Harmful Effects of Cannabis Smoking on Reasoning Ability, Memory and Sense of Coherence (Cognitive Functions)

After a single instance of intoxication, the acute psychotoxic effects caused by cannabis smoking on cognitive functions (reasoning ability, memory functions, analysis and planning ability, etc.) will remain, in general, for a maximum of four to five hours. The duration of these effects is dependent on the level of THC in the blood, and there is a delay of an hour or so relative to the time of consumption. In the case of repeated consumption, i.e. on one or more occasions per day, the functional impairments will persist (even though the individual learns how to hide certain functional shortcomings) and the entire personality will eventually become marked by above all cognitive difficulties, and also by the social strategies to which the individual has recourse in order to cope. The manifestations of the chronic effects include the following: decreased ability to carry out complex thought operations, reduced ability to concentrate, decreased ability to process information, impairment of short-term memory, reduced intellectual flexibility and ability to learn from experience, lowered ability to carry out long-term strategic planning, and difficulties expressing oneself verbally in new, unfamiliar situations where old Read more […]

Damage to Cognitive Mental Functions While under Chronic Cannabis Influence

b) Damage to Cognitive Mental Functions While under Chronic Cannabis Influence Scientific Studies In 1986, Wert and Raulin made two wide-ranging reviews of all studies that had been carried out in this field up to that point. They found () that neither neurological nor neuropsychological studies had shown unambiguously that chronic abusers suffered from structural or functional damage caused by their chronic abuse. However, Wert and Raulin do discuss the possibility that the “differential impairment” (in groups equally exposed to cannabis abuse and having experienced similar conditions in other respects, some subjects exhibited damage while others did not) found in many studies might not be a consequence of faulty study design but rather a manifestation of varying vulnerability in different individuals. The authors write: It might well be that some individuals are predisposed to cerebral impairment as the result of cannabis use, either because of structural or biochemical characteristics which accentuate the possible damaging effects of the drug, or because they have little of the cerebral reserve that most of us call on when we experience mild cerebral damage. That functional reserve can mask very Read more […]

Cannabis Smoking in Teenagers

Cannabis smoking disrupts the hormonal balance in both men/boys and women/girls. We do not know exactly how this affects teenagers, but the suspicion is that it can reduce fertility. There have been reports of disturbance in growth and of delayed sexual maturity. Cannabis as a gateway to harder drugs: It has long been understood that cannabis use is one of several factors that increase the likelihood of starting to use other illegal drugs. One of the reasons for assuming there to be a causal connection has been that the intensity and duration of a person’s cannabis smoking increase the risk that he or she will move on to harder drugs. Notwithstanding this, it is only recent and methodologically well-conducted studies (including prospective ones of long duration covering a large number of people) that have been able to show that, even after controlling for the effects of other known and suspected factors, there remains a strong association between cannabis smoking and moving on to harder drugs. It would appear that we are close to proving the controversial gateway hypothesis – the hypothesis that, in many cases, cannabis use constitutes a gateway to harder drugs. The development of identity, according to accepted Read more […]

Does Cannabis Abuse Represent a Gateway to Harder Drugs?

The question of whether cannabis represents a gateway to harder drugs has occupied clinicians and researchers for 30 years. The reason for the interest in this question has been that a transition to harder drugs – heroin, amphetamines or cocaine – represents a significant increase in the degree of risk to which the individual is exposed. Even though cannabis is more psychotoxic than heroin, intravenous heroin abuse is in many other respects a considerably more serious condition than cannabis dependence. With heroin – which is also much more expensive than cannabis –, addiction not infrequently develops quickly, the dependence is strong, and mortality is considerably higher, mainly owing to overdoses. It is the rule rather than the exception that heroin-dependent individuals become socially marginalised. The abuse of both amphetamines and cocaine (not least in the form of “crack”) also leads to rapid development of severe dependence, with the risk of a series of mental side-effects and high mortality levels. Moreover, transition to intravenous abuse adds the risk of HIV infection. The most extensive studies in this field have been carried out by Denise Kandel and her research team. They showed, at an early Read more […]

Cannabis and Violence

Most researchers agree that the effect of cannabis is normally (i.e. in the case of the average abuser) to calm and to induce passivity rather than to stimulate aggressiveness. However, owing to the dramatic nature of the effects produced by cannabis on the mind and to clinical observations of violent acts, the question of whether cannabis might be associated with aggressiveness and acts of violence has been raised repeatedly. A large number of commissions and conferences have focused on this issue (). In all cases, the conclusion reached has been a similar exonerative verdict of “not guilty”. Abel () does, however, point out that a weakness shared by all these commission reports is that in general, they have not looked at the question of the effect produced by cannabis on individuals who are especially vulnerable in this respect – above all, mentally fragile people with low levels of impulse control and people with psychoses, borderline psychotic conditions, profound personality disorders and brain damage. There seems to be no study that shows, in a methodologically satisfactory manner, that cannabis is in any way linked with violence. The explanation may have something to do with Abel’s above-mentioned Read more […]

Cannabis and Pregnancy

THC is a substance which passes from the mother’s blood to that of the foetus. This means that THC can cause direct damage to the foetus during pregnancy. (THC is also passed on to the infant via breast-milk.) Animal experiments have shown a number of very serious effects on the gestation of, and on the young born to, females which have been given cannabis or THC during gestation. These findings have naturally given rise to questions concerning the risks to which the human foetus is exposed if the mother smokes hashish or marijuana during pregnancy (). Researchers are here confronted with the usual problems of finding a reliable design for their studies, including comparable control groups. Further, research of this type is faced with particular difficulties as regards finding means of excluding other factors that might explain damage that has been observed, such as other drugs (including alcohol and tobacco), inadequate nutrition and infections during pregnancy. Moreover, it is also difficult to find suitable methods of measurement with sufficient sensitivity to detect even damage of a subtle nature. The conceivable – and suspected – harmful effects of cannabis can be divided into the following categories: Effects Read more […]

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in World War II and Korean Combat Veterans with Alcohol Dependency

Our country was confronted with the problems of postcombat adjustment while the Vietnam conflict was still winding down. Concerns centered on the disruptive impact of returning drug-dependent veterans, the overall problems of readjustment, and assessment of public attitudes. As is the case with each major conflict, health-care-delivery systems were forced to assess and react to the aftermath of combat. This took place within the framework of the disciplines of program evaluation, quality assurance, and clinically applied research. Out of this has evolved a determined attempt to understand the interaction between combat and psychiatric disorders including alcoholism. This chapter demonstrates the existence of a posttraumatic stress syndrome compounded by alcoholism in World War II and Korean Conflict veterans. These comorbidities have resulted in chronic maladjustment over a prolonged period of time. Recommendations suggest early detection and triage of a posttraumatic syndrome and co-related substance use disorder in people who experience any catastrophic stressor. In 1971 top management at Coatesville Veterans Administration Medical Center committed itself to the development of an aggressive treatment network that Read more […]

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Older Alcoholic Combat Veterans

SATU at the Veterans Administration Medical Center comprises 102 beds across five inpatient programs and is a part of a large, 1300-bed psychiatric hospital. SATU programs include medical detoxification, 45-day alcohol and 45-day drug therapeutic communities, a 45-day therapeutic community for older veterans or veterans with serious psychiatric disorders, and one 14-day skills-training, relapse prevention program. SATU has been in existence since 1975. Our patients’ average age is 40 years, with a range of 19-69 years. The racial mix of admitted patients is approximately 65% white, 32% black, and 3% Hispanic. Over a given year, SATU discharges approximately 1200 patients. These patients seek services for alcohol and other substance abuse/ dependence disorders. Patients with a primary diagnosis of alcohol dependence, with other drug use, account for approximately 40% of our case mix. Patients who are principally drug dependent, with or without other alcohol/ drug use, account for approximately 60% of our case mix. Of our admissions, just less than 50% undergo formal detoxification using therapeutic medications (e.g., Librium, methadone). Typically, when a veteran comes in for substance abuse treatment, he enters Read more […]

Alcohol: Brain Evoked Potentials as Predictors of Risk

Sensory evoked potentials are capable of demonstrating brain sensory and cognitive function. These measures of brain activity can be used to demonstrate genetic influences in alcoholism. Auditory evoked potentials have been used successfully to demonstrate inherited differences in alcohol sensitivity. As in animal models, these inherited differences are limited to particular neuronal mechanisms and are not a general property of all neurons. The P300 wave, which is elicited in particular paradigms in which the subject is required to attend to specific stimuli, is smaller in subjects who are at high risk for alcoholism by virtue of having an alcoholic father. These subjects at risk for alcoholism show lower P300 amplitudes in paradigms in which they are given small doses of alcohol. P300 is also small in younger high-risk subjects who have never been exposed to alcohol. The evoked potential data are in general agreement with earlier electroencephalographic data that suggested the presence of electrophysiological abnormalities in the children of alcoholics. Sensory evoked potentials have been used extensively over the past decade to characterize abnormalities in brain function. This chapter describes their use in studies Read more […]

The Functions of Marijuana

For adolescents the heavy use and abuse of all drugs involves the significance of the act of taking the drug as well as the specific functions of a particular drug for the youngster. It is reasonable to assume that any adolescent behavior strongly disapproved of by parents, teachers, and community leaders will reflect certain “antiauthority” overtones; certainly this appeared true of the representative cases of marijuana abusers. At the same time, our research indicated that past emphasis on heavy marijuana use as part of a lifestyle choice involving role modeling and affiliation with proponents of alternative social values, attitudes, and mores is unidimensional and overly simplistic. These adolescents’ involvement with drug-abusing peers waxed and waned in accordance with their changing need to smoke large amounts of marijuana. This need, while expressed in interaction with drug-abusing peers, related essentially to the psychodynamics of the youngsters’ family relationships. Defiance and provocation With someone like Dave, who grew marijuana plants in his basement, and who fought constantly with his parents over his right to smoke as much marijuana as he pleased, the provocativeness is apparent. Marijuana Read more […]