TV psychologist without a licence, Dr. Phil McGraw shared his thoughts on an episode of his talk show last week. He claims that cannabis use makes people violent and is a cause for lower IQ.
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.
Video clips and a voice-over depict JJ as a disturbed boy with a history of violence, including hitting his mother and threatening her with a kitchen knife. JJ’s mom also describes finding photos of him holding a gun and exhaling smoke. Another photograph showed the boy smoking what appears to be a blunt.
After the video clip introducing JJ and his mother, McGraw says that JJ is smoking pot to self-medicate his anxiety, adding that he doesn’t believe cannabis use by children is a wise choice while betraying his own bias on the issue.
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.
At that point, Dr. Phil began to spout off a totally non-scientific and rather ridiculous lecture about the deadly, mind-killing dangers of cannabis. He explained:
“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.
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.”
“When you smoke marijuana, it’s like opening your computer up and pouring water inside,” McGraw declares. “A lot of things short out and it connects where it’s not supposed to and really creates problems. And this isn’t my opinion, this is hard, solid scientific research.”
David Juurlink, the head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, explains that “it’s ludicrous to equate smoking cannabis with pouring water on a computer.”
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.”
While McGraw has no credentials that qualify him as an expert on cannabis or its effects, he has earned a master’s degree in experimental psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of North Texas. However, he is not licensed to practice psychology in any state.
His license to practice psychology in Texas was voluntarily surrendered in 2006. In 1989, he was reprimanded by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists for having an inappropriate non-physical relationship with a patient. McGraw first came into prominence by appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the 1990s.
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