“What Drives People Mad?”

Yesterday (*), the University of Westminster hosted a talk by Prof. Robin Murray, knighted in 2011 for his services in the field of medicine.

The talk’s title, “What Drives People Mad?” delivered the goods as expected: an expertly presented (and audience-customized) explanation of findings covering schizophrenia and its correlation with societal experiences and drug intake. I’ll post a link here to a video of the event as soon as it becomes available*.

If Prof. Murray’s teaching expertise, tact and knowledge was the real inspirational “meat” of the event, these are the two potatoes (known to normal people as “main discussion topics”):
• Does living in a city increase your risk of a mental health disorder?
• Is smoking cannabis safe?

The answer to both, as far as I understood it, was:
• Yes. Schizophrenia has been identified as a measurably dependent variable of the following:
* socially fragmented areas, where no support is provided in time to identify and treat schizophrenia;
* groupings that are conducive to bullying and victimisation;
* unsupported minorities whether religious or racial.
• Not really. The earlier you start smoking “herbs”, the higher the risk of schizophrenia. Also, new variants of “herbs” such as Skunk are proven to increase this likelihood by a few percentage points.

The above is important considering the toll this illness takes on someone’s life. However, it was emphasized that we are all susceptible to this mental illness, in fact, as far as statistics go, a well established, non-smoking average citizen has a 1% chance of developing schizophrenia, whereas a Skunk user has just over 4%.

This would, in a way, mean that regular mental check-ups for everyone are in order:
• Regardless of the statistics, each person is unique. Genetic factors are also mildly involved and the sooner the illness is identified, the earlier it is treated and “resolved”.
• 1% or circa 4% are figures that are really useful to researchers. For us this means nothing: a 1% likelihood is as important as a 99% so why not mitigate it with a counsellor if needed?

In a small nutshell, that is it.

What are your views on this? Specially the experts in the field?

The University of Westminster has committed, since the 1800s, to popularising science and engaging the public in scientific research. It’s also very close to plenty of excuses to indulge by London’s busy Oxford Circus, Soho and Marylebone so please do tell the voices in your head not to let you overspend. Mine just won’t shut up (^-^’)**!

* Sir Murray sat patiently through the introductions so do skip a few minutes if you want to get to the “mains” of the event.
** Yes, that was a joke. Yes, some of you will think it to be true or perfectly normal.

(*)Initially published on: Oct 26, 2012 @ 17:53

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13 thoughts on ““What Drives People Mad?”

  1. Very informative. And I love your country. Lived in Cambridge for 9 most 11 years ago and will never forget it. You Brits are awesome. Re that “difficulty” several hundred years ago, you guys “shoulda fought harder.” (just kidding)

  2. The context in which individuals evolve participate in their experiences condition and interpretation, this is (vulgarly speaking) what I believe drives people “mad”.

    Regarding Cannabis, I believe it to be a social complex knowing the medicinal vertue and the use made of it in several actual or past cultures ( Re-equilibration of life energy through chakras channel for Buddhism medicine, healing of cancer in canada with unexpected results, the 12 uses of Marihuana in the Christ´s judee including anointing oil, the THC being know copyrighted by the Israelite pharmaceutical industry etc..)

    When on the other side we allow the commercialisation of tabaco. That is (to me) financial hypocrisy.

    Just my point on a very nice article, but I must admit I do not believe much on western medicine due to his unability to understand and recognize alternative medicine such as the Quantum medicine, sadly our medicine is lead by multinational billions making corporate with the restrictions and limitations of a money lead discipline.

    About Quantum medicine, I recommend Deepak Chopra for the curious, for the mental condition based medicine, Lama Zopa Rimpoche, which so far is one of the very few doctors able to be able to cure AIDS with proven results.

    Have a great and wonderful day and thanks for sharing your valuable and precious perception, it´s a very interesting blog.

    Julien

  3. Thanks for all for the kind, and sometimes challenging, comments sent to this post. Not all were approved however, for which I am sorry.

    I make no money out of this blog. It is a personal blog where I merely share, mostly with laid-back humour, my opinions, using my real identity.

    Considering the two points above, I can hardly be expected to spend my time answering comments with unverified figures and anonymised statements.

    If you would like to see my reply to something you feel sufficiently strongly about, please “own” your posts by using your real identity.

    With love,
    Alejandra

  4. A very interesting post. I basically agree with both general conclusions but would like to extend the point about city living to include all forms of significant stress including such experiences as childhood abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual. There are strong links now established between such experiences and all mental health problems up to and including psychosis. Interestingly, stress as an adult, recent evidence suggests, can potentially push us towards growth rather than illness, depending upon a constellation of other factors.

    • Hi Pete,

      Thank you for these very interesting points. The talk was very brief in comparison with the topic’s dimension.

      There was an emphasis (perhaps specifically aimed at a specific section of the audience) to keep an eye out for the symptons explained and to seek help if in doubt. Another emphasis was on the effects of smoking herbs.

      Thanks again for your interesting comments and for the visit.
      Alex

  5. Good conclusions, but as far as cannabis is concerned information is still coming in. There is enough information at present to discourage heavy use, especially from a young age.
    And I should point out that ‘increased risk’ is different from causality. Living in a city doesn’t cause mental illness, and pointing that out is important.
    I also believe that Schizophrenia will always be with us. With the exception of some sect (Hutterite) in America the incidence is remarkably stable across countries and (correcting for diagnostic criteria) down history.
    But, I’ve said too much :)

    • Hi Tade,

      Thanks for your comment! I see now my post is very brief and perhaps fell short of relaying all the content in Prof. Murray’s talk.

      Heavy use of “non-culinary herbs” was discouraged indeed. As you quite rightly say, their use is more strongly discouraged from a young age as the illness was more present among early smokers.

      Yeap, the talk also emphasized that living in a city is not a cause but rather an observed medium for the illness to be easily missed, and/or go unsupported.

      Reading your comment I believe you have said pretty much what Prof. Murray said. I thought it was interesting how the percentages of observed incidence were actually higher in normal, non-smoking sample populations (1%) than in sporadically-smoking sample populations (slightly below 1%).

      The video will confirm or complement my notes on this so, if insterested please stay tunned to this post for the update.

      Thanks again for the visit (^-^’)!
      Alex

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