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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cannabis, psychosis and case studies

Listening to radio 4 in the car makes me want a dictaphone, and a better memory.

Last night on the way home from work a spokesperson from Rethink, the UK’s largest mental health charity was interviewed in a discussion on calls from the Home Secretary to consider a reclassification of cannabis from C back to B as well as the potential psychological threats cannabis poses.

The background to the discussion lies in the reclassification of cannabis back in January 2004 from a class B to a class C drug. This lowered the severity of punishment that could be afforded for crimes such as possession of the drug. The decision to reclassify the drug was based at the time of information gained from studies into the side and after effects of cannabis use that indicated it posed a lesser threat to health and the community than other drugs sharing the B classification.

However further longitudinal studies in to the effects and after effects of cannabis use since the January 04 reclassification indicate there is a stronger positive link between cannabis use and psychosis than was previously believed, and that the drug could increase the risk of developing psychosis symptoms in people with no prior vulnerability as well as having a more dramatic impact than previously believed, on those who do.

“the researchers said their findings did not support the theory that the link as simply down to people with such a predisposition being more likely to use cannabis, rather than cannabis in some way making psychosis more likely.”
Rethink, the mental health charity asked to give evidence to the Advisory Council on the Mis-use of Drugs which is considering a reclassification, believe that money spent on planning, implementing, retraining enforcement officers and promoting awareness of the reclassification could be better spent on an education campaign as a further reclassification will only add to current confusion over the legal status and will do little to dissuade people from using the drug.

“The government has a responsibility to inform people of the real risks and not hide behind a knee-jerk criminal justice response to what is a mounting health crisis,” Cliff Prior, Chief Executive, Rethink.

I guess I could be classified as a moderately heavy former user, at times more than others, and based on my own personal experiences with the drug I agree that it does pose some psychological threat to the user. During use I have experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, extreme paranoia and depression, and sometimes wonder how much of my current mood instability is attributable to it. I’ll never know. My partner also formerly used cannabis and stopped because he noticed adverse effects it was having on him, he’s still dogged by paranoid phobias.

I have seen and experieinced the way in which cannabis create symptoms commonly associated with psychosis in the user, and can imagine that the affect it has on dopamine uptake in the brain could be maintained and as a result continue to affect the mind while not under the influence.


Joel said...

I am pretty sure that a brief period of marijuana use triggered an extended episode for me. I also know that I showed symptoms before that.

Educating people about this danger of marijuana use is a better idea than prosecuting people. As you and I both know, it is a health problem. We don't prosecute people for walking down steep hills because they might break a leg, after all.

Winter said...

When I was at university there was a lot of peer pressure to smoke marijuana and I did occasionally. I didn't want to take it up reguarly, mainly because I didn't want to risk becoming a regular smoker of any kind. Having seen some of the evidence coming out now I'm so glad I didn't cave into pressure because I'm prone to depression as it is.