A couple of days ago, someone sent me an article concerning the nation’s teenagers increasing their experimentation with marijuana—in its good old-fashioned natural weed form—as well as in its newer and more potent synthetic form. You may read it for yourselves by clicking here.
The news piece jumped right off the screen and smacked me between the eyes because I have direct knowledge relative to this study. The REPORT of the study, NOT the study itself, contains a few misleading flaws. And, one does not have to be an expert in inferential statistics to pick it apart.
At the outset, I have nothing against the legalization of good, old-fashioned weed. While throughout my 71-years on this rock, I’ve never used the stuff—this could change if I ever have to get up-close and personal with chemotherapy—I’ve known multitudes of folks who have used it with virtually zero negative impact on their lives. However, legitimate opinions vary on this point, which is fine with me.
Anyway, the National Institute on Drug Abuse does NOT do surveys. The folks that run that organization commission accredited universities to do them on their behalf. In this case, the University of Michigan did the survey. And, since I know the lead statistician who oversaw this one, I can tell you that it was a legitimate, purely random national survey including both private and public schools.
The results represent a national cross representation of students from 400 randomly selected schools. The sample size taken was more than sufficient to attain a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interval (margin of error) of a plus or minus 3%. The statistical methodology was beyond reproach.
However, the published report relative to the study’s findings was seriously misleading. And, while I personally believe it was intentional, I can’t prove it.
But, somewhere between the transmission of the summary letter from the University team and the publication of the survey’s findings, either the National Institute on Drug Abuse OR WBOC’s news editors left out two critical words: “OF WHICH.”
These two sentences, “…one in 15 students admitted to using marijuana. Even more startling: one in nine admitted to using the synthetic version of the drug,” grossly mislead. The transmittal summary from the University contained one sentence, “one in 15-students admitted to using marijuana, of which, one in nine admitted to using the synthetic version of the drug.”
When a team interviews 47,000 students—it was actually slightly more—one in 15 equals about 3,100 kids. The ONE IN NINE admitting to using the synthetic stuff was NOT one in nine of the 47,000; it was one in nine of the 3,100 who admitted to using marijuana. In absolute numbers, 3,100 kids admitted to using marijuana, OF WHICH about 345 admitted to using the synthetic stuff.
So, roughly speaking, in reality about 6.5% of the sample size admitted to using marijuana, OF WHICH only 0.73% (seventy-three one hundreds of one percent) of the sample size admitted to using the synthetic stuff. This is very different from the other interpretation of implying that close to 18% of the sample size admitted to using marijuana and/or its synthetic dumb brother.
As has been the usual case over the past 12-years in particular, we’ll do our best to obsess over the fact that 6.5% of our school kids are smoking pot, natural or synthetic.
Yes, it’s a problem; but it’s not insurmountable if we use some common sense. We can start by NOT devoting our exclusive aggregate concentration on the negative side of this problem (6.5% admitted users). Instead, heap praise on the other 93.5% of the other kids.
I had a neighbor some years back whose daughter wasn’t known for her academic energy (mostly C’s with an occasional D) throughout her high-school years. But, she did make it into a decent college. When she came home beaming with her first collegiate grade transcript, it contained FIVE A’s and a B!
But, all mom did was harp, RELENTLESSLY, on that B and how, with a little more application, that transcript could have been ALL A’s. Talk about putting a big damper on hard-fought accomplishment!
Also, at least in terms of this study, we don’t know what percentage of this 6.5% had become permanent users as opposed to those who simply experimented and stopped.
It’s no wonder that this nation can’t get its long-held worldwide reputation for quality American manufacturing mojo back. We’ve decided instead to spend ALL of our time on our new industry: the creation, refinement, and distribution of ANXIETY.
On another topic, the folks at PressHarbor.com informed me this past Friday that they were transferring all my content from BlogHarbor.com this weekend. By next week, I hope to be up and running on the site. We shall see.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.