The consequences of cannabis use
The following is a technical overview of cannabis use from a leading South African psychiatrist. It includes the reasoning behind the exclusion of cannabis as a form of treatment by psychiatrists.
Please note: This writer has no affiliation or relationship to Houghton House group of treatment centres.
Studies on Cannabis
Most studies which discuss the advantages of cannabis were conducted in the 1970’s. Back then, the average ‘joint’ contained 120 to 2500 cannabinoids. Today, as a result of cross-breeding and tampering, the average cannabinoid count per joint sits between12 000 and 120 000. To illustrate, the difference is the equivalent disparity between 1 cup of coffee and over 1000 cups. In relative terms, the first is “safe” and the second is considered extreme. There are at least 113 different cannabinoids known to man, many of which are unstudied and their effects, unknown.
Recent Cannabis Studies
A large portion of recent studies over the past 10 years has centred around a particular Cannabinoid, Cannabidiol (CBD) and its positive medicinal effects. CBD seems to have numerous positive effects on nausea, spasticity, neuropathic pain, sleep and has assisted in helping combat similar conditions. There have been further studies on other cannabinoids, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, well known as the psychoactive compound which can result in different and extreme reactions in subjects. These range in extremes from relaxation to paranoia and addiction. The last of these extremes is where the danger lies.
Medicinal Quality Cannabis
Plants used specifically for medical use need to contain high levels of CBD and low levels, if any at all, of THC. They need to be grown in controlled environments in facilities where other plants cannot cross-pollinate and contaminate them with the psychoactive TCH compound. There are a few facilities which possess the ability and expertise to grow cannabis correctly. These facilities allow the medical quality cannabis to be produced at the required medical grade level.
Contaminated CBD Oils
Currently in South Africa, most “medicinal” CBD oil available (including their parent plants) are contaminated by high levels of THC. The oil and plant-based products currently available are not of a high enough quality to avoid affecting the user with an injection of THC.
Psychotic effects of THC
The effects of THC vary in extremes. It can cause psychotic, depressive and anxious behaviour and lead to feel the effects of amotivational syndrome.
Amotivational syndrome, also known as de-motivational syndrome is characterized by detachment, blunted emotions and drives, and the impairing of higher end executive brain functions such as memory and attention. It is primarily associated as being a long-term effect of cannabis use.
The psychosis can be present despite users testing negative in drug tests. Cannabis remains in the human body for 30 days. On its own, the psychosis can last three months and if it triggers a psychiatric illness it can last a lifetime. Illnesses such as schizophrenia can destroy a person’s life and can be triggered by a combination of events including cannabis use. Its victims can be violent and might require admission into a high-security psychiatric facility. Most patients admitted to high-security facilities/hospitals have used cannabis.
It is important to note that any act of violence and/or criminal activity as a result of cannabis use, or while under the influence of cannabis will not be excused by the courts or seen with mitigating factors.
A sad and very real effect of cannabis use is demotivation. It can last for a long time post cannabis use, sometimes up to a year. Victims stop socialising, working, studying or going to school; they stop bathing and drop their hobbies. They can often be found staring at the TV and when questions, often cannot recall what they watched. They become bed ridden and can lead to, in some extreme cases, suicidal tendencies.
One study on drug use centred on a group of pilots. One group drank alcohol until their blood alcohol level measured 0.04%. The other group smoked one cigarette size cannabis joint. They then got into flight simulators. Both groups were unable to follow instructions and under pressure had complications and failed in tests. Some even crashed. The alcohol group improved after 24 hours, but the Cannabis group remained unable to fly without complications 72 hours later.
Ten experienced private pilots were trained for 8 hours on a flight simulator landing task. They each smoked a cigarette containing 19 mg of i9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and 24 hours later their average performance on the flight task showed trends toward impairment on all variables, with significant impairment in a number of areas. Despite these deficits, the pilots reported no awareness of impaired performance. These results may have implications for performance of complex tasks days after smoking cannabis.
(Am J Psychiatry 142:1325-1329, 1985) Complete report: http://dviaviation.com/files/45944260.pdf
Note: This experiment occurred in 1985 and cannabinoids were not as debilitating as their current form is now.
Cannabis use has consequences.
Cannabis use means one thing. It’s a game of chance, every time you choose to use it. Cannabis levels fluctuate to various extremes with different crops as each crop is a mixture of different Cannabinoids. Each time you use it you are exposed to different strands and strengths. Users can smoke for years without a problem or pick up a joint for the first time and have their life permanently altered. Although some doctors use and prescribe cannabis and cannabis oil, I know of no psychiatrist that have used or prescribe it. We are all too aware of the dangers involved and in training; we are exposed to the risk of using it and the potential it has to ruin lives.
Cancer Related Issues
In some studies, cannabis use shows an equal or higher risk of lung conditions as its cousin, tobacco. There is simply not enough research on it to reveal its cancer causing risks. Cancer-causing cannabinoids are definably present in cannabis. CBD however, as stated before, does seem to have numerous positive effects on the negative effects of cancer such as nausea, spasticity, neuropathic pain, sleep and those other horrible conditions associated with cancer.
Cannabis legalisation, decriminalisation and safety
Although cannabis has been decriminalised in South Africa and is legally usable for people over 18, it does not mean it is safe. Tobacco is definitely not safe. Alcohol is definitely not safe yet both are legal. They, like cannabis are also legal to use. Government does not endorse it as a safe drug by legalizing it, rather it is saying that it is not a criminal offence to use it. Imagine if you will, that tobacco was illegal and then, like cannabis it was legalised. See the point? It is a legal judgment and not a health judgment. Similarly, too much sugar can and will make you ill and, left unchecked, its abuse will kill you, however is not against the law, despite ample medical proof showing that sugar is not good for you.
Freedom of Decision
Freedom of speech, thoughts, habits and decisions should not be taken away from us, but at the same time a person must accept the consequences of their actions. A growing body of evidence suggests that recreational use of cannabis adversely impacts the brain, particularly during critical periods of neurodevelopment, particularly adolescence.
Using Cannabis has consequences.
The Professional Psychiatrist who supplied this documentation has requested to remain anonymous and is not looking to argue the points but offers this information as a service to inform.
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