Cannabis and the placebo effect

Discussion in 'Science and Nature' started by ArgoSG, May 5, 2011.

  1. So I was going back and forth in some thread in the Spirituality and Philosophy section with someone who clearly had no clue what they were talking about when it comes to biology, psychology, and evolution. I was pretty civil the entire time, which is somewhat uncharacteristic of me, but as his questions became more and more absurd and uninformed and frankly pulled from his ass, I felt compelled to ask, "Are you high while writing this to me?". I didn't ask this, but I immediately recognized this would open up a whirlwind of debate when such a question would be posed in a way that suggests that the effects of cannabis are somehow detrimental to logical consistency, comprehension, or meaningful knowledge. So as to not hopelessly court controversy in that cesspool of ignorance, I feel compelled to ask here:

    Is there anyone who seriously thinks the influences of cannabis somehow offer a superior mental state for discerning truth about reality? Because there's just about no evidence for this. Human beings have been consuming it for millennia, at exponentially increasing rates. If it somehow made you smarter or more honest, we'd know by now, I promise. In fact, every time a pothead felt a feeling of euphoria, epiphany, and bliss, and wrote down his thoughts, then came back to it sober only to find that it didn't make any sense, they succeeded in performing a scientific experiment which has been repeated for countless ages. I even assure you that a stoner in China, 6,000 years ago, first performed this experiment on rice paper or some animal's skin with the same results we get today. Cannabis is not a magical plant, so can we all stop pretending it is, at least until this is documented somewhere by a respectable body of knowledge? I enjoy it, I enjoy euphoria, I enjoy sensations of epiphany, I feel everyone should have the right to do whatever they want with their body. I accept it's countless medical applications, but those of us who pretend this substance, or any other substance for that matter(without sufficient, rigorous, scientific evidence), has magical properties, opens your third eye, allows you to travel the astral plane, lets you talk to God, or some other such woo, cannabis culture will continue to be seen as a joke by out-groups.

    I'm worried as I write this post, because I just glanced at a thread where nearly everyone was claiming cannabis made them study better. If you're one of these people, before replying, please consider the best possible explanation for your experiences. I feel like this is going to be like asking people at a homeopath convention about their experiences with the alternative medicine. Of course it's going to be positive. Of course their perceived experiences are going to color their view of it's effectiveness. What concerns me, however, is what can be demonstrated. Until then, it's just placebo.
  2. It affects everyone differently. I don't feel any kind of connection with any of that parapsychological bullshit. I also never mix weed and work/school.
  3. I think mind altering substances can give one a different perspective on life and reality, but I don't think there is any mysticism or supernatural aspect behind it.
  4. Within certain limits, however. Suppose someone said "Cannabis does not cause you to go out into the street and begin murdering people at random." One probably wouldn't be tempted to respond that it affects everyone differently. What's true about it, is true right now for most people, and it has a certain general affect on the brain, which is complicated due to the number of compounds in the plant, and the huge variety of different plants.

    I don't think there's as much weight in it affecting everyone differently rather than everyone consuming different doses, with different methods, over different time spans, and most importantly, of sometimes drastically different plants.
  5. I would tend to disagree (with the OP). I think one of the key effects of cannabis in this area is on creativity. Creativity can take many forms, not just artistic creativity, but problem solving and the like. Creativity is essentially just thinking outside the box. This thinking outside the box enables a person to view different perspectives and think about things in different ways. Surely an advantage when it comes many areas of thinking.

    Another area that weed can help is with concentration. I find that I can focus on the same thing for hours without getting bored or distracted. Again an advantage when it comes to thinking, debating or studying.

    All this is obviously very subjective, it affects different people differently, but for anybody with an active mind who likes to think, learn and develop, I think, that cannabis absolutely has benefits. For somebody who likes to lay on a sofa playing X-box, not so much.

    Also, I don't think your comparison of cannabis to homeopathy really holds any water at all. Ingesting scientifically proven psychoactive compounds and alternative medicines which have no basis in science are far from the same thing.

    By the way, I've smoked 4 spliffs of some of the best Moroccan hash money can buy. I'm pretty stoned, but I hold exactly the same opinion when I'm stone cold sober.
  6. The whole point of my thread is that many of the claims people make about cannabis are simply anecdotal and are not scientifically proven. If you understand that I was not claiming that homeopathy is similar to cannabis in that they both have no discernible effects when controlling for placebo, then it should hold weight if you apply some intellectual honesty to the example. All one needs to do to call what I said valid, is understand psychology, and how people make shit up and attribute properties to things like this on faulty evidence. There's a difference between saying "I feel creative after smoking" and "Cannabis improves creativity." There are just too many scientific values which are likely violated by smokers constantly, like; correlation =/= causation, wishful thinking, post-diction, the placebo effect if anything, etc. This is a psychoactive on top of things. Human bias and logical failure is only likely to increase when making anecdotal claims. Additionally, the claims you made are simply not subjective, even if you're saying this is only how it affects you. This is an objective claim about the effects cannabis has on you.
  7. #7 Blunted123, May 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2011

    These are some A1 points, if I do say so myself. Nothing to an air-tight argument, but cold hard facts.

    IMO, the simple act of going into the high believing it will improve your creativity is providing a biased base for such opinionated conclusions to be reached. However, I do believe that cannabis has an effect on the funtioning of the brain. I believe it, in a sense, lowers your do-ability, and raises your think-ability. Nearly every time I blaze, I become a bit lazy, physically, but much more active mentally. If bodies were machines, which they very nearly are, the first thing the operator would do to increase power in the brain, would be to decrease power in the physicality of it's operations; decrease the unconscious, increase the conscience. It may just be me, but that's my idea.
  8. just get high who cares
  9. Little off topic but I'm going to connect these two before I lose the thought.

    What if cannabis and the placebo effect go hand in hand? I always seem to be easily convinced about hearing something or seeing something which causes paranoia while UTI. If I'm happy, it makes me more happy. If I'm sad, it makes me more sad.

    What if the people who think they will get smarter by using marijuana are getting smarter? What if the people who think they will be more creative while using marijuana are getting more creative?

    What if the fear mongering about marijuana causing schizophrenia is based on people convincing themselves, while UTI, that they are crazy, and thus winding up doubting reality and spiraling?

    Could cannabis be used in a type of psychological programming or just cause general mental instability, is that why it's still illegal?
  10. Something not having been scientifically proven doesn't make it not so. I agree that there should be further research on this, but until then all we have to go on is anecdotal evidence, a lot of it, spanning a long time.

    Point taken, but again, just because something has not been scienfically proven, it doesn't automatically put it in the realms of placebo effect. Even if further research were carried out, we may not understand the mechanism behind cannabinoids sharpening our mind, but still that wouldn't make it not so.

    This is speculation, exaggeration and sweeping generalization all in one sentence. Implying that all stoners constantly make logical fallacies or errors in thought or judgement is simply wrong. How about the idea that the stoners making these mistakes also make them when they're sober, and those that don't make them when they're sober, also don't make them when they're stoned?

    Please explain how you come to the conclusion that logical fallacies are in anyway connected to anecdotal claims. Anecdotal doesn't necessarily mean false or logically weak. Nor does being stoned make you unable to be objective or logically sound.

    I never claimed that the effects on me were subjective, but that the effects of cannabis on people as a whole are very much so. The drug effects different people based on personality, set and setting, genetics (of the plant), etc.
  11. #11 MelT, May 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2011
    Hi Argo. Yes, I'm one of the people who said it helped me work. You're right, there are no scientific studies at all that would suggest this is true, we can only produce anecdotal tales until that happens - but there are lots and lots of them. I can only say that my living depends on being creative and working long hours, so I've sincerely tried to compare how long I can work for straight to how long high over the years and there's no comparison. I really wouldn't do it if there weren't actual bonuses for me, particularly in terms of creativity.

    How does the work I do straight compare to when I'm high? Pretty much the same output, though there's a tendency when I'm high to focus on one aspect more than others. But I've written 'x' books, a 'x' or so articles and been involved in 'x' computer games, some quite successful, mostly high, say perhaps 80% of the time.

    Does it help spirituality? Certainly. Cannabis by itself rarely gives experiences of Kensho, it isn't like that. When used in the right way and in conjunction with meditation, cannabis helps set up a good 'ground' mind to practise deeper forms of meditation within. It saves a long set-up time and lets you get into things much more quickly than when high, but you have to stay in control of it. It's effects are why it's still so popular with meditators in the east and Tibet. I don't suggest that it should be used all the time, but it is a good way of seeing the direction you're meant to proceed in.

    Some of the books I write are about the same things you talk about, the place of the placebo effect and suggestion and the way it might affect you whilst you meditate (or be 'healed'), the possibility that it's all just expectation; in fact it was one of the reasons I began to explore meditation, as someone who didn't beleive in it, hoping to show that it was all just self-delusion. I took real pains over an 8 year period to avoid reading about what effects I should expect from meditation and anything at all that would allow me to have a conceptual framework on which any experiences might be based. The experiences still happened, and are the same both straight and high.

    This subject obviously still interests me greatly, and I have to say I would at the time have liked nothing better than to show that it was all delusion.

    I do agree with much of what you say. Many experiences whilst high have no meaning at all, so it really pays to be exceptionally objective and cynical about what takes place. But, that doesn't mean that all experiences are delusion.

    Hope this helps:)


  12. You're missing the point in your attack, an attack which needs to cease, IMHO, anyway.
    Maybe all stoners don't, but MANY people do, stoners and non-stoners. Go to any metro area with a general knowledge fact book, and I bet any sum of money that America scores below a 65%. Ask how many are religious. Ask how many are racist. These are all biases which hinder growth. Now imagine trying to conduct a study in which 65% of the subjects are unreliable at properly conveying information, simply because they are always biased. What a damn waste of time, huh?
  13. #13 JayF, May 5, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2011
    I think calling my post an attack is a little harsh. ArgoSG created this thread with full intention of stimulating debate (which is a good thing), he made that pretty clear and I don't think I was being unreasonable or rude. If you think I was, please let me know.

    So your point here is that you can't ask a group of stoners whether they think that cannabis improves their creativity, because they are biased? Maybe you have a point, but I'm not basing my argument on the results of asking people. I'm basing it on the many hours I've spent reading up on subjects, either because I needed to or because I wanted to, the many hours that me and my friends have sat and debated and developed ideas (most of the time stoned) and my own experience when it comes to solving problems when repairing computers, building databases, Excel spreadsheets or websites.

    In my experience and in many others', cannabis has benefits here. Clearly in yours, ArgoSG's and in many others', it hasn't. This doesn't mean that it is or isn't the case, nor does the fact that there hasn't yet been any scientific studies mean that it is placebo until there has (ref. last line of OP). Until there has we won't know either way, only a study can show that it is placebo. Until then all we have to go on is anecdotal evidence, of which there is a lot, even if only 35% of them are reliable.
  14. I didn't mean to make light of any of the claims anyone made about cannabis, by the way. It should be clear that I'm not saying "You're all delusional, you have no idea what you're talking about when you say this substance effects you this way.", just to be clear. All I'm saying is human beings make profound mistakes in precisely this type of activity, even more so, because this affects the brain. And many of the people on this forum have made some outlandish claims about a variety of different substances, the likelihood of which ranges from fairly unlikely to flat-out ridiculous. In general, this is how the outside world sees us, as non-rigorous, non-intellectual burnouts who like having pot leafs on everything from clothing to paraphernalia. To a certain large(and unfortunate) degree, this stereotype is true.

    I appreciate your insights Melt, and I would gladly admit that whatever positive effects you claim to get are certainly possible(more importantly testable), but this method of self analysis when dealing with mind altering substances is simply not the right way to go about it if someone is serious about being right. Imagine a scientist revealing that he discovered a certain new and exciting effect that a drug had on the human brain. When asked how he discovered this, he said, "Well, I simply compared how this substance effected me while doing certain activities to my performance while under no influence of the substance."

    This person would be laughed at, because this isn't how a serious person makes conclusions. You can pepper your findings with words like "Well I suspect cannabis does ...", but this is not what most smokers or most people on this forum do. They just make whatever conclusions feel good, or confirm whatever beliefs they already have while ignoring whatever is contrary, which is what human beings do general with just about anything, from religion to politics. They literally go all-in with whatever their experiences are worth with total disregard for the plethora of phenomenon that make up human fallibility which I already mentioned in earlier posts. This is the core of my argument.

    Good points. It's certainly not impossible, and most likely true to some degree at least.
  15. Isn't that what I just did? :confused:

    My point is that to come to ANY kind of scientifically acceptable conclusion, the subjects must NOT be biased. Hence, blind and double blind studies?

    You, my friend, are not nearly a scientist. There are many posts in the Spirituality and Philosophy section.

    So, if it doesn't do it for everyone, then are you saying that cannabis is scientifically specfic to each person, and what it does for one, it may not do for another, thus allowing the possiblity of some sort of placebo effect among each individual? Doesn't that invalidate....everything? Unless you have some sort of hidden reports done of marijuana and it's effects on people of a specific region? And if you want to base your argument on 35% reliable evidence from a randomly selected group, I suggest you work for a city agency, here in California. I don't understand how 35% is positive in any way when it comes to reliability.
  16. It seems silly to expect people on this forum to think and talk about cannabis like they are scientists. JayF had it right, something not scientifically proven doesn't mean it isn't so. It usually means it hasn't been researched enough yet. And no surprise there, that is the case with marijuana, the American government avoids marijuana research so much that it is unfair to use the lack of research as a base for an argument that something isn't true when it comes to the subject.

    But, the placebo effect when it comes to Marijuana is very interesting on a sociological level. There is a study done that follows the interactions of new pot smokers with older ones. This study summarizes that new pot smokers have to "learn" to become high, which means understanding what effects they should focus on and thus, what is different with their body. Now, one could call this a placebo effect depending on what the new pot smokers are taught, or one could call this bringing self-awareness of that person's body and how it changes with new chemicals involved. It could even be a mix of the two.

    I feel like there is so much variety within the cannabis plant that it is hard to generalize an extreme view point of that 'it's all a placebo' or 'it is a miracle'. I know I can study when high on certain strains, but not on other ones. I know I feel dumb on some, but sometimes I will /feel/ smarter with other strains or the difference in how I ingest them. When I say pot is a miracle, because I believe I have before, I mean that it is amazing how varied of a plant it is. It has so many different benefits that are constantly being discovered and how it can truly help so many people... it really is amazing.

    There is no finite conclusion to cannabis. Just because humans have been around for a long time doesn't mean they know everything about a plant. We are constantly discovering new knowledge and making scientific progress. But there will never be an end to this progress and that's just the truth.
  17. I would never claim that no proof means something doesn't exist, I'm just criticizing how much stock we put into anecdotal claims, which are generally agreed to be useless whenever serious matters are considered in science and philosophy.

    I was only suggesting some of the more outlandish claims that people make are more likely results of wishful thinking and placebo, because such a long history of exponentially increasing use would have probably surfaced some of the claims of effects people report. I generally agree with you here.

    I don't think I ever implied everyone who uses cannabis make logical fallacies, but if you give me the chance to imply that I will. All human beings, as a matter of fact, making errors in thought and judgment, all the time. Sorry, I had to add that for some comedic effect. But yeah, we're talking about the specific claims about cannabis right? So no, I wasn't actually implying that everyone who makes a claim is wrong, and what you mentioned at the end there is exactly the kind of scientific thinking I would like to see from people. Perhaps said creative burst or, whatever positive or negative effect people perceive comes from cannabis, was actually there before they took the substance? The problem is, and I think this stereotype is true, perhaps you'll agree with me, but smokers tend not to be this careful. They tend not to think "Hmm.. I sure don't want to fall into the trap of thinking correlation=causation, so I'll be conservative about how I believe/claim this is effecting me." They literally just make claims as if the experiment is now officially over. At least this is my experience on these forums for quite some time now.

    Perhaps I should have stated that more carefully. What I wanted to get across was that because we were dealing with a psychoactive, we should be extra careful to not succumb to bias and become logically inconsistent, because there could easily be a likelihood of increased tendency of being illogical or of making any sense, as anyone with enough experience with the substance would probably agree.

    This idea visits us just about everywhere in the sciences of the mind. Something along the lines of "How is it that you can study human subjectivity and make objective claims about first person facts?" There can be some confusion with these words because we use them in two distinct ways, in an epistemological way, which describes how we reason about the world, and an ontological way; or what there is to be reasoned about. Now clearly we can think objectively about subjective facts, and we do this all the time in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. We can talk about what it's like to be you under effects of specific doses of a certain cocktail of distinct substances found in a specific strain of cannabis, right? These are subjective, first person facts, and to be clear, I'm not saying you have to be self-deceived or illogical or merely led by wishful thinking to talk about them, I'm just questioning how much can you take someone's word for this and hopefully provoke people to not make hasty claims themselves and think more carefully. We know that people aren't always the best judges of our experience. We can be wrong. We can be self deceived. And it's not just that people can be wrong about their subjectivity, they can be simply bad at discerning what it's like to be us in the context of consciousness. This is something that is trainable, I should add. Hope that clarifies my position.
  18. @Princess
    The simple fact is if you tell someone that something is a fact, or even explain to them your opinion, human nature it to seek proof to confirm it, otherwise there is no use in listening, as that will cause you to remember faulty info. If you are rambling opinions and trying to sway people to believe you are telling the truth, and you have no proof, evidence, or anything merely than, "I believe...," then what makes them want to even listen or comprehend your opinion? If a presidential candidate was up there rambling off what he believed and how he thinks things should be and had no proof, or any evidence that he was even going to do that, would you believe him, and vote for him?

    Well, America DID vote in Obama...

    All I'm saying is if you want to convince people, you better bring a little more evidence to the table, otherwise your opinion will be scrutinized for the fallible evidence, which is leading the deterioration of such a great country. We're going down the pooper because there are too many stupid people who don't know what they're talking about, or simply lie.
  19. Read a couple answers, couldn't read them all.
    Anyways, it really depends who takes it, itt just enhances certain characteristics of yours, different ones in certain people.
    Some might become when high, I don't believe smarter per se, but able to enhance a certain trait which reaps positive rewards (at the same time it can be negative).
    Although it seems to me that in general, smarter people don't get much stupider, while stupid people certainly seem dimmer.

  20. That's your opinion.

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