Vilified for saying cannabis wrecks lives

The pro-drug brigade vilified me for saying cannabis wrecks lives. Now their lies have finally been exposed

With a mix of sneering condescension and intolerant certainty, pro- drugs campaigners are fond of saying cannabis is essentially harmless. Indeed, this claim has become one of the central planks of their propaganda in favour of the decriminalisation of the drug.   But now their argument, so eagerly repeated by a host of self-appointed experts, liberal politicians and cheer-leading celebrities, has been blown apart by an authoritative report from a drugs adviser to the World Health Organisation. 

Users can find themselves in a downward spiral. They drop out of school, fail to find employment, grow alienated from family and friends and become fully dependent on not just drugs but also welfare benefits .  Based on in-depth research conducted over 20 years, the study by Professor Wayne Hall comprehensively refutes the fashionable pretence that cannabis is safe. 

Through his wide-ranging analysis, he shows that the drug triggers psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, traps its users in a spiral of dependency and inhibits brain development in young people. 

Habitual users also suffer an increased risk of cancer and heart problems, he warns.

The terrible truth about cannabis: Expert’s devastating 20-year study finally demolishes claims that…

As a GP long concerned about the health problems caused by drug abuse, I could not be more pleased that this devastating study has been published. 

In my work in a deprived area of Manchester, I have regularly seen how cannabis not only wrecks the lives of some of my patients, but can also cause social damage by fuelling family breakdown, crime and unemployment. 

Yet for far too long, the decriminalisation lobby has been allowed to peddle the dangerous idea that this drug should not be too much of a worry to us. At last, thanks to Professor Hall, they are facing a challenge based on hard, long-term evidence. While I welcome this report as a powerful weapon against pro-drugs propagandists, I also see it as a personal vindication. For years, I have taken an uncompromising public stand against the decriminalisation of cannabis — and been vilified for it. 

My interest in this field led to my appointment by the Home Office in early 2011 to an unpaid, voluntary position on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (the official government body that makes recommendations on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs). I had planned to give up at least a day a week to help. But I had not reckoned on the insidious influence of the decriminalisation brigade. 

The moment my appointment was announced, a campaign against me started. Appalled at my robust, anti-drug views, my opponents launched a hysterical vendetta.  If their attacks had been confined to my supposedly ‘outdated’ opinions about cannabis, that would have been one thing.  But they also resorted to character assassination. An attempt was made to paint me as an old-fashioned, backwards-looking reactionary because of my Christian faith. 

And during this cynical orchestrated campaign, the ridiculous charge of homophobia was added to the charge sheet. Dredged up were my previously expressed reservations about gay marriage — though not civil partnerships.  This view was based on my Christian belief (shared by many of faith and those with no faith) that marriage should be between a man and a woman. 

They also highlighted a parliamentary briefing paper I and a number of other doctors had written in Canada that briefly mentioned studies that linked homosexuality and paedophilia. Though I can understand why this might have caused concern, and I would distance myself from such views today, no one who knows me could possibly describe me as anti-gay. 

Yet I was called ‘a bigot’ and ‘scum’. One campaigner wrote that I was ‘no good with evidence’; another said appointing me to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs would be ‘a waste of a place’. 

In this hysterical atmosphere, the Home Office proved spineless. Within less than a fortnight, my invitation to join the council was withdrawn. I never got to attend a single meeting.

What was so disturbing was the aggressive intolerance of my opponents.  My presence on the council was deemed unacceptable simply because I did not abide by the progressive orthodoxy. 

Yet in the wake of Professor Hall’s reports, it is the decriminalisation campaigners and their celebrity backers who look misguided. Their case has been weakened irrevocably.

To them, the harmlessness of cannabis has been an article of faith. Now it can be seen as a superstitious myth.

In every respect, my experience in general medical practice matches the findings of Professor Hall’s study. 

Many cannabis users start taking the drug in their early teens while their brains are still developing. The brain does not stop its development until the early 20s, so cannabis could cause irreversible damage.

Some studies have shown those who start cannabis use in their adolescence and continue until adulthood can lose up to eight points of their IQ: a drastic decline that affects academic performance and motivation.

Users can find themselves in a downward spiral. They drop out of school, fail to find employment, grow alienated from family and friends and become fully dependent on not just drugs but also welfare benefits.

Crucially, as Professor Hall points out, the risk of developing addiction to cannabis can be compared with the risk of developing addiction to heroin or cocaine. The use of the drug itself also leads to depression and other serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

A study of 18-year-old conscripts to the Swedish army showed those who smoked a cannabis joint once a week were far more at risk of psychosis than those who did not. Cannabis can bring other problems — such as increased suicide risk, criminality and danger on the roads since users are twice as likely to have car accidents as non-users. And as I have seen, many who try to give up cannabis suffer serious withdrawal symptoms, including restlessness, sleeplessness, mood changes, anxiety and even severe depression. 

Yet none of this seems to matter to the campaigners and their celebrity supporters. Typical is the Liberal Democrat party, which loves to parade its metropolitan ‘sophistication’ by pushing for decriminalisation of cannabis. Like their fellow ideologues, such people think that by doing so they appear cool and ultra modern. But in reality they are pathetic, timid defeatists. 

Have we learned nothing from the problems caused by alcohol and tobacco? Legalisation of cannabis would be another public health disaster.  

They justify their approach by claiming the war on drugs has been ‘lost’. But it has never been properly fought. For the authorities, from police to politicians, have been reluctant to adopt a realistic drug prevention strategy that would involve not only enforcement of the law, but also effective rehabilitation programmes for addicts. 

Yet other countries have shown there is no need to give up and that the war on drugs can be won. 

Over the past few decades, Sweden and Japan have seen dramatic falls in drug use with an approach that combines vigour with rehabilitation. Sweden has shown it is possible to create a society where drug use is only a marginal phenomenon, thanks to the wide-ranging consensus on the need to create a drug-free society.

Above all, there is a remarkable paradox in the way progressive campaigners are only too keen to banish tobacco from society — through measures such as the ban on smoking in public or the insistence on plain packaging — yet the same toughness about drugs appears to be anathema to them. While they are happy to create ‘nicotine-free’ zones, they don’t want ‘drug-free’ ones. This contradiction only serves to illustrate the incoherence of their cause. The fact is that if you legalise cannabis, you would normalise its use. 

Have we learned nothing from the problems caused by alcohol and tobacco? Legalisation of cannabis would be another public health disaster.

Instead, we should be fighting fiercely and passionately to reduce the use of this dangerous substance that causes such terrible, lasting damage. 


Source:    8 October 2014 |

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