pain and other FM related symptoms, but 13 percent reported using cannabis. Three percent of the group must be Health Canada license holders, but there’s no further details. The Sun News report on Dr. Fitzcharles study goes to great lengths to smear fibromyalgia medical marijuana users but, like Dr. Fitzcharles, fails to recognize their self-medication is below Canada’s national average. When I first ranted about this on The Mernahuana Show I was using a rough estimate of the national average. Now I have a much better number to toss out after doing a simple Google search.
Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, an annual telephone survey of some 10,000+ Canadians, reveals approximately 17.7% of respondents reported using cannabis for medical reasons. That’s an incredible 420,000 Canadians who self-medicate with cannabis. However, if these people have fibromyalgia, their self-medicating with cannabis drops by four percentage points. A crazy idea if I ever heard one! Where’s the headline screaming fibromyalgia users inhale less cannabis than the national average? Simply comparing Dr. Fitzcharles fibromyalgia statistics to the government of Canada stats show a flawed analysis. How does this happen you ask?
Hello, Dr. Fitzcharles this Canadian Drug and Alcohol Study calling. Sorry to bother you at dinner, but have you used cannabis in the last year? A survey of any illicit substance is going to be skewed when you call or ask people to self report. Imagine you just finished ripping your bong or smoking a joint and the phone rings – some dude introduces himself as calling on behalf of the government of Canada and begins asking if you used any drugs in the last year. I know what I’m going to say, “I’m smoking marijuana right now,” but what are you going to tell some stranger on the phone?
I’m suggesting the same is mostly true for Dr. Fitzcharles study – people are not going to be completely open about their cannabis consumption – even medically and possibly especially medically for fear of doctor represal. Just read the results from Dr. Fitzcharles who makes employment related comments without ever realizing fibromyalgia patients are using less than the national average. Plenty of witnesses in R v. Mernagh reported fear of losing their doctor as a reason they didn’t pursue medical marijuana access more thoroughly.
Instead of an opportunity to reveal more about fibromyalgia and cannabis use, this study goes a long way in becoming nothing more than yellow science.
How’s the headline, “Fibromyalgia Patients Use Less Pot” work for everyone?