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As research director, it was his job to guide a small army of scientists to investigate the nonmedicinal impact of a much-demonized drug during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
On May 29, 1969, then-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau appointed Gerald Le Dain, a former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and a future Supreme Court justice, to lead the inquiry. Le Dain hired the Miller — one of the few scientists who had a foot in both academia and the alternative culture. He was working at McMaster University at the time and had come to Canada a few years earlier from his native Detroit.
It has been described as one of the most comprehensive royal commissions ever conducted. The inquiry lasted almost four years. Nearly 30 public hearings took place across the country. Miller’s group oversaw 120 projects examining the physiological, psychological and behavioural effects of marijuana and other illegal drugs. They looked at extent and patterns of use, the social context of these drugs, how they played in mass media, legal and illegal sources of distribution, their role in law enforcement and the correctional system, among other things.
Around the same time, research funded by Ontario’s Conservative government was underway in Toronto to study the long-term effects of marijuana smoking in male and female volunteers. Dr. C.G. (Bill) Miles’ series of studies for the Addiction Research Foundation fed into the commission’s work though only portions of the results from the male studies were ever published.
By the time the commission issued its last of four reports in 1973, the perceived “drug crisis” in Canada was already waning. The commissioners were divided on whether pot should be legalized or decriminalized and much of the innovative research was left unanalyzed, according to Miller. The material was packed into boxes bound for the national archives. Miller says he would be willing to advise keen graduate students on how to start unpacking some of that rich data.
the Toronto Star spoke with Miller by email at an ashram in Rishikesh, India, and later by phone in West Vancouver, B.C., where he still consults on the impact of marijuana as well and holistic psychology.
“I have gotten a lot of mileage (kilometerage?) out of my Le Dain cannabis research,” he quipped by email.
Here is an edited transcript of his remarks on the collision of marijuana, science and politics from that time.
What prompted the commission?
“There was a lot of talk that drugs were destroying our youth, that hospitals were full of young people gone crazy on the use of drugs and that crime had gone up from drugs.
That was the crisis that caused Trudeau to say what is going on here.
All it was originally going to be was a departmental inquiry about marijuana issues. And then of course concern about LSD, psychedelics and so on.
At that point, coke hadn’t really reared its head in Canada much and heroin was entirely restricted to the West Coast.
Their great mistake, the Cabinet’s, is that they didn’t specifically exclude anything. They didn’t consider alcohol and tobacco to be drugs because in the general population it isn’t.
I made a point on logical grounds and in terms of physiological and socioeconomic effects, we had to include alcohol.
So the interim report did include alcohol, but not tobacco.
But I wrote all the tobacco stuff and stuffed it in the final report with only general approval at the end because they didn’t want to tackle that as well.
But when you look at the alcohol and drug research, it makes everything else a bad joke.
That’s why I quit working in the area.
They weren’t interested in the problem, in terms of the socio-economic impact of drugs, which means alcohol and tobacco. Added up, everything else is nothing compared to alcohol and tobacco problems.”
How did you land the job?
“They couldn’t find anyone in Canada qualified who also had a foot in the alternative culture.
I had given a talk on the non-medical use of drugs as part of a university conference. Le Dain heard about that and called me personally at McMaster to meet with him.
At that time, I had a giant Afro (dark brown, black) and had recently escaped from the U.S. to McMaster.
I purposely didn’t spiff myself up.
Le Dain himself was a conservative man, but brilliant, funny and intellectually honest.
I thought this was going to be just another government blah, blah, blah and I wasn’t really interested.
In my interview he never mentioned my hair.
Now my hair is trimmed up. I have my vice-president Biden hairdo on now.
No one else had ever been paid to work full time in these areas. Not only doing the original research, but surveying anyone who had ever done any LSD or any cannabis research. No one else had ever been in a position to do this before.
I was easily the world expert in cannabis.
What were some of the highlights of your research?
There were some amazing and funny things.
We got permission to use the RCMP airport at Rockcliffe. We wanted to see how fast stoners could drive around, what they would run over, if they could park.
That’s where the first driving studies were done.
We tested marijuana and alcohol on runways they weren’t using at the time.
We had regular stoners rating as high as they ever got and still driving around in the RCMP airport.
We did the first and only survey of every RCMP officer, went through all of their chemical analysis records in detail. And three months later, we had the meeting with the RCMP officers.
They were very embarrassed because they were expected to have all this data on marijuana and crime.
Other than busting people for simple possession and small dealers, they had nothing, except some guys who got busted for marijuana and were already under suspicion for gang rape a few weeks earlier. There was one case of a young man who turned out to be schizophrenic. He had taken hash and assaulted his parents. But it wasn’t clear it was even in the same month.
They said they were sure the world literature would support them, which it didn’t.
So that blew away the marijuana-causing-crime issue.
The LSD crimes were a young man naked worshipping the golden boy statue in front of the capitol building in Manitoba; some guys naked running through Stanley Park; and three people caught inappropriately dressed worshipping the trees in the park.
One of the crimes was he pulled into a gas station while high on LSD and tried to get them to service six imaginary automobiles. How’s that for heavy crime?
The worst one of all? A woman was caught attempting to fornicate with a peanut-vending machine.
The RCMP officers writing this down must have had a hoot but the head commissioners didn’t think this was funny at all. They were highly embarrassed.
We surveyed every psychiatric hospital and every hospital and major clinic with a psychiatric ward or outpatient clinic.
Physicians were seeing these kids coming in seeming schizy and that they were smoking dope and assumed that the families will want to blame something outside. Because it’s either the parenting or the outside. Because genetics is very hidden and not clearly known at that time.
In Ottawa, study, No difference between number of schizophrenics to be expected (1-3 per cent of population in age groups) and number being reported as being caused by marijuana/LSD. Which means marijuana or LSD was not likely causing anything but was maybe concomitant in increasing the symptoms.
The psych hospitals were full of people with alcohol problems. Again, alcohol wiped everything else off the map.
Was the drug crisis exaggerated?
“A general but not well-defined fear fed into “drug crisis.”
Many believed marijuana was a gateway drug. But in those days, few people smoked marijuana who didn’t start with tobacco.
I just gave a talk on that in India.”
Where did the pot for your research come from?
“A field run by the U.S. government in Kentucky. They collected seeds from around the world and were growing them in different conditions there.
Kentucky pot was a dark, rich green.”
“We ran out of money and all of the studies we did — the pharmacology studies — were left only in the not-finished, final statistical analysis.
They didn’t come up with the money for a follow-up until all of my staff members had jobs elsewhere.
That was in 1973/74.
All of our core research, even the data, is in the national archives. Most is still in microfiche. And most of it hasn’t been published other than in the reports. Except the stuff that we involved outside people who had their own research grants from universities in California and around Ontario that published on their own.
But I couldn’t do it free.
I had my two kids. No access to staff or computers.
I was living in a wonderful commune in Stanley Park, Vancouver. I worked at a rehab program.
When the commission was over, Trudeau put the word out to the prosecutors and the whole judicial system and police to not waste time on simple possession.
Trudeau couldn’t do much with it. There wasn’t the political will around the country. They were still very conservative about it.
And here we are, a half-century later just about, and now the issue is coming around again. It’s about time.
I’ve been disappointed that no one seems to be tracking down any of us about the political, socio-economic issues.
Even young Trudeau himself seems to be dealing with these issues and doesn’t mention his dad’s commission at all.
He’s fishing around for answers and his dad’s commission did the work. And people don’t even seem to recognize it.”
What was your final conclusion?
“The big plague of stoners bringing Canada to its knees is a farce.”
Source: Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd.
MONDAY April 1, 2013 — It’s rare for children in the United States aged 10 to 12 to be sexually active, especially on a voluntary basis, a new study finds. However, almost one in five teens has had sex before age 15, and 16,000 girls under 15 get pregnant each year.
The researchers launched the study after the debate heated up over access to Plan B, the so-called “morning after” birth control pill. It can be used to prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after sex.
Opponents contend the emergency contraceptive pill causes abortions, but medical experts say that’s inaccurate. In the United States, customers must be at least 17 to buy emergency contraceptive pills over the counter, and President Barack Obama made comments in 2011 supporting the move by saying 10- and 11-year-olds shouldn’t have access to it “alongside bubble gum or batteries.”
The new study finds that “sex and pregnancy are quite rare among the youngest adolescents, which may be different than the perceptions of many people,” said co-author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports access to sexual education and contraception. “There was never a time when a very large percentage of young adolescents were having sex.”
For the study, the researchers looked at the results of surveys of people born from 1984 to 1993. They found the following:
- About one in 200 females said they’d had sex by the age of 10, and it was non-consensual 62 percent of the time. Almost 1 percent had sex by the age of 12, and it was consensual almost 80 percent of the time.
- Surveys over the past 50 years suggest that no more than 10 percent of females have had sex by the age of 14.
- Pregnancy is rare until age 14, although many do get pregnant each year, including about 2,700 girls in 2008 aged 13 and under.
Are numbers from surveys about sex reliable? What about when they ask women to remember possible cases of abuse at a very young age? Finer acknowledged that there may be some “underreporting” in the study results. “That’s one of the limitations of this study,” he said.
The study also looked at the use of contraception and found that older children were more likely to use it, including the 15- and 16-year-olds who can’t get the Plan B contraceptive over the counter.
“The people who are most affected by that policy are the ones most likely to be having sex: 15- to 16-year-olds are far more likely than the youngest adolescents, the 10- to 11-year-olds,” Finer said.
Amy Schalet, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies teen sexuality, praised the study and said it shows that the “issues at stake” for younger kids are different than for older ones. “It is not common for those in their early teenage years to choose to have sex,” she pointed out.
As for access to contraception, rates of teen pregnancy are high in the United States “in part because U.S. teens are less likely to consistently use the most reliable forms of contraception,” she noted.
“One reason for that is that young people find it difficult to access contraception options, like the pill, which require them to talk to adults,” Schalet said.
David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, has a more critical view of the study. He said it doesn’t use the best strategies to study the sexual activities of teens because it relies too much on long-term remembrances of childhood sexuality.
Also, he said, “understanding the mix of coercive and consensual sex among teens is very important. To do this, you need a lot more details about the circumstances, such as alcohol usage.”
The study is published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.
For more about teen sexual health, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Posted: April 2013
SAN FRANCISCO |
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The African lion that killed a California wildlife sanctuary worker had slipped out of its holding pen, which apparently was left improperly secured, and crept up on the woman inside a larger enclosure to attack her, the coroner said on Friday.
Dianna Hanson, 24, an intern at the Cat Haven sanctuary east of Fresno, died almost instantly on Wednesday after the big cat, a male named Cous Cous weighing at least 400 pounds (181 kg), snapped her neck, according to an autopsy conducted on Thursday.
Hanson was cleaning the larger enclosure when the lion escaped from its holding pen, apparently by lifting a gate that slides open and shut vertically, Fresno County Coroner Dr. David Hadden told Reuters.
“The gate is kind of like a guillotine. It comes down and hits the base of the ground. If that gate wasn’t all the way down, the lion could have put its paw under the gate and pushed it up, and the gate is designed so that it would stay up,” he said. Hadden said the lion was being fed at the time, though he was not sure if Hanson was the one who left food for the animal.
“The lion did not touch its food. It was more interested in what she was doing, and it ran in and attacked her,” he said. “she had been talking on her cell phone shortly before the attack and we found a damaged cell phone on the scene.”
On Thursday, Hadden said autopsy results showed the intern, who was from the Seattle area, “died almost instantly from a fractured neck.” He added that the autopsy also showed bite and claw marks on Hanson from “the lion playing with the body like a cat would play with a mouse.”
Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed the lion as they tried to reach Hanson, authorities said.
State officials on Thursday performed a necropsy, the animal equivalent of an autopsy, and found the lion to be in “good body condition,” with solid muscle composition, a healthy coat and proper nourishment, Janice Mackey, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said on Friday.
A pathologist also examined the lion’s brain and took tissue, blood and hair samples to determine whether any underlying health issues, such as neurological disorders or diseases like rabies, might have caused the attack. Full test results are not expected for a couple of weeks, Mackey said.
The initial necropsy report put the lion’s weight at between 400 and 500 pounds, heavier than the 350 pounds earlier cited by authorities.
Hanson had begun what was to be a six-month internship at the private sanctuary in January after spending six months in Kenya last year working on a wild feline reserve. She earned a biology degree in 2011 from Western Washington University.
Cat Haven, a 100-acre (16-hectare) sanctuary in Dunlap, California, run by the group Project Survival, has been closed until further notice. It was founded “to exhibit a variety of wild cats and engage public support for their conservation in the wild via specific projects,” according to its website.
On Thursday, Cat Haven founder Dale Anderson told reporters he could not comment on the circumstances of Hanson’s death or the sanctuary’s safety protocols. “Our whole staff is just … it’s devastating,” he said as he broke down in tears.
He said the facility has been “incident free” since opening in 1998, and California officials confirmed they had never responded to any emergency there prior to Wednesday’s death.
The 4-year-old Barbary lion that killed Hanson was of a species that is extinct in the wild, said Mackey, whose agency oversees the permit that allows the sanctuary to operate.
The lion had been handled by humans since it was weeks old, and was one of two Barbary lions at the facility. Several years ago, when it was a cub, Cous Cous also made an appearance on the talk show “Ellen,” Mackey said.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Keleher in Dunlap, California; Laura L. Myers in Seattle and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)
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FRIDAY Jan. 25, 2013 — Cancer patients who smoked up until their surgery were more likely to take up the habit again compared to those who quit earlier, a new study finds.
The study from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., included lung cancer and head and neck cancer patients who quit smoking before or immediately after surgery. They were followed for a year after the surgery.
“Sixty percent of patients who smoked during the week prior to surgery resumed smoking afterward, contrasted with a 13 percent relapse rate for those who had quit smoking prior to surgery,” study corresponding author Vani Nath Simmons said in a Moffitt news release.
The significantly lower smoking relapse rate for those who quit smoking before surgery shows the need to encourage patients to quit smoking when they’re diagnosed with cancer, the researchers said.
The investigators also noted that most of the patients who began smoking again did so shortly after surgery, which shows the importance of anti-smoking programs for patients both before and after surgery.
The study also found that patients were more likely to resume smoking if they had a high amount of fear about cancer recurrence, had a higher risk for depression, and were less likely to believe in their ability to quit smoking.
“Cancer patients need to know that it’s never too late to quit,” Simmons said. “Of course, it would be best if they quit smoking before getting cancer; but barring that, they should quit as soon as they get diagnosed. And with a little assistance, there is no reason that they can’t succeed.”
The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.
Posted: January 2013
By Rita Rubin
WebMD Health News
Jan. 7, 2013 — Children whose dads were depressed during the pregnancy are more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems at age 3, new research suggests.
The finding comes from an ongoing study of more than 30,000 Norwegian children. When their mothers were nearly halfway through their pregnancy, their fathers completed a mental health questionnaire that assessed anxiety and depression symptoms. The researchers also collected information from the parents about the mothers’ pre- and postnatal mental health and the children’s emotional and behavioral development at 36 months of age.
Three percent of the fathers had high levels of psychological distress, and their children had higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems — even after the researchers took into account other possible contributing factors, such as the dad’s age, education, and marital status, and the mother’s mental health.
“This study suggests that some risk of future child emotional, behavioral, and social problems can be identified during pregnancy,” says researcher Anne Lise Kvalevaag, PsyD, a PhD candidate at the University of Bergen.
The researchers, whose report appears in the journal Pediatrics, cited several possible explanations for a link between fathers’ prenatal psychological distress and young children’s emotional and behavioral problems:
- The children may have inherited a genetic susceptibility to such problems from their father.
- The expectant fathers’ depression may have negatively impacted the pregnant mothers’ mental health.
- A dad’s prenatal depression might simply predict he’ll be depressed after the baby is born.
“Fathers who have mental health difficulties during the prenatal period are likely to continue to have those difficulties during the child’s infancy, which may directly affect young children’s development,” says psychologist Elizabeth Harvey, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Harvey published a study last month in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology about the link between early fathering and children’s behavior problems. The study found that fathers’ depression when the children were 3 predicted behavior problems when they were 6.
Depressed Dads Depress Moms
In a study published in Maternal and Child Health Journal last August, Michael Weitzman, MD, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at New York University, found that depression in fathers was the single biggest predictor of depression in mothers. The study involved more than 7,000 U.S. moms and dads who lived with children aged 5 to 17.
In another study of approximately 22,000 kids in that same age group, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2011, Weitzman found that living with a father who had symptoms of depression and other mental health problems was associated with higher rates of emotional or behavioral problems in children.
Some of the negative consequences scientists attribute to the mother’s depression might actually be due to the father’s depression, Weitzman says. In addition, he says, depressed parents may be more likely to report their children as being depressed than non-depressed parents of kids who have the same behaviors.
Studies that follow fathers and children with or without psychological distress over time are needed to clarify the relationship between the mental health of dads and their offspring, Kvalevaag and her colleagues write.
While the Norwegian study has continued to collect mental health information from the mothers and children, it only questioned the fathers at 17 or 18 weeks into the pregnancy, Kvalevaag says.
Unfortunately, Weitzman says, “depression in fathers is a profoundly overlooked public health problem.”