Dr. Phil Thinks Smoking Weed Makes You Violent and Lowers IQ
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
America’s favorite unlicensed psychologist thinks smoking weed will completely fry your brain.
Phil McGraw, who hosts the show Dr. Phil where he gives advice to guests struggling with personal issues, is not a licensed psychologist, though he has a doctorate in clinical psychology. Recently, his advice was aimed at a 11-year-old boy named JJ whose mother describes him as violent and out of control. JJ also allegedly smokes weed.
A screen cap on Dr. Phil’s website shows JJ holding a gun with (presumably?) weed smoke blowing out of his mouth. His mom told Dr. Phil he has threatened to kill her with a steak knife.
As a teaser for the episode, which aired last week, Dr. Phil released a misleading clip in which he discusses the horrors of cannabis.
Here’s a fact check of the biggest claims he made:
Claim: “Your brain grows until you’re 25 at least and it’s constantly changing. When you get to be 18, 19, 20, it’s actually pruning itself back. When you smoke marijuana it’s like opening your computer up and pouring water inside, a lot of things short out and it connects where it’s not supposed to and really creates problems.”
Reality: There is evidence that says brains continue to develop into a person’s 20s. But that’s about the most positive thing we can say about this statement. Dr. Phil’s computer analogy is out of touch with the evidence.
“Pouring water into a computer would destroy the computer and kill all the connections,” said Michael Verbora, a doctor with Aleafia Total Health Network, which helps Canadians access medical cannabis.
We Fact-Checked an ER Doctor Who Said Weed Edibles Can Kill Kids
Verbora said while weed relaxes some of the chemicals secreted by the brain that cause anxiety or pain, “there is no evidence that any type of rewiring is taking place.”
He said small pockets of youth who use cannabis frequently, come from a lower socio-economic background, and have a family history of mental illness are at higher risk of things like disassociation and hallucinations. There are also potential links between cannabis use and schizophrenia for people with a family history.
David Juurlink, head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, said “it’s ludicrous to equate smoking cannabis with pouring water on a computer.”
RCMP Backtracks on Its Claim That Weed Edibles Can Kill Kids
Juurlink said cannabis use can have potential risks, but the idea that it causes serious permanent damage is sensational.
“Maybe Dr. Phil should redirect hyperbole to alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and benzos, all of which are considerably more harmful, as is exploiting your troubled preteen on national television.”
Claim: “Even occasional marijuana smokers will look at a multi-point drop in IQ, even with just occasional use like once a week or two or three times a month. You’ll see IQ drop and motivation will drop across time.”
Reality: There is no evidence to back up this claim, according to Verbora, who referenced three separate studies that showed cannabis use had little impact on cognitive function or IQ decline in adolescents. One study showed that the small impact in cognitive function went away after the person abstained from consuming weed for 72 hours.
“That’s been debunked,” Verbora said.
Claim: “For a 10-year-old child to be smoking dope, he’s self-medicating his anxiety. So you understand why I said this child can’t go home.” (Dr. Phil goes on to say if JJ’s mom refuses to send him for treatment, “I have to report it within 24 hours and the child will be removed.”)
Reality: Verbora said often young people who use cannabis are self-medicating anxiety with cannabis, and that it could be better addressed with other treatment options, such as therapy, meditation, and exercise. However, he also said Dr. Phil’s messaging, including the use of the word “dope” only further stigmatizes cannabis consumers.
“No intelligent physician or doctor would ever use the word ‘dope’ to describe cannabis.”
Rebecca Haines-Saah, a public health policy expert and professor at the University of Calgary, said it appears that JJ and his family have a lot of complex emotional and behavioral issues aside from cannabis use.
“Kids with complex problems drop out or don’t succeed in school because those problems are not addressed. Occasional cannabis use is not the risk here,” she said.
Both Haines-Saah and Verbora said the situation could be grounds for child protective services to get involved, but it depends on factors we don’t know.
“We don’t really have those pieces to the story. We don’t know if this is causal use, episodic use, or whether it’s actually causing harm,” said Verbora.
Claim: Cannabis causes violence. While Dr. Phil didn’t outright say this, the framing of JJ as a “gun toting, pot smoking” kid, along with the photo of him smoking weed and holding a gun seem to imply that cannabis is tied to his violent tendencies.
Reality: Unfounded. Verbora said he hasn’t seen any data that cannabis consumption causes aggressive behavior.
“I’ve treated 5,000 patients and 5,000 out of my 5,000 say cannabis makes them feel relaxed and calm,” he said. However, he pointed out that people often use more than one substance, and alcohol or stimulants would be much more likely to cause aggression.
Haines-Saah said it’s concerning that Dr. Phil is linking violence in teens to weed when there seems to be a lot more going on in JJ’s case.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.
Get a personalized roundup of VICE’s best stories in your inbox.
By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.He likened it to "opening your computer up and pouring water inside," but luckily we're here to fact check.
Dr. Phil reveals controversial thoughts on the effects of marijuana
Dr. Phil has given a lot of advice during his 17 years on daytime TV, but his recent comments on marijuana drew outrage from some viewers.
The talk show host, whose real name is Phil McGraw, made the controversial comments during an interview with JJ, an 11-year-old who appeared on the “Dr. Phil” program last week.
JJ, who joined the show with his mother, Bree, was described as a violent and out-of-control child. When the mom began discussing her son’s alleged marijuana use, Dr. Phil shared how he believes the drug can affect young people.
“Your brain grows until you’re 25 at least, and it’s constantly changing,” Dr. Phil said tells JJ. “When you get to be 18, 19, 20, it’s actually pruning itself back.”
He then goes on to compare the risks to a short-circuiting computer.
“When you smoke marijuana, it’s like opening your computer up and pouring water inside. A lot of things short out, and it connects where it’s not supposed to, and really creates problems,” Dr. Phil adds.
Dr. Phil also expressed his belief that smoking marijuana can cause a “multi-point drop” in a person’s IQ, in addition to implying that the drug’s use can be associated with violent behavior.
“Even occasional marijuana smokers will look at a multi-point drop in IQ,” he tells JJ. “Even with just occasional use — like once a week, or two or three times a month. You’ll see IQ drop and motivation will drop across time.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that marijuana can absolutely affect a person’s brain health — causing changes in memory, attention, learning ability and even mood —and the agency also notes that young people are especially susceptible to the drug’s effects.
However, there is currently no proven correlation between marijuana use and IQ loss, a claim that left some medical professionals frustrated.
“It’s ludicrous to equate smoking cannabis with pouring water on a computer,” David Juurlink, the head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, told Vice.
Juurlink added that it’s unfair to claim that cannabis can have serious permanent effects on a person’s brain, especially when there are other drugs that he said are notably more dangerous.
“Maybe Dr. Phil should redirect hyperbole to alcohol, tobacco, opioids and benzos, all of which are considerably more harmful, as is exploiting your troubled preteen on national television,” Dr. Juurlink said.
Men’s Health also responded to the episode, pointing to studies that have shown there to be no measurable link between marijuana use and violent behavior.
“I’ve treated 5,000 patients,” Michael Verbora, a doctor with Aleafia Total Health Network, told Vice. “And 5,000 out of my 5,000 say cannabis makes them feel relaxed and calm.”
The “Dr. Phil” show responded to the criticism in a statement to Vice, citing a 2012 study on marijuana use and added that the controversial clip was meant to focus on JJ’s violence, not his drug use.
Despite the interview’s stated intention, plenty of social media users also chimed in with criticism.
“Dr Phil is not a Doctor. How does he get away with representing himself as one. ” one Twitter user wrote.
Dr. Phil has given plenty of advice during his 17 years on daytime TV, and now he's sharing his beliefs on how marijuana affects young people's brains. ]]>
Dr Phil is not a Doctor. How does he get away with representing himself as one.