Psychology news articles are important because they inform the general public, including medical professionals and laypeople, on vital health aspects regarding different conditions. Thus, they should be objective, factual, and not misleading. Psychological health issues are common and many people seek effective solutions, making mass media articles the go-to sources. The public trusts them to deliver authoritative information. However, such articles are written by journalists who are not psychologists or medical professionals. They rely on other resources researched and published by experts in the field to get accurate information. However, they rephrase and translate the information to make it relevant for their news articles. As a result, the information is prone to bias, misrepresentation, or misinterpretation, which could be misleading. Hence, this paper makes a critical analysis of a news article written by Javier Hasse and published on Forbes online. It is about the effects of cannabis on depression symptoms. This analysis also examines the reporter’s representation of the findings of a scientific study on the same subject, showing that it is accurate.
Summary of Journalists Article
The media article is titled “UNM Study: Cannabis is Effective in Treating Depression, Improving Mental Health.” It makes a causal claim, arguing that one variable is responsible for changes in the other variable. In this case, cannabis alleviates depression symptoms, promoting mental health. The author notes that according to a study published by the University of New Mexico (UNM), in conjunction with Releaf mobile application in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, the flower of the cannabis plant could relieve depression symptoms instantly. Hasse (2020) further describes the prevalence of the condition by highlighting that one in five American adults is suffering from depression, which increases their risk of getting other diseases. This description brings attention to his claim and explains its importance.
Hasse (2020) provides the details of the research he cites, including its title and the lead researchers’ details. The study, led by founders of the UNM Marijuana Research Fund, involved 1819 individuals who offer feedback through the Releaf app on the effects of using cannabis on their depression symptoms. The study produced 5896 outcomes in which the respondents judged the effectiveness of cannabis in improving their symptoms on a scale of 1 to 10 (Hasse, 2020). The analysis of the outcomes revealed that cannabis improved the symptoms by an average of 4 points, almost immediately after using it. The consumption involved the whole dried cannabis flower. The author also notes that conventional medication for treating depression symptoms usually takes several weeks to cause notable improvement but also negative side effects. Besides, the natural cannabis flower has antidepressant effects, while one in five users reported a negative side effect like lack of motivation. However, positive effects were thrice more likely to occur.
Summary of Journal Article
In their study, Li et al. (2020) seek to determine the effectiveness of the cannabis flower in relieving depression symptoms. It is an experimental study since it involved the manipulation of one variable to see if it causes any changes to the other variable. In this case, the independent variable was the symptoms of depression, while the dependent variable was the consumption of the dried natural cannabis flower. The natural cannabis flower is commercially available, which the used to measure real-time effects on the symptoms of depression (Li et al., 2020). The main concerns were the effects on behavioral motivation and low mood. The researchers carried out the study between June 6, 2016, and August, 7, 2019; it involved 1,819 people completing 5,876 self-administration sessions of cannabis and reporting through the Releaf app.
The findings of the research show that consuming cannabis has significant effects on depression symptoms. An average of 95.8% of cannabis users reported experiencing relief from depression symptoms, with a 3.76 average reduction, on a scale of 0 to 10 (Li et al., 2020). There were no differences in terms of symptom relief relating to the methods of combustion of the phenotypes of the plants used. The most important substance found in the cannabis flowers that affected symptom relief was tetrahydrocannabinol (Li et al., 2020). The other substance in the flower, cannabidiol, did not show any relationship to the real-time effects on the intensity of the depression symptoms (Li et al., 2020). The study also found out that in 64% of cannabis users, there were positive side effects like feelings of peacefulness, relaxation, optimism, and happiness. In comparison, in another 20% of the users, there were reported adverse side effects, such as lowered motivation (Li et al., 2020). The findings demonstrate that in a significant majority, cannabis use has antidepressant effects, supporting the theory that marijuana is good for mental health, especially in patients with depression.
The journalist makes a causal claim by stating that cannabis is effective in relieving the symptoms of depression. In this regard, Hasse, (2020) implies that using cannabis causes the patient to experience relief from depression symptoms. This statement is accurate based on the three rules of identifying a causal claim. Specifically, there is an association or correlation between the two variables. The researchers observe that cannabis reduces the intensity of the symptoms of depression by averagely 3.76 on a scale of 0 to 10. The variables’ time order is also relevant for a causal claim since the participants consumed the cannabis flower before reporting the perceived effects. The effect of cannabis is also non-spurious as the participants only used the natural cannabis flower and did not mix it with any other drug. Consequently, the claim meets all the three main requirements and is accurate.
The journalist also remains focused on the main findings of the study. The article’s aim is to justify that cannabis is effective for relieving depression symptoms and improving mental health. All through the piece, Hasse (2020) maintains this theme. He further underlines the importance of this finding by giving several statistics on the prevalence of depression in the American adult population. The author does not deviate from reporting the findings of the study. Hasse (2020) makes it brief and objective, presenting the facts and findings in a way that is easy and quick to read and understand. However, the journalist quotes the reported effectiveness of cannabis as 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, which it is different from that of the study that puts it at 3.76. Nonetheless, it is within the provided margin of error. In this regard, Hasse’s findings are the same as that of the research article.
Hasse (2020) also describes the process of the study accurately and provides both sides of the research findings. The writer gives an accurate description of the number of participants, the amount of feedback used in the analysis, and the mode of collection the researchers employed to get that feedback. Hasse also describes the positive effects of using cannabis and the adverse effects, which helps the reader make an informed decision. Therefore, the writer stays objective in presenting the facts in the article. Although Hasse omits the study’s time and duration, it does not majorly impact the accuracy and integrity of his article as all other information he provides is accurate.
Hasse’s representation of the research findings in his article is accurate. He makes a justified causal claim that meets the rules of identifying such statements, which include association, time order, and non-spuriousness. Hasse also maintains the focus of the article on the findings of the research and does not include any unrelated information or other contradicting findings of different research. He presents the findings accurately, as stated in the research. Also, the writer describes the research methods and the sample precisely as they are in the original article avoiding any misinformation. He remains objective and presents both the negative and positive aspects of the findings. In this regard, this piece presents an accurate representation of the original research and serves as a perfect example to other journalists reporting on psychology topics.
Hasse, J. (2020). UNM study: Cannabis is effective in treating depression, improving mental health. Forbes. Retrieved from www.forbes.com/sites/javierhasse/2020/07/02/cannabis-for-depression/#5f0f44fa6ccd
Li, X., Diviant, J. P., Stith, S. S., Brockelman, F., Keeling, K., Hall, B., & Vigil, J. M. (2020). Focus: Plant-based medicine and pharmacology: The effectiveness of cannabis flower for immediate relief from symptoms of depression. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 93(2), 251-264.