Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cannabis Turns Innocent Kids Into Criminals

An article in the British Daily Mail today, claims that according to a study, children who smoke Cannabis are more likely to commit crimes than those who don't.

The article linked above led me to do some searching about the web for other articles and news items relating to Cannabis and children/teens. What I found over a couple of hours is quite interesting.

Firstly, let me make it clear that I do not condone the use of Cannabis by kids. I don't believe kids should be using any psychoactive drug in their younger years and I find it difficult to accept that pre-pubescent kids are being given 'speed' derivatives to treat ADHD and other diagnosed mental disorders when there are other options available. However, it seems that in a number of extreme cases, chemical or natural psychoactives may be the only short term option available to some people.

The 'Daily Mail' article suggests that Cannabis is the cause of anti-social behaviour in kids and further clouds the medicinal Cannabis debate, as well as the real issues that affect kids' mental health today.
Might I suggest that if this is looked into further, it could be found that children who have ongoing psychological disorders, or have emotional issues that they can't easily deal with are more likely to commit crimes, including smoking Marijuana.

Let's have a look at some cases and reports where it shows that Cannabis may be a drug that can prevent anti-social behaviour and reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.

Cannabis Used to Treat Multiple Disorders in 8 Year Old (48 Hours Report)

Cannabis as a First Line Treatment for childhood mental disorders

Cannabis used to control ADHD in children

Here is an article relating to Cannabis use by teens:

Researchers Say Marijuana is Less of a Drag Than Cigarettes

The above article references this research paper that compares the smoking habits of 16 - 20 year olds in Switzerland.

The biggest problem with the Cannabis debate is the huge amounts of conflicting data around. It can be so confusing, that the decision makers in our governments won't get off the fence, just in case they find that they've landed on the 'wrong' side.

This report is a good example:

Below is a summation of a research report from the Australian Government published in June 2007:

'The evidence reviewed above suggests that cannabis use is associated with the development of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. However, there is ongoing debate over exactly how this association should be characterised. In brief, it appears that while the majority of cannabis users will not develop mental illnesses as a consequence of their cannabis use, a ‘vulnerable minority appear to be at increased risk of experiencing harmful outcomes’. As noted above, there is good evidence that young people and heavy users are particularly at risk.

The public-policy implications of this are complex. According to a recent review, the main challenge will be in communicating with young people about the probable risks of cannabis use:

This task will be complicated by the conflicting interpretations of the evidence on either side of the policy debate about the legal status of cannabis. We can expect those who defend current policy to support a strong causal interpretation of the evidence and proponents of cannabis liberalization to dismiss the evidence as the latest version of ‘reefer madness’. These contrasting responses may amplify scepticism among young people about messages about the mental health risks of cannabis use.

In other words, it is crucial that emerging evidence about the links between cannabis use and mental-health problems is communicated clearly (particularly to those most at risk) and in a way that acknowledges the complexity of the issues involved without obscuring the level and gravity of the risks posed by cannabis use to vulnerable groups.'

There also needs to be a strong distinction between Cannabis use as a social drug, Cannabis use as a medicinal drug, and Cannabis abuse.

I have been a Cannabis social user, abuser and medicinal user. I know the differences and know what the effects of Cannabis use can have on some people. Govts and organisations around the world need to continue research into Cannabis to ensure that its beneficial effects can be recognised and exploited, whilst at the same time educating people against abuse of this powerful drug.

Thirty years ago, the pot that I was smoking was nothing like what's available today. I read an article in the eighties that suggested that if as much experimentation had been done on Tomatoes as had been done on Marijuana back then, we'd have Tomato 'trees' with football sized fruit.

We need research, not ignorance that fuels fear.


Nikki said...

Very good point about cannabis use vs abuse. I have come to think over the years as cannabis as a dangerous drug because of the way I have watched it affect many friends of mine, but they were absolutely abusers and not just users, which is something I had not considered. I know very few people though who were able to be users without becoming abusers, which is not to say it can't be done, probably just that the people I know are especially compulsive.