If you have had your house or car broken into by a drug addict you might think it is a good idea to legalise all drugs and then let them get on with it. After all, drugs are no more dangerous than cigarettes or alcohol you think.
If you work in any addiction service you most certainly see the grief and trouble it causes the individual and their families. So why are drugs so popular? In the case of cannabis one reason is that some patients say there are medicinal benefits. The report by a group of MPs (http://www.drugpolicyreform.net) thinks cannabis should be made legal.
Cannabis is a complex mixture of many chemicals – some produce a calming effect, leading to the spaced out look and avolitional state (the decrease in the motivation to initiate and perform self-directed purposeful activities) many find themselves in. They come to at about 40 years of age after two or more decades of using to realise they have wasted their life. Other chemicals produce psychotic symptoms or precipitate schizophrenia. The stronger forms of cannabis tend to have more of this active chemical in it.
However useful cannabis may be, the report acknowledges that there was a link with schizophrenia in some long-term users. “There is probably a link in those who start using cannabis at an early age and also if the individual has a genetic predisposition to psychosis. There should be caution with regard to prescription of cannabis for such individuals”, says the report.
“Prescribe with caution”, you bet.
The report also notes that there is a dependency rate with cannabis at about 9%, “which needs to be taken seriously but compares to around 32% for tobacco use and 15% for alcohol use”.
“It is wise to be cautious in prescribing cannabis to younger people, given the possible susceptibility of the developing brain to cognitive impairment”, says the report.
Well, in that case I’ll be cautious.
Where cannabis is legal – does it lead to increased use? Does easy availability mean your child will experiment with it? Will they be the one who gets schizophrenia-like symptoms or be spaced out and fail in their academic studies and wreck their personal relationships?
Just to summarise then; 9% risk of dependency, ten-fold increase in risk of schizophrenia, impairment in cognitive development and may-be 100% risk of feeling zonked out. And on that basis the report thinks it should be legalised. If you want to use it to control your anxiety, we have much better treatments.
Yet here is some good news, generation Z seems to be far more sensible than this lot of MPs, with a marked decline in drug use. We should learn from them, how have they done it?
Dr Andrew Macaulay, MD, MSc., MRCPsych Consultant Psychiatrist is commenting after reading this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37336678