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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Cocaine: Short-term observations of users (1970-1983)

A number of studies have provided observations of contemporary patterns of cocaine use in the period 1970 to 1983. These studies have concentrated on selected populations of users that were seen at only a single point of time during this period. When reviewed chronologically, these observations suggest that patterns of cocaine use were changing rapidly throughout the period 1970 to 1983 and in particular for long-term users. For individuals engaged in continued use this change was characterized by increased dosage and frequency of use resulting in decreasing positive effects and increasing negative reactions including physical and psychological dysfunction. This changing pattern is also examined () in a series of longitudinal observations made on a sample of users studied at multiple points of time during this sane period. Users entered the 1970s with attitudes that supported their beliefs that cocaine was a “safe recreational drug.” Gay and Inaba () suggested that the rediscovery of cocaine in the 1970s was inevitable because its effect of euphoria and stimulation “reinforces and boosts what we recognize as the highest aspirations of American initiative, energy, frenetic achievement, and ebullient optimism” (). Phillips Read more […]

Cocaine: Longitudinal study of users (1975-1983)

Methods A total of 118 cocaine users were recruited for study in 1974. Of these, 19 were selected for interview and questionnaire study while 99 (85 males, 14 females) were selected for a more comprehensive longitudinal study. All 99 users (18-38 years old) were social-recreational users who met the initial requirement of having used a minimum of 1 gram of cocaine per month for 12 months (range 1-4 grams). The majority of users were students (73 percent,) while others listed their occupations as housewives, business people, writers, attorneys, physicians, secretaries, teachers, or unemployed. Exaninations and tests were performed on each subject at 6-month intervals for 4 years (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978) and then at approximately 18-month intervals for another 5 years. Examination procedures included a personal history questionnaire, drug history questionnaire, subjective drug effects questionnaire, mental status exanination, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), the Experiential World Inventory (EWI), in-depth interviews, and physical examinations (for most subjects). In addition, assays were performed on samples of cocaine used by these subjects. An important caveat is that a number of users dropped Read more […]

Adverse Effects of Cocaine Abuse

Specific, consequences of cocaine abuse on health and psycho-social functioning were assessed in 55 cocaine-abusing subjects who called a telephone “helpline.” Results showed a high incidence and wide range of adverse consequences including: (a) impairment of job functioning, interpersonal relationships, and financial status; (b) disturbances of mood and cognitive functioning; (c) psychiatric symptoms of depression, paranoia, and increased suicidal/violent tendencies; and (d) physical symptoms of exhaustion, weight loss, sleep problems, and seizures. Cocaine-related automobile accidents, suicide attempts, and violent acts, including a cocaine-related homicide, were also reported. Intranasal users reported no fewer and no less severe adverse consequences than free-base smokers or intravenous users. Our findings challenge popular notions that cocaine is a benign “recreational” drug and that the intranasal route of administration guarantees protection against addictive patterns of use and adverse effects. Introduction Cocaine use has escalated to epidemic proportions in the U.S. in recent years. Nationwide surveys estimate that over 22 million American have used cocaine and the numbers continue to soar at an alarming Read more […]

Multiple Drug Use Epidemiology, Correlates, and Consequences

The initial focus is on the conceptual issues essential to the understanding of multiple drug use. This is followed by a discussion of the developmental nature of multiple drug use and the various strategies that have been designed to measure multiple use. The third section of the paper contains a review of the extent of multiple drug use in various segments of society with data from the Monitoring-the-Future surveys of high school seniors, the National Survey on Drug Abuse, and the Treatment Outcome Prospective Study of drug abuse treatment clients. The conclusion is that multiple drug use is pervasive. The next section deals with several consequences associated with multiple drug use: automobile accidents, delinquency, and emergency room visits. The final section outlines some of the prevention and treatment implications of multiple drug use from a public policy perspective. In a study of the effects of a single drug upon behavior, the implications are manifold. Dosage levels, modes of administration, baseline states, the expectations of the subjects and of the investigators, the environment in which the drug is taken — all these variables, and others as well, make human psychochemical studies difficult and complex. Read more […]