Monday, April 16, 2007

Don't legalise cannabis 3

Even more than binge drinking, teenage cannabis use causes poor mental health and increases the likelihood of progression to more dangerous drugs.
Researcher George Patton, who conducted the study for Melbourne University's Centre for Adolescent Heath, said that while both alcohol and cannabis carried health risks, the overwhelming evidence was that cannabis was 'the drug for life's future losers'.

This is apart from the fact that it causes lung cancer and might send you mad.


Francis Xavier Holden said...

naxwghc - the study relates to heavy users, cannabis every day and 40+ standard drinks a week. Or 1 in 25 of the study participants.

You can't infer from this that "medium", "light" or "any" use of cannabis in early teens is an indicator of future dysfunctional usage.

I haven't seen all the study but might it be that high rates of cannabis usage, at least everday, are an "indicator" of those who are most likely to be heavier users later of cannabis, rather than a "cause" of heavier useage.

I don't have any particular problem viewing heavy (daily) usage of cannabis at 14, 15, 16 etc as an undesirable thing but I need to look beyond the newspaper reports.

Have they controlled for other factors such as family dysfunction, family income etc?

I would think there was some difference in effect between those who have a chuff before school of a morning and those who have a chuff last thing at night. I'll have to look at the study and see what it says.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

harry - I can't find the study anywhere. I assume it's the usual press release a year before peer review and publication ;-)

I had meant to point this out:

"Almost two-thirds (67/100)tried cannabis before they turned 18."


"..only one in 25 (4/100)survey participants were classified as taking either alcohol or cannabis at "very high risk levels" in their teens"

Presumably some of that 1 in 25 or 4/100 were not cannabis but heavy alcohol users, possibly 2/100, butlets assume it's 3/100 for heavy cannabis.

Then we have 67/100 trying cannabis but only 3/100 (or perhaps less) becoming heavy users. And I'm still not clear how they controlled for other factors.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

"Then we have 67/100 trying cannabis but only 3/100 (or perhaps less) becoming heavy users. "

Maybe that should read:
Then we have 67/100 trying cannabis but only 3/67 (or perhaps less) becoming heavy users.

derrida derider said...

In short, Harry, the sort of crap "research" which discredits the researcher. Good ideas do not need to be sold with lies.

Exaggerating the dangers of drugs to try and discourage their use is very counterproductive; because it jars with most users' actual experience it makes them far more likely to dismiss real concerns. To see what I mean, imagine if some teetotaller was to try and stop you enjoying a nice red with your dinner by asserting that it inevitably leads to Korsakoff's syndrome.

hc said...

The AIHW report that I referred to a few days ago (Statistics on Drug Use in Australia) suggests more people are now seeking treatment for cannabis use (23% of all treratment episodes) than for heroin (17%).

Across all age categories psychological distress as measured on a Kessler 10 scale was higher for cannabis users than non-users. For 18-19 year olds cannabis users experienced 4X the population level of 'very high' distress (9.5%) and more than double that for this age group of users (4.1%).

Maybe some researchers are lying or sensationalising their findings but these results were based on a sample of 30,000 people.

conrad said...

I'm with DD on this. I'm sure disinformation campaigns have a negative effect rather than a positive effect, particularily amongst younger groups.

Also, I think researchers often sensationalize data (i.e., by looking at the extreme of the extreme groups -- who I assume are then ones most likely to get their drug of choice no matter how illegal it happens to be in any case). Isn't that often what universities and the like want?

Mark U said...


I realise there is are costs to society of legalising cannabis and other drugs in terms of direct harmful effects on heavier users and indirect effects such as road accidents and the effects of disfunctional behaviour on third parties.

But how do these costs compare with the costs of trying to enforce the ban on these drugs? There are the direct costs of policing the drug laws, the direct costs of drug related crimes to the victims and the costs of driving drug use underground. Driving drug use underground leads to unreliable quality of drugs (with documeted tragic effects where a drug is doctored with some other agent) and makes it difficult for drug addicts to seek help for their problems.

Are there definitive studies that compare these relative costs?

And do you distinguish between decriminalisation of drugs and full legalisation?

I must admit, this is one issue where, on first principals, I am inclined to agree with Milton Friedman unless someone can make a compelling alternative case.

hc said...

Mark, A good study of this issue is by Becker, Murphy and Grossman.. This excerpt reviews this study and a link to the full paper is at the bottom of the article.

Its just one of the many things I need to get around to critiquing carefully. The general point you make is a good one.

BMG provides a case for legalisation where demands are inelastic - but the demands for quite a few addictive drugs - even heroin - are quite elastic.

The 2001 heroin drought in Australia generated a dramatic reduction in supply of heroin, a strong rise in price, a permanent reduction in use and a massive reduction in overdose deaths. I am writing a paper on this now and, aggain, will eventually post on this.

With resprect to cannabis the dramatic reduction in use among school kids observed since 1999 seems to suggest to me that current policies are not doing too badly.

Finally, Friedman himself agrees that legalisation with taxes might increase use. Its the only argument he sees against his own proposal. I think it is a serious qualification particularly if demand has some elasticity.

Shawn said...

Harry, why don't you do this topic proper justice and put your thoughts into a well organized blog post instead of this cherry picking nonsense?

While we're at it please explain how teen stoners has anything to do with drug policy? All legalization frameworks keep drugs illegal for kids. The important issue is why otherwise law abiding adults are considered criminals for choosing to smoke pot over drinking alcohol, a drug that has its own fair share of hazards.

And how about addressing using vaporisors and baked goods when talking about pot and cancer. Perhaps throw in something about why cancer is necessary and sufficient to make one plant illegal while keeping another (tobacco) legal.

On the subject of cannabis psychosis, could you explain why "there was a steep rise in the prevalence of cannabis use in Australia over the past 30 years and a corresponding decrease in the age of initiation of cannabis use. There was no evidence of a significant increase in the incidence of schizophrenia over the past 30 years."

from this article

Maybe you could touch on why prohibition is the best policy for controlling cannabis use by drawing on lessons learned from the US's failed alcohol prohibition.

Clearly, I think your 'legalize cannabis' series is garbage. Pull yourself together, Harry. Let's see some level headed blogging.

NJ said...

Firstly, I am a University student in Australia and I disagree with your view on cannabis.

I think that your views on cannabis are ridiculous and influenced by scare tactics and myths forced upon us by the overly conservative government.

I think you should look at the facts about cannabis before making an assumption.

School-aged minors should not be allowed to consume cannabis, however, I feel that if adults feel the need to, they should be allowed to without the fear of scaremongers such as yourself.

There are various ways to defend oneself from the possibility of lung cancer caused by cannabis. Machines known as vapourisers allow the inhalation of the THC from cannabis through a vapour form, rather than smoke. They are also inexpensive.

I think you need to get off of your high horse and look at the facts, not the fiction. Look to science, this drug will not drive you insane.

Focus your efforts on combating serious problems such as teenage alcoholism, tobacco smoking and the use of heavy drugs, rather than criticising something that you have probably never even tried.

THC 4 ME said...

Heavy cannabis use does not lead to future problems. the people who are prone to having these future problems use cannabis just like they use cocaine and other heavy drugs. U have it backwards. Maybe if you argued to keep cannabis illegal to keep these selfdestructive people from using it you might at least be credible but you are a typical alarmist and your opinions are not valid or interesting

Anonymous said...

I know a great deal about Cannabis' effects, how it works and arguements for legalisation and arguements for continued criminalisation and harsher punishments of those involved.

I won't bother bringing up why i believe it should be legal here, because i can tell you have some sort of vested interest or some kind of personal stigma against people who use it.