In addition to this page you will find many more Posts about Cannabis (Marijuana) via the Research page.
- Cannabis is blamed as cause of man’s death
- Starter for ten
- Facts about cannabis
- Further Information
- 25 Facts on Cannabis Harms
- The Adverse Health Effects of Cannabis
- One Cannot vote for a medicine
- Daily Marijuana users
Cannabis is Blamed as Cause of Man’s Death
A man of 36 is believed to have become the first person in Britain to die directly from cannabis poisoning.
Lee Maisey smoked six cannabis cigarettes a day for 11 years, an inquest heard. His death, which was registered as having been caused by cannabis toxicity, led to new warnings about the drug, which is due to be reclassified this month as a less dangerous one.
“This type of death is extremely rare,” Prof John Henry, a toxicologist at Imperial College, London, said after the inquest at Haverfordwest, west Wales.
“I have not seen anything like this before. It corrects the argument that cannabis cannot kill anybody.”
The inquest heard that Mr Maisey had complained of a headache on Aug 22 last year. Next morning he was found dead at the house he shared with a friend, Jeffrey Saunders, in Summerhill, Pembrokeshire.
Michael Howells, the Pembrokeshire coroner, said Mr Maisey was free from disease and had not drunk alcohol for at least 48 hours. Post-mortem tests showed a high level of cannabinoids in his blood.
He recorded a verdict of death by misadventure because Mr Maisey had died while taking part in an illegal activity. The death led to a warning about the changing strength of cannabis, which is to be reduced to a Class C drug on Jan 29.
Dr Philip Guy, a lecturer in addictions at the University of Hull, said: “Cannabis is not the nice hippy drug it used to be. It has been experimented with to produce stronger varieties.”
Dr Guy said that death was more likely if users ate the drug rather than smoked it. “I would not be surprised if in this case the deceased had ingested a fatal amount of cannabis.”
Last autumn police issued a warning that big consignments of strong cannabis were being smuggled in from Africa. On Jan 29, cannabis will be reclassified from a class B to a class C drug.
The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said last night: “This highlights what we have been saying about the effects of cannabis all along. When will people wake up to the fact that cannabis can be a harmful drug?
“By reclassifying the drug David Blunkett has shown he has lost the war on drugs. In my eyes, it’s nothing more than an admission of failure.”
Tristan Millington-Drake, the chief executive of the Chemical Dependency Centre, a charity that provides treatment for people with drug problems, said: “We have always taken the view that cannabis is an addictive drug, unlike the pedlars who try to persuade us that it is harmless. The Government’s decision to reclassify cannabis is a mistake.”
Source: Cannabis News. http://cannabisnews.com January 2004
Your Starter For Ten
Ten Arguments Against the Legalisation of Cannabis
The National Drug Prevention Alliance believes firm, fair laws against the use of illegal drugs are necessary to protect young people in particular. Research shows that whenever drug laws are relaxed the use of drugs increases dramatically – examples are Sweden, Holland and Alaska. Sweden and Alaska re-criminalized because of this.
The NDPA would be happy to provide evidence for every statement made on this page if you send a stamped addressed envelope to our contact address.
1. Legal sale of drugs does not eliminate illegal sales or ‘cut out the criminals’. An illegal market would remain for sales of drugs to those under 18. (Very important since most cannabis users begin before the age of 18).
2. When a drug becomes legal for adults, the use amongst youth increases. The use of drugs by 12-13 year olds in Holland after decriminalisation in 1988 tripled over the next 4 years. (1000 under 16’s each year are taken to hospital with alcohol poisoning and teenage smoking is once again on the increase).
3. How would it be possible to keep all personnel on aeroplanes, trains, buses, cars, and in hospitals drug-free? (The half-life of the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, THC, is 7 days. The substance is fat soluble and traces can be found in the body up to 12 weeks after use. Pilots tested in flight simulators were unable to land planes accurately up to 50 hours after smoking just one 3 mg. joint).
4. Legalisation of drugs is seen to increase use and associated social and health care costs – which are paid eventually by non-users. Not just the user suffers, many people around the user suffer in many ways too. (Cannabis already contributes significantly to road accidents, in this county as in others).
5. Would it be possible to repair all the damage done to society if there was a legalisation experiment which failed? (Alaska tried this experiment for 8 years – use of all drugs went up, crime rates went up, use of cannabis by the young increased, harm from drug use and health care costs went up. The ‘experiment’ was stopped and restrictive laws were reinstated – it took another 9 years to put things right).
6. A functional operating plan for legal drugs has never been presented. Would it be based on a government monopoly and taxed, or on prescription, (who pays for prescriptions – the NHS and thus the taxpayer?) or on sale at local supermarkets? Would it be ‘rationed’; would it be advertised alongside alcohol/cigarettes? Would pilots, doctors, policemen be able to use it? Would controls really control? (Do controls prevent under 18’s from buying alcohol and cigarettes now?)
7. All countries and cultures have strengthened their control of drugs when they have seen the damage done by drugs to individuals and society. (e.g Egypt, Alaska, Sweden, USA, Japan, China, Spain, and not least – Britain) Law relaxation just doesn’t work.
8. The BMA says raw cannabis is not medicine, and definitely not when smoked. Research on extracts (which don’t get you stoned) may eventually show limited usefulness, but this has nothing to do with non-medical use. (We use heroin as medicine but it isn’t ‘legalised’ for people on the street to use ‘recreationally’).
9. Legalisation is a surrender to crime by those who believe resistance is useless. (Everybody is not doing it. The percentage of young people using more than once or twice is below 17%. The needs of the other 83% are largely ignored; legalisation would subvert general health promotion).
Facts About Cannabis
Is using cannabis, or relaxing the law such a bright idea? Read these facts then decide for yourself!
|A person won’t be fully fit to drive or even to fly a plane up to 24 hours after a joint. THC stays in the body much longer than alcohol and is detectable in the urine for many weeks. Cannabis kills not just drivers, but passengers and others nearby.|
|Don’t bank on always feeling good, relaxed and happy. You could instead get confused, forgetful or depressed. You may even panic or hallucinate.|
|Babies born to cannabis-smoking mothers are 10 times more likely to develop a form of leukaemia. They are also smaller, hyperactive, have learning deficits, and suffer low attention span, anger and disruptiveness. Look at the behaviour problems in primary schools today – is there a link?|
|Cannabis and tobacco together cause lung cancer much faster than tobacco alone. Rare head and neck cancers which used to be seen in the 60+ age group are increasingly common in young cannabis users.|
|Fewer white blood cells (the body’s immune system) are made, and many are abnormal. You will catch more infections – sometimes mild like tonsilitis or athletes foot but sometimes more serious, and you will stay sicker for a longer period of time. HIV positive people should avoid cannabis.|
|SPECT scans on real people, show decreased blood flow which strongly suggests dead or damaged brain cells. You won’t notice because the brain doesn’t feel pain. Dead brain cells are never replaced. Learning processes and memory are badly affected. You don’t learn so well from the past and can’t visualise the future very well – so you live ‘in the now’.|
|Boys can become more feminine, fewer sperm are produced and some are abnormal. Impotence can occur.|
|Blood pressure rises to the levels of real stress. Blood flow to the brain is affected.|
|It’s not just physical effects. Relationships can break down. You feel aimless, empty. You think through treacle. Your school work and even social life are affected. You can’t be bothered about yourself or anyone else. Exams you would have passed you just fail – and that could hold you back later in life. You could be denied a visa for foreign travel if convicted.|
|Schizophrenia can be precipitated or worsened. Cannabis psychosis is not uncommon.|
|Physical and psychological addiction have both been observed. There is no foolproof way of curing either.|
Is cannabis physically harmful?
In the short term:
Intoxication occurs, and even up to 24 hours later, people are not fully fit to drive, to pilot planes or to operate machinery. Cannabis stays in the body for many weeks, much longer than alcohol (which is cleared at the rate of 1 unit per hour). It is detectable in blood, urine and hair. Many traffic and not a few rail accidents including fatalities have been attributed to this drug. Memory and learning processes are affected, children don’t learn from past mistakes or clearly project for the future; thus they tend ‘to live in the now’. Panic attacks and paranoia can occur.
In the long term:
It causes permanent brain damage, even from 1 joint every other day. Scans of human users strongly suggest dead brain cells – these are never replaced. Schizophrenia can be precipitated or worsened. Amotivation occurs and cannabis psychosis is all too familiar to psychiatrists. Both physical and psychological addictions have been documented; there is no foolproof cure for either. Blood pressure and heart rates rise to the levels of clinical stress. Lung cancer develops faster than with tobacco alone, when cannabis and tobacco are smoked together (cannabis contains higher percentages of some carcinogens). Rare head and neck cancers, formerly seen in the 60+ age group, are increasingly common in young cannabis smokers. The immune system is impaired; abnormal and fewer white blood cells are produced, making people more vulnerable to disease and extending the period of illness, therefore HIV positive people should beware. Sperm production is suppressed and sperm mobility is reduced – both of which can lead to fertility problems. Cases of impotence have been reported and some young men had a sperm count so low as to render them sterile. Boys can become more ‘feminine’ with lessened secondary sexual characteristics. Babies born to cannabis-using mothers are smaller, hyperactive, have learning deficits, suffer low attention span, anger and disruptiveness. It’s hardly surprising that primary school classes are today showing new levels of disruption and disorder.
What about the use of cannabis as a medicine ?
This is a ‘scam’ by the legalisers ‘to give pot a good name’ (their words, not ours!). You cannot vote that something is/is not a medicine; (California and Arizona please note!). Every relevant American health authority has rejected it, for example in relation to MS, cancer, glaucoma, AIDS etc. In glaucoma, 6 joints per day would be needed to reduce ocular pressure – the patient would be permanently stoned. HIV patients with an already weakened immune system would only exacerbate their condition. Marinol (USA) and Nabilone (UK), synthetic forms of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, are available on hospital prescription for the relief of nausea from chemotherapy. The product label warns:
“THC encourages both physical and psychological dependence and is highly abusable. It cause mood changes, loss of memory, psychosis, impairment of co-ordination and perception, and complicates pregnancy”.
What about countries that have tried decriminalisation?
In 1990 the Dutch Minister of Justice regretfully announced that Holland was the crime capital of Europe. Theft, vandalism, use of hard drugs and even drug-linked gun deaths had all escalated. The amount permitted for personal use was, in consequence, reduced from 30g to 5g and many ‘coffee shops’ have been closed. Alaska had a 10-year flirtation with decriminalisation. It was rescinded in 1991 by a referendum. The police had thought crime would fall; it rose, and over 2,000 people were hospitalised for cannabis psychosis. These, and other countries, such as Sweden, have found that relaxing laws for illegal drugs greatly increases social and health costs out of all proportion to the case for alcohol.
“Someone knows a guy who smoked it in the 60’s – He seems OK?”
The strength of cannabis, (i.e. the amount of THC in it), in the 1960’s was 0.5%. Today It averages 5% but ‘skunk’ or Nederweed (genetically engineered) and commonly available on the streets, can be between 9 and 27% – a very different drug from the one that fuelled the hippy generation.
Is there anything as parents that we can do?
Yes, indeed! Take this example: in 1979 use of all drugs in America was very high. Between 1979 and 1991, thanks largely to the parent movement, the number of users dropped from a peak of 23 million down to 14 million; a 60% reduction sustained over a 12 year period – this was no short-lived ‘blip’ in the statistics. Use of cannabis halved. Daily use of cannabis fell by 75% and cocaine use by 50%. Ordinary parents had become sick of trendy justifications for drug misuse and sparked off a major rethink in policy. A sustained collaboration between Customs and Excise, Police, Educationists, Social Workers and others, together with the parents and young people themselves, combined potently in the fresh recognition that use of drugs is not normal, and not socially acceptable. Children do listen when told of the dangers or disapproval of drugs. A survey amongst students in 1992 showed the greatest deterrents to using cannabis were concerns about physical and psychological damage and parental/social disapproval.
A warning retrospective!
Since 1991, use in the USA has started to climb again. In particular youth use is said to have tripled by 1996. Why? Because the US Government thought they had the problem licked and switched the funds elsewhere; because rap music started a new musical campaign in praise of pot, and because those who would legalise drugs climbed on this new ‘bandwagon’. What happened to the parents and all their allies? They took their eye off the ball. The lesson is ‘stay awake!’. Parents can make a difference – but they need to be aware and involved in drug prevention. (Joining the NDPA would be a good start – please contact us for further information.)
How do we know all this?
A 1992 Symposium in Paris attended by some 50 researchers, and over 12,000 other scientific papers in Mississippi University Library are the sources for these facts. None of these papers gives the drug a clean bill of health.
Why does cannabis cause so much damage?
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is fat-soluble and accumulates in the fatty membranes of cells, slowly being released over weeks. It interferes with the production of new cells by preventing the DNA in the chromosomes in the nuclei from replicating properly, and kills cells by blocking the channels carrying energy-supplying substances inwards and toxins outwards.
What have the experts said about cannabis?
“Marijuana is a drug with a multifaceted action on nearly every bodily function; brain, heart, lung and endocrine – no scientist can refer to it as a ‘mild’ intoxicant”
The late Sir William Paton, Professor of Pharmocology, Oxford University.
“It makes great people average, and average people dumb — and causes more organic brain damage than any other drug of abuse except perhaps PCP (angel dust) or the end stages of alcoholism.”
Dr. Robert Gilkeson, Neurologist and Brain Researcher.
“The toxicity of intoxicants is not determined by debate; we cannot vote for or against the toxicity of a drug”.
Dr. Gabriel Nahas, Brain Researcher.
“The fact that there are over 77,000 admissions a year to treatment programmes for marijuana use, and that annually almost 8,000 persons require emergency hospital care for marijuana use, is sufficient evidence of the drug’s dangerousness”.
Dr. C. R. Schuster, Former Director of NIDA (National institute on Drug Abuse. USA).
“I have been apologising to the American people for the last 10 years for promoting the decriminalisation of marijuana. I made a mistake. Marijuana combines the worst effects of alcohol and tobacco and has other ill effects that neither of these two have”.
1986. Dr. Robert Dupont. Founding Head of NIDA.
25 Facts on Cannabis Harms
By Mary Brett Oct. 2002
1. Maybe you cannot overdose on cannabis, but out of 664 marijuana-related deaths in USA in 1999, in 187 of them, marijuana was the only drug involved.
2. The risk of developing cannabis dependence is around 10 to 1 5%, (similar to alcohol). One in 10 of young people who start taking cannabis become regular users, and 20 to 30% go on to use it weekly.
3. Men will produce less sperm and may become impotent.
4. On only one joint a month, mental ability may be compromised. Even this level of usage could possibly result in lasting impairment.50% of THC (the main psychoactive ingredient) is still present in the brain cells 5 or 6 days later, and 10% after a month. This badly disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.Few children using cannabis, even occasionally, will achieve their fill potential.
5.There is about 10 times more THC in cannabis than there was in the sixties. Skunk and Nederwied, increasingly used by our young people, are much stronger.
6. Even 24 hours and more after a joint, a person will not be fit to drive. Cannabis has been implicated in a similar number of accidents to alcohol in some USA surveys, although 10 times as many people use alcohol.
7. In Holland, the rates of cannabis dependence have risen, and the number of heroin addicts is twice the per capita ratio we have in Britain. The newly elected Dutch government is set to close the coffee shops.
8. September 2002, Out of 6 million drug addicts in USA, 60% are dependent on cannabis. More young people are being treated for cannabis dependence than for alcohol.
9. “Cannabis is one of the most psycho-pathogenic of all narcotic preparations’, Swedish report, 1998, “Compared with heroin use, cannabis smoking, in addition to the strong grip with which dependence develops, is associated with far more serious risks regarding the development of mental disorders of various kinds”.
10. A Swedish study found more suicides among cannabis users than those who used heroin, amphetamines or alcohol.
11 .A Dunedin study in 2001 found young male cannabis users to be 5 times more violent than non- users. For alcohol, the risk is threefold.
12. Cannabis smoke deposits 3 to 4 times as much tar in the body as cigarette smoke and contains more carcinogens.
13. As well as lung cancer, rare head and neck cancers are now being found in young cannabis smokers, The average age for these conditions in tobacco smokers is 64.
14. The risk of a heart attack in middle-aged people increases 5-fold in the hour after the smoking of a joint.
15. Babies born to cannabis-using mothers are on average smaller, have behavioural and learning problems and are 10 times more likely to develop leukaemia.
16. A 10-year experiment in decriminalisation in Alaska was terminated by a public referendum in 1990 after over 2000 people had to be hospitalised for 4 weeks, at enormous expense, for cannabis dependence and psychosis in the previous 2 years.
17. Schizophrenia is worsened or triggered by its use; anxiety, depression, apathy and dropping-out are common.
18. There is growing evidence from animal experiments and scans of human brains that some brain cells may die. Brain cells are irreplaceable.
19. Even on one or two joints a month, a cannabis personality develops. Users become inflexible, can’t plan their days properly, cant take criticisma and feel misunderstood. Trying to talk sense to them becomes a futile exercise.
20. Cannabis-using children are more likely to drop out of school, steal, become violent, run away from home or contemplate suicide.
21. Weekly users of cannabis are 60 times more likely to progress to other drugs.
22. The risk of developing a mental illness is almost tripled by smoking cannabis.
23. Doctors in Sweden are advised always to suspect cannabis abuse when confronted with chronic bronchitis in young people. It is such a common occurrence.
24. Cannabis contains about 400 chemicals. By law, medicines have to be single pure chemical substances, like heroin and cocaine, so their actions are predictable and controllable. Marinol (USA), and Nabilone (UK), pure synthetic forms of THC, are already available on hospital prescription.
25. “In all of history, no young people have ever taken marijuana regularly on a mass scale. Therefore our youngsters are in effect, making themselves guinea-pigs in a tragic experiment. Thus far our research clearly suggests that we will see horrendous results”. Dr Robert Dupont, Founding Head of N IDA, (National Institute for Drug Abuse) USA.
1. USA Statistics on Drug-Related Deaths, 1999.
2. Hall W. Evidence submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee, Investigation into Cannabis, 1998.
Hall W, Solowij N, Adverse Effects of Cannabis, 1998, Lancet 352 (1611 to 1616).
3. Gold MS, Marijuana, Plenum Medical Book Company, New York 1989.
4. Nahas U, Latour C, The Human Toxicity of Marijuana. The Medical Journal of Australia,1992.
5. Jan Ranstrom, Adverse Health Consequences of Cannabis Use, Socialstyre!sen, Sweden,1998.
6. Soderstrom CA et al, Marijuana and Alcohol Use Among W23 Trauma Patients, Arch. Surg. 1988,123 (733 to 737).
Leirer VU et al. Marijuana Carry-over Effects on Aircraft Pilot Performance, Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine, 1991.
7. Trimbos Institute (Holland), Report, 1997.
8. Interview For Detroit News by John Walters, US Drug Tsar, 17/9/02.
9. See ref. 5.
10. Rajs Jet a!, Cannabis -associated Deaths in Medico-legal Post-mortem Studies, (Prelim. Report), cannabis:Physiopathology,Epidemiology, Detection. Nahas U, Latour C, CRC Press, I 992.
11. Arsenault L et al, Mental Disorder and Violence in a Total Birth Cohort (Dunedin) Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, vol. 57. Oct. 2000.
12. Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, BMA, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1997.
13. Wenge n DF, Marijuana and Malignant Tumours of the Upper Aerodigestive Tract in Young Patients, Laringorhinotologie. 1993.
Donald PJ, Marijuana Smoking- Possible Cause of Head and Neck Carcinoma in Young Patients, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery 94(4),1986.
14. Mittleman et al, Triggering Myocardial Infarction by Marijuana, Circulation, (103), 2001.
15. Robison LL et al, Maternal Dnig use and risk of non-lymphoblastic leukaemia among offspring, Cancer, 63 (1904 to 1911), 1989.
Tuchmann-Duplessis H, Effects of Cannabis on Reproduction. Cannabis: Physiopathology,Epidemiology. Detection, Natas G, Latour C.CRC Press,1992.
Fried PA, The Ottawa Pre-natal Prospective Study (OPPS). Life Sciences. 56(23/24)1995.
Day NL et al, Prenatal Marijuana Exposure on Cognitive Development of offspring at 3.Neurotox. Teratol. 1994.
16. Segal B, Drug-Taking Behaviour among Alaskan Youth. A Follow-up Study. Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, University of Anchorage,1988.
17. Andreasson Set al, Cannabis and Schizophrenia, A longitudinal Study of Swedish Conscripts, Lancet, 1987.
Cohen 5, Cannabis, Effects upon Adolescent Maturation. Marijuana and Youth, Clinical Observations on motivation and earning. Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Maryland. 1982.
18. Mathew R Middle Cerebral Artery Velocity during Upright Posture after Marijuana Smoking, Acta. Psycho. Scand. 1992. WHO Report on Cannabis, 1997, and See ref. 4.
19. Nadia Solo wij, Cannabis and Cognitive Functioning, Cambridge Uni, Press, 1998. Lundqvist T, Cognitive Dysfunctions, Health in Chronic Cannabis Users Observed During Treatment, (Dissertation), Almqvist and Wiksell International, Stocltholm,
20. Newcomb and Bentler, Consequences of Adolescent Drug Use. Impact on the Lives of Young Adults, Beverley Hills, Sage Publications,1988.
Holmberg MB. The Prognosis of Drug Abuse in a sixteen year-old population, (dissertation), Gothenberg. 1981.
21. Fergusson DM and Horwood JL, “Does Cannabis Use Encourage Other Forms of Illicit Drug Use”? Addiction 95 (505 to 520). 2000.
22. Van Us J, Dutch Study, American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002.
23. See ref.5.
24. Rules Governing Medicinal products in the European Union, 1998. Marinol, Physicians’ Desk Reference, 1993.
25. This quotation appears in many USA Publications and dates from the late 80s.
The Adverse Health Effects of Cannabis
1.There is, on average, 10 times more THC (the psycho-active ingredient) in cannabis today, than in the sixties. “Skunk” is even stronger.
(The early research was done on these low concentrations.)
Jan Ranstrom, Adverse Health Consequences of Cannabis Use, 1998, Socialstyrelscn, Sweden.
2.THC is fat-soluble, 50% persists for 5 to 6 days, and 10% for a month.
(Even on I or 2 joints a month, brain cells are permanently affected.)
Nahas 0, Latour C, The Human Toxicity of Marijuwia, The Medical Journal of Australia, 1992.
3.Although 10 times as many people drink, cannabis is involved in a similar number of vehicle accidents.
(Twenty-four hours after a joint, airline pilots on flight simulators were still making mistakes)
Soderstrom CA, Trift et al., Marijuana & Alcohol Use among 1023 Trauma Patients.Arch.Surg.Vol.123.June 1988
4.Addiction, both psychological and physical, can occur.
Of the 6 million drug addicts in the l 60% are dependent on marijuana. More young people are being treated now for cannabis dependence.than for alcohol.
John Walters. USA Drug Tsar, in an interview, quoting data from American Drug Statistics, I 7 Sept. 2002. –
5.The incidence of mental illness among cannabis users is rising.
(The risk of developing a psychotic disorder is almost tripled. Young male users are times more likely to be violent.)
Arsenault L. et al MenMI Disorder & Violence a Total Birth Cohort (Dunedin). Arch Gen Psychiatry, vol 57 Oct. 2000
6.Pregnant women can affect their unborn children.
(Babies are smaller, and later, in childhood, their cognitive functioning shows impairment.)
Day NL et al Effect Prenatal Marijuana Exposure on Cognitive Development at age 3, NeurotoxTeratol 1994
7.Educational opportunities are lost.
(Concentration, learning and memory are all severely affected, Few children, using cannabis even occasionally, will achieve their full potential.)
Nadia Solowij, C and Cognitive Functioning. Cambridge Univ. Press. 1998.
8.Cancers can be caused.
(Cannabis smoke contains 50% more of the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Lung, head and neck cancers have been associated with its use.)
Wengen DF, Marijuana & Malignant Tumours of the Upper Aerodigest tract in Young Patients, Laringorhinotologie, I
9.The reproductive process is affected.
(Cannabis lowers testosterone levels and sperm production decreases. Female hormone cycles are disrupted.)
Gold MS Marijuana, Plenum Medical Book Co. New York 1989
10.Blood pressure and pulse rates rise.
(In the hour following the smoking of a joint. middle-aged people are 5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack.)
Parez-Raynes et al, Pharmacologic Effects of Daily Marijuana Smoking in Humans, Pharmac Giochem Behav 1991.
11.The immune system appears to be suppressed.
(White blood cell production is affected and more cases of illness have been reported.) SpecterS, Lancz 0. Djev et al, Advances in Experimental Medical Biology, 1991.
12.Cannabis smoking can lead to the use of other drugs.
(Weekly users are 60 times more likely to progress to other drugs. Almost 100% of heroin addicts started
Ferguson & Hotwood. Does Cannabis Use Encourage Other forms of illicit Drug Use? Addic 95(4)2000.
ONE CANNOT VOTE FOR A MEDICINE – Scientific Approval Basis Essential
By Mary Brett February 2000
EU. Rules(1) set out various criteria for the acceptance of a drug for medical use, these include:
1.All active ingredients have to be identified and their chemistry determined. They have to be tested for purity with limits set for all impurities including pesticides, microbes & fungi and their products. These tests have to be validated and reproduced if necessary in an official laboratory.
The cannabis plant contains some 400 chemicals, a multiplicity of ingredients that vary with habitat— impossible to standardise and often contaminated with microbes, fungi or pesticides.(2)
2.Animal testing will include information on fertility, embryo toxicity, immuno-toxicity, mutagenic and carcinogenic potential. Risks to humans,especially pregnant women and lactating mothers, will be evaluated.
Cannabis has been shown to reduce sperm production(3). Babies born to cannabis-using mothers are smaller, have learning and behavioural problems and are 10 times more likely to develop one form of leukaemia(4). The immune system is impaired(5). Smoking herbal cannabis results in the inhalation of three times as much tar as from a tobacco cigarette(6).
3.Adequate safety and efficacy trials must be carried out. They must state the method of administration and report on the results from different groups, i.e. healthy volunteers, patients, special groups of the elderly, people with liver and kidney problems and pregnant women. Adverse drug reactions (ADR) have to be stated and include any effects on driving or operating machinery.
Presumably it is envisaged that cannabis would be smoked. No medicine prescribed today is smoked. Concentration, motor-co-ordination and memory are all badly affected(7). Changes in the brain have been observed(8) and U.S.A. clinics are now coping with more cases of psychosis caused by cannabis than by any other drug. It is essential to note that the content of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) is on average ten times higher than it was in the 1960s(9), The fat-soluble THC lingers in the body for weeks(10) and the ability to drive safely is impaired for at least 24 hours after smoking cannabis(11). Although ten times as many people use alcohol, cannabis is implicated in a similar number of road accidents(12).
4.The drug must be accepted by qualified experts. Their detailed reports need to take account of all the relevant scientific literature and the potential of the drug to cause dependence.
There are numerous accounts of both psychological and physical dependencies in cannabis use(13). Some 77.000 people are admitted annually to hospitals in U.S.A for cannabis dependence. 8 of them as emergencies(14). To date there are over 12,000 scientific publications relating to cannabis(15).
THC has already under all the medical tests. It is available on prescription in tablet form for the relief of nausea from chemotherapy and appetite stimulation in AIDS patients. However Marinol (USA) and Nabilone (UK synthetic forms of THC and identical in action to it, are not the first drugs of choice among oncologists in Washington D.C. ranking only 9 in the treatment of mild nausea and 6 for more severe nausea(16). The warning on Nabilone reads,
“THC encourages both physical and psychological dependence and is highly abuseable. It causes mood changes, loss of memory, psychoses, impairment of co-ordination and perception, and complicates pregnancy”.
Other Cannabinoids: Cannabis contains around 60 cannabinoids that are unique to the plant. Some of these could be similarly extracted,purified and tested for safety and efficacy. In the report ‘Therapeutic Uses Of Cannabis” (BMA, 1997) the British Medical Association said.
“It is considered here that cannabis is unsuitable for medical use. Such use should be confined to known dosages of pure or synthetic cannabinoids given singly or sometimes in combination”.
WHAT THE EXPERTS HAVE SAID
Dr Eric Voth MD, FACP (Chairman of the International Drug Strategy Institute) said in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine Jan 1997), “Long term effects aside, contaminants, purity, standardisation of dose etc are all reasons to not use an impure herb as a medicine. Whether terminal or not, should we support smoking Foxglove plant to obtain Digoxin for heart failure, or Yew tree bark to obtain Taxol for breast cancer? If so, then supporters of smoked marijuana better be ready to support smoking tobacco for weight control and anxiety. We must have compassion for the sick and suffering and we must offer them reliable and quality medicine, not crude substances that threaten their well being”.
Glaucoma: The pressure in the eye caused by this condition can be reduced by smoking cannabis but Professor Keith Green, Director of ophthalmic Research at the Medical College of Georgia said some 6 ‘joints’ a day would be required, rendering the patient effectively ‘stoned’ and incapable of useful activities.
MultipleSclerosis: Dr Donald Silberg. Chief of Neurology, Pennsylvania school of Medicine said, “I have not found any legitimate or scientific works which show that marijuana is medically effective in treating Multiple Sclerosis or spasticity. The use of marijuana especially for long-term treatment would be worse than the illness itself’.
DOES THE PUBLIC REALLY WANT THIS?
Nov 1996: Proposition 200 permitted physicians in Arizona to prescribe pure marijuana with no limitation on the age of the patient or disorder involved.
Jan 1997: A public opinion poll revealed that 85% of registered voters believed that proposition 200 should be changed and 60% wanted it repealed, 70% said it gave children the impression that drugs are OK for recreational use.’’(17)
HOW DID THE CAMPAIGN GET STARTED?
In 1979: Keith Stroup, an American pot-using lawyer, and the then head of NORML (National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws) said, “We will use the medical marijuana argument as a red herring to give pot a good name.”(18)
Early 1990s Richie Cowan, Stroup’s successor at NORML. echoed him when he said, “Medical marijuana is our strongest suit. It is our point of leverage which will move us toward the legalisation of marijuana for personal use.”(19)
A LAST WORD FROM Dr Eric voth
“We cannot by-pass the usual safety and efficacy process of the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) because of the hue and cry of a self-preserving drug culture which seeks to add medicinal applications of marijuana, mixed messages of legalisation of illegal drugs, harm reduction and tolerance of drug use.”20
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Leuchtenberger C. Effects of marijuana smoke on cellular biochemistry, utilising in v test systems. Adverse health and behavioural consequences of cannabis use. Addiction Research Foundation Press. Toronto. Canada 1982.
Morahan et al. Effects of cannabinoids on host resistance to Listeria monocytogenes and Herpes simplex virus. Infect. Immu,vol. 23. 1979.
Munson & Fehr. Immunological ef of cannabis. Adverse health and behavioural consequences of cannabis use. Addiction Research Foundation press.Toronto, Canada. 1982.
Polen MR et al. Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not use tobacco. Western low. Med 158. 1993.
Specter S Lancz C Djev J et al. Advances In &per. tied. BioL 1991.
Zimmerman AM & Raj A Y. Influences of cannabinoids on somatic cells in vivo. Pharmacology 21. 1980.
6. Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, BMA, 1997.
Broom JW et al. Res effects of non-tobacco cigarettes. BMJ 987.
Caplan CIA, Brighani BA. Marijuana smoking and carcinoma of the tongue. Cancer 1990.
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Ferguson RP, Hasson J & Walker S Metastasis lung cancer In a young marijuana smoker. JAMA. 1989.
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Marijuana Rescheduling Petition by NORML Denied by DEA Federal Register VoL 54. ,Vo 249.29 Dec 1989.
Polen MR at al. Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not use tobacco. Western Jour. Med. 158. 1993.
Schwartz RH. American Journ. Dis. Child. 143 p 641. 1989.
Tashkin DP et al. Respiratory symptoms and lung function in habitual smokers of marijuana alone, smokers of marijuana and tobacco, smokers of tobacco alone and non-smokers. American Review of Respiratory Diseases. 1987.
Tashkin DP et al. Longitudinal changes in respiratory systems and lung Function in non-smokers, tobacco smokers and heavy habitual smokers of marijuana with or without tobacco. An International Research Report. Proceedings of the Melbourne Symposium on Cannabis. September 1987 (see also Amer. Review of Respiratory Diseases. 1987).
Taylor FM. Marijuana as a potential respiratory tract carcinogen: A retrospective analysis of a community hospital population. Southern Med.Jour. 1988.
Tennant FS, Guerry RL & Henderson RL. Histopathological & clinical abnormalities of the respiratory system in chronic hashish smokers. Subst Alcohol Actions Misuse. 1980
Wengen O F. Marijuana and malignant tumours of the upper aerodigestive tract in young patients: On the risk assessment of marijuana. Laryngorhinotologie. 1993.
7. Polen MR et al. Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not use tobacco. Western Jou . 58. 1993. Schwartz RH. Persistent impairment of short-term memory associated with heavy marijuana use .Committees of Correspondence — Drug Prevention Newsletter June 1990.
Solowij N, Michie PT & Fox AM. Differential impairments or selective attention due to frequency and duration of Cannabis use. Biol. Psychiatry 1995. Solowij N. Do cognitive impairments recover following cessation of Cannabis use? Life Sciences Vol. 56. 1995.
Vanna VK Ma AK, Dang R, et al. Cannabis and cognitive functions: a prospective study. Drug Alcohol Depend, 1988.
8. Devane WA et al. Isolation and structure of a brain constituent that binds to the cannabinoid receptor. Science. 1992.
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Nahas G. Historical outlook of the psychopathology of Cannabis. In Cannabis: Physiopathology. Epidemiology, Detection. CRC Press. 1993.
Nahas G & Latour C. The human toxicity of marijuana. The Medical Journal of Australia. 1992.
9. lnformation supplied by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (D8).
10. Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, BMA, 1997.
See also ref. 6.
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13. Information supplied on the use of MARINOL by Roxane Laboratories Inc., 1989 revision.
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17. Public Opinion Poll January 1997 taken by Dr Bruce Merrill, Prof. of Mass Communications & Director Medical Research Center, Walter Cronkite School, Arizona State University.
18. K. Stroup (Director of NORML) in an Address to audience al Emory University 1979.
19. Video of Drug Culture Conference celebrating 50th Anniversary of the discovery of LSD. April 1993. Sponsored by NORML and others, San Francisco.
20. Voth FA, MD. Internationall Drug Strategy lnstitute Position Paper. Medical Applications of Marijuana, 1995.
Daily Marijuana Users
- In 2003, 3.1 million persons aged 12 or older used marijuana daily (i.e., on 300 or more days) in the past year
- Daily marijuana users were more likely to be unemployed compared with those who used it less than daily and those who did not use it in the past year
- Nearly two thirds of daily marijuana users used at least one other illicit drug in the past 12 months
Marijuana use impairs physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, career status, and social life.1 Heavy marijuana use critically lowers learning skills, and daily use may result in overall reduced intellectual functioning.2 The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) asks persons aged 12 or older to report how many days they used marijuana in the past year.3 NSDUH also includes a series of questions to assess dependence on or abuse of marijuana and other substances. These questions are designed to measure substance dependence or abuse based on criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).4 This report examines the associations between daily marijuana use and other substance use, as well as dependence on or abuse of marijuana.
Past Year Daily Marijuana Use
In 2003, more than 25 million persons (10.6%) aged 12 or older reported past year use of marijuana. An estimated 3.1 million persons (1.3% of the population and 12.2% of past year marijuana users) were daily marijuana users (i.e., they used marijuana on 300 or more days in the past 12 months).
Demographic Differences in Daily Marijuana Use
Among young adults aged 18 to 25, approximately 4.3% reported daily marijuana use compared with about 1.1% of youths aged 12 to 17 and 0.8% of adults aged 26 or older (Table 1). Between 2002 and 2003, the number of 12 to 17 year olds reporting daily use of marijuana decreased from 358,000 to 282,000, while there were no changes in the number of daily marijuana users among 18 to 25 year olds or adults aged 26 or older.
Males were almost 3 times more likely to report daily marijuana use compared with females (2.0 vs. 0.7).
Figure 1. Employment among Adults Aged 18 to 64, by Frequency of Marijuana Use
Daily Marijuana Use and Employment
A larger percentage of daily marijuana users (12.9 %) aged 18 to 64 reported being unemployed compared with less than daily marijuana users (7.9%) and non-users (3.9%) (Figure 1). Persons who were less than daily marijuana users were more likely to be employed part time than daily marijuana users and nonusers.
Other Substance Use among Daily Marijuana Users Nearly two thirds (63.3%) of daily marijuana users had used another illicit drug6 in the past 12 months compared with less than daily marijuana users and nonusers (38.8 and 4.6%, respectively) (Figure 2). Daily marijuana users also were more likely to smoke cigarettes in the past 30 days and to report heavy alcohol use in the past 30 days compared with less than daily marijuana users or non-users.
Substance Dependence or Abuse among Daily Marijuana Users
More than half of daily marijuana users (53.3%) reported dependence on or abuse of alcohol or an illicit drug compared with those who were less than daily marijuana users (36.5%) and those who were non-users (5.6%) (Figure 3). An estimated 39.2% of daily marijuana users were dependent on or abused marijuana compared with 13.5% of less than daily marijuana users (Figure 3).
1. Polen, M. R., Sidney, S., Tekawa, I. S., Sadler, M., & Friedman, G. D. (1993). Health care use by frequent marijuana smokers who do not smoke tobacco. Western Journal of Medicine, 158, 596–601.
2. Pope, H. G., Jr., & Yurgelun-Todd, D. (1996). The residual cognitive effects of heavy marijuana use in college students. Journal of the American Medical Association, 275, 521–527.
3. For this report, past year marijuana users by frequency of use are defined as follows: (1) “daily marijuana users” used marijuana on 300 or more days in the past 12 months; (2) “less than daily marijuana users” are all past year marijuana users who used marijuana on fewer than 300 days in the past 12 months; and (3) “non-users” are those who have used marijuana sometimes in their lifetime, but not in the past year OR persons who have never used marijuana. 4. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
5. ‘Unemployed’ refers to respondents who reported no employment during the reference period, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment some time during the reference period. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
6. Any illicit drug other than marijuana includes cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or any prescription-type drug used non-medically.
7. Heavy alcohol use is defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on 5 or more days in the past 30 days.
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