Pubdate: Mon, 15 Sep 2014
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2014 The Irish Times
Page: 15
Cited: Lancet Psychiatry


The harmful effects of cannabis and its role as a gateway illicit 
drug have been confirmed in a large study published last week. It 
looked at the frequency of cannabis use before the age of 17, and 
seven developmental outcomes up to age 30. The Antipodean researchers 
found that those who are daily cannabis users are over 60 per cent 
less likely to complete secondary school or to complete a degree 
compared to those who have never used the drug.

Published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, the authors also found 
that daily users of cannabis during adolescence are seven times more 
likely to attempt suicide, and are eight times as likely to use other 
illicit drugs in later life.

Although not measured in this latest study, cannabis use in 
adolescence has also been associated with an increased risk of 
psychosis in adulthood.

There is evidence to show that brain development during adolescence 
can be harmed by frequent cannabis use and that cognitive functions 
can be permanently reduced. This impairment and the low energy and 
reduced initiative associated with persistent cannabis use are the 
likely reasons for the poor educational outcomes shown in last week's research.

Notwithstanding these potential harms, a recent Eurobarometer survey 
found some 56 per cent of young Irish people believe cannabis should 
be legalised, an increase of 15 per cent since the last survey in 
2011.The number who consider regular cannabis use to be dangerous was 
down six per cent to 46 per cent. This compared to 63 per cent of 
other young Europeans.

With global moves to decriminalise and legalise cannabis gaining 
momentum, it is important to protect adolescents from gaining easier 
access to the drug; a delay or prevention of cannabis use will have 
broad health and social benefits. But this must not prevent the 
legalisation of medicinal cannabis here. An amendment to the Misuse 
of Drugs Regulations, which would benefit people with multiple 
sclerosis and other debilitating diseases, is long overdue.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom