Readers’ view: Would the health risks put you off smoking cannabis?
An international team of academics put 1,038 New Zealanders through a series of mental tests when they were 13 (before any had smoked cannabis) and kept track of their mental development over the next 20 years. Those who took up smoking young and continued the habit into adulthood scored 8 points worse in IQ tests, in addition to drop-offs in memory and multi-tasking.
Almost eight per cent of 11 to 15 year-olds questioned in 2011 admitted to having tried the drug – but would knowing the health risks put them off? We ask our readers.
I am an avid smoker and smoke around two joints a day. I have noticed in the past year a decline in my mental capacity but the feeling I have when I smoke far outweighs the possibility of losing my memory/intellect. Often, I find myself forgetting what I was about to say or do – so much so that I smoke more not to worry.
I’ve been an occasional smoker of cannabis since 2010, roughly once or twice a week with my friends and regarding my physiological health I haven’t noticed any negative consequences at all. My health has improved since then, due to the completely unrelated factors of an improved diet and increased exercise. However the dangers of cannabis aren’t to people like myself, it’s to those who form a psychological dependence on it. If an addiction to cannabis is formed, which in my experience is very very easy for some people, then it can effect your life in lots of negative ways, not just to health.
I think the biggest problem with cannabis is the fact that it is not a regulated substance – as a regular user I have no idea how strong the product will be until I have smoked it. Some strains of skunk can really mess with your head, however there are plenty of milder strains which allow the user to go about their everyday business with no ill-effects. Legalising the product would mean its strength could be regulated, taxes on the drug would create a huge amount of revenue for our struggling economy, police officers could concentrate on tackling harder/more harmful substances, and the funding of organised crime would suffer immeasurably.
The deregulation and nationalisation of cannabis is already happening in Latin America, can we not use these places as a blueprint to help protect users and generate some much needed revenue?
Knowing cannabis harms the brain is like knowing alcohol harms the liver, that McDonalds harms every artery and organ, and that driving a car can potentially hurt your life. Cannabis is another substance or activity which people choose to use as it provides them with a thrill (as per the alcohol and McDonalds example). The majority of cannabis smokers I know, myself included, are fully aware of the risks and their own limits, and remain fully unconvinced as to the reasoning behind its illegality.
The scare-mongering reports published today will only serve two opposite reactions. You may get some teenagers who decide the report is enough to get them to stay away from an illegal drug, but the majority will not be fazed by this news. It will serve as a badge of honour to be smoking weed and find out (shock horror) that they aren’t dead or mentally disabled as a result. As soon as people have tangible evidence that they won’t die immediately, and they actually have a really good time feeling ‘chilled’ and giggling; all exaggerated, overblown warnings will be disregarded.
I, for one, will continue to smoke cannabis as I consider myself educated to a good degree as to the risks and the science. I enjoy the ‘high’, and it helps me become far more sociable amongst strangers. It is a calculated risk taken by myself and others, based upon the mild effects of the drug, which after 9 years of smoking it, have not prevented my graduated from University with a 2:1, making new friends, or achieving a job which pays higher than the national average. Worth it by my evaluation.
Adam Corlett, Vice-Chair, Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform
I’d like to read more in the media about possible harm reduction. Not using is of course the best solution, but if a third of young people are opting to use cannabis, the odd mention of harm reduction could really help.
Some UK organisations run a campaign called ‘Toke Pure’ promoting the use of cannabis without tobacco. And the suggested use of a vaporiser absolutely needs mentioning. I’ve seen evidence on the latter – though not for the former.
Then there’s the possibility of ingesting cannabis via food or even drink which would clearly avoid any respiratory issues.
One thing we definitely need is more proper studies – and then coverage of them – which are far more informative than polls.
The attitude of the government towards cannabis harm reduction is odd. On the other hand, harm reduction for heroin, crack etc. is of course very well established as worthwhile and something that doesn’t increase use.
All in all a poor show from politicians, research councils (perhaps) and the media.Tagged in: British Lung Foundation, cannabis, smoking, tobacco
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