Pubdate: Mon, 06 Jan 2020
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2020 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Jayne O' Donnell


I've covered things that injure, sicken and kill kids and adults for
more than 30 years. From auto safety to medical errors, I've competed
to break stories on the latest deadly defect or health policy change,
most recently on electronic cigarettes.

In late August, I added vaping-related lung illnesses to the beat.
Last month, I added marijuana, psychosis and other mental illness.

It's a pretty solitary place to be.

We reporters covered the heck out of vaping lung illnesses starting in
August. Once it became clear the culprit was THC and not nicotine,
however, the news media seemed to lose interest, said former Food and
Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb at a breakfast event I
attended in early November.

Indeed, a search on the news archive Nexis shows that the number of
stories mentioning "vaping" and "lung illness" went from 953 in
September to 584 in the first 30 days of October, a nearly 40% drop.

The deaths and injuries from lung illnesses are declining, but they've hardly 
abated and are clearly a sign of a much larger problem with excessive
marijuana use among young people. Yet families from the D'Ambrosios in 
California to the Donats in Connecticut were caught unaware.

Ricky D'Ambrosio, 21, was in a medically induced coma for four of the 10 days 
he was hospitalized in August after vaping THC from a dispensary. He had a 
medical marijuana card.

D'Ambrosio's recovering well now, but my Connecticut high school friend Billy 
Donat's family wasn't so lucky.

Last week, Donat emailed me for the first time: "Sometimes we reach outto old 
friends at the worst of times, this is one of those times. On Christmas
Day, my son of 22 years put an electric cord around his neck and hung himself 
one day after his release from Yale Psychiatric Hospital. On the table
inthe living room was a copy (of ) USA Today dated 12/16/2019. I told my son 
that you had written an article about his condition linking pot to
psychosis. SCHIZOPHRENIA. I had read the front page at the news stand. I wish 
I had turned to page 6 and finished the article."

If he had, he would have seen that the federal "mental health czar" and 
psychiatrist, Elinore McCance-Katz, lamenting how little attention the "settled
science" on pot and psychosis gets and the huge increase in suicides among 
young people with marijuana in their systems in Colorado.

Vaping THC

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2,561 people 
have been hospitalized with vaping-related lung illness and 55 have died.
That's one more death and over 50 more hospitalizations from two weeks earlier.

CDC said 80% of hospitalized patients who had complete information about 
their products reported vaping THC; 13% said they vaped just nicotine.

Most everyone I talk to - even some doctors - say nicotine vaping andJuul, 
especially, is what's clogging kids' lungs. If it is, it hasn't been
identified by the many scientists who have reported their findings. They have 
only been able to find vitamin E acetate from THC oil in the patients'

There has been an outcry to ban flavored electronic cigarettes - or allof 
them, as in San Francisco - and Congress voted to raise the age for all e-
cigarette tobacco products to 21 last month. The Trump administration 
announced plans Thursday to restrict most flavors of the one-time-use pods in e-

But what about when the industry isn't an easily identified and demonized 
monolith like Big Tobacco or ... Juul? What if the purported problem is
something advocates have been trying to get mandated or legalized for years?

Press too pro-pot?

Former New York Times business reporter Alex Berenson says that the human 
cost of cannabis is too high - and that the press is too pro-pot. When his
latest book, "Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness 
and Violence," came out last year, he knew marijuana proponents wouldn't
like it. He just didn't think there would be what he calls a "media 
brownout": No major publications reviewed it. (USA TODAY interviewed him for 
a March

Berenson, a registered independent who didn't have strong feelings about 
marijuana legalization until he researched his book, has become an unlikely
favorite of the conservative media and think tanks. He blames what he says is 
"a genuine misunderstanding of the strength of the science supporting the
cannabis-psychosis link," which is worsened by "the endless industry/advocacy 
yelling about `Reefer Madness.' "

"Reefer Madness" was a 1936 movie that used crazed marijuana users toshow the 
purported risks of the drug.

"The cannabis lobby ... will personally attack anyone who tries to raise the 
issue," Berenson says.

Last month, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported new data showing 
that marijuana use by students from eighth to 12th grade was way up - with 1
in 5 high school seniors vaping it in the past year.

The recent story I wrote with colleagues on marijuana's link to mental health 
ran on the front page and was one of the top stories on our website for
days. More than 250 people with children or personal experience with mental 
illness linked to marijuana joined our Facebook support group - I Survived

I don't know about you, but that makes me pay attention.
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