Click to View Hero Pot Posters :

Quote

"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

Abraham Lincoln - Former U.S. President

Cannabis & Health

Marijuana and Schizophrenia - Two Views

Marijuana use is on the increase. Despite its reputation as a benign drug with medicinal properties, new Australian research is showing it may have a darker side after all, particularly for adolescent users. Links have been made before between marijuana use and the onset of schizophrenia, but as ABC TV's "Catalyst" reporter Paul Willis found, new research suggests something quite worrying for all young cannabis users.

WILLIS : Marijuana use is on the increase. Twenty years ago 1 in 5 young Australians had tried it, now it's up to 2 in 3. Research suggests some are starting as young as twelve.

GEORGE : For me personally I would like to smoke pot for the rest of my life.

WILLIS : It's known as a 'soft' drug with a benign reputation, but now it's starting to look like marijuana may have a nasty sting in it's tail, especially for teenage smokers.

MARK : I believe if I had not smoked dope I would not be a schizophrenic.

WILLIS : Mark is a startling example of what can go wrong. He's now in his 30's, but after using cannabis for just ten months in his late teens, something started to go wrong with his brain.

MARK : Oppressive voices which were there 24 hours a day, seven days a week which never went away. Floorboards being syringes, stuck between floorboards, injecting me with god knows what.

WILLIS : It was the beginning of schizophrenia, which is still with him 16 years later.

MARK : It was like a living hell. I didn't sleep for about probably four weeks, I didn't eat very well. My mother was so, oh the anguish she must've felt.

WILLIS : But was the cannabis really to blame or would he have developed schizophrenia anyway? The jury is still out, but evidence suggests that in those people who are predisposed smoking cannabis can open the door to schizophrenia. Dr Martin Cohen is trying to find out why. He's a psychologist at the Hunter Medical Research Institute and he's comparing the functioning brain of young heavy dope smokers with the brains of schizophrenics. He had a hunch that smoking cannabis could be irreversibly changing the way an adolescent brain develops, to make it function more like the brain of a schizophrenic.

COHEN : During adolescence the brain is going through tremendous change. The neural networks and parts of the brain are changing the way that they're actually interconnecting to lead to development of the thinking capacities of an adult. Cannabis actually affects the way these processes occur and actually affects the way that the brain will be hard wired for later life.

WILLIS : George is a heavy dope smoker, he smokes twenty to fifty cones a day. Now he's volunteered to be in Martin's study.

GEORGE : They were looking for people to volunteer for the research and yeah my brother and I just happened to pick it up and it looked interesting and we've always been intrigued by what the effects of pot are.

WILLIS : The study involves volunteers like George undergoing an MRI while doing a thinking task which targets specific areas of the brain involved in complex thinking, memory and calculation.

COHEN : What I'm going to get you to do is a task called the Tower of London task while you are in the MRI scanner. What I'm going to get you to do is work out how many moves it takes to get this row of balls to look like this row of balls over here.

WILLIS : This allows Martin to see which parts of the brain are used when doing this task. He's comparing the brain function of four different groups. Firstly, a control group with no history of drug use or schizophrenia. Secondly, there's schizophrenics with no history of drug use. Then there are heavy cannabis users and finally schizophrenics who also use cannabis. So how do these different brains perform? One important brain area that the MRI task targets is the cerebellum, the area responsible for co-ordination and movement. Martin found that the people in the control group activate the cerebellum extensively, but the schizophrenics show a marked reduction in activity. In the cannabis smokers, cerebellum activity is reduced even further, and schizophrenics who also use cannabis show no activation at all. It was the same story for the frontal cortex, a critical area of the brain responsible for attention, memory and complex thinking tasks.

COHEN : You can see that in the frontal cortex the first episode schizophrenia patients and the cannabis users show a very similar pattern of lack of activation of this prefrontal cortical region.

WILLIS : And once again there is no activation at all in the schizophrenic cannabis users. So overall what does this mean - that the brain of a marijuana user is more similar to that of a schizophrenic?

COHEN : Absolutely. There's actually very similar patterns of lack of activation in the cannabis users and the first episode schizophrenia patients.

WILLIS : Martin's research is suggesting something really worrying for all dope smokers. Smoking cannabis is going to change the way your brain works. Only some dope smokers will develop schizophrenia, but cannabis does seem to be changing the way a young adults brain develops so it functions more like a schizophrenic brain and this is reflected in their behaviour.

COHEN : Clinically we see very similar deficits in their ability in terms of cognitive functioning, their thinking functions but also in terms of their planning, their organisation and their capacity to be motivated and exercise drive and be social.

GEORGE : If I want to focus myself on anything I can still do it but it's usually the surrounding things which seem unimportant that will just slip out of my memory if I'm smoking a lot of pot. Like I'm more liable to forget what day it is, or what show I was watching that morning.

WILLIS : Martin still doesn't know if these effects are permanent or not.

COHEN : In subsequent years these cognitive deficits might actually become more evident and interfere with their day to day functioning as well as predispose them to mental illness.

WILLIS : And for schizophrenia sufferers like Mark that's a risk he wished he'd known he was taking.

MARK : As far as I'm concerned marijuana, no matter what you say, is bad.

WILLIS : Currently there is not enough evidence to say that marijuana causes schizophrenia and there's not enough to say that it doesn't, but with two out of three young Australians trying it, they do need to understand the risks.

COHEN : The adolescent use of cannabis is particularly risky and I would advise people if they are contemplating using cannabis, especially early on in life, wait, wait until there's more evidence.

BLANCH : Dr Martin Cohen from the Hunter Medical Research Institute in Newcastle, New South Wales.

[Source : http://www.abc.net.au/ra/innovations/stories/s839645.htm


{mosloadposition user7}

 

Oz Govt's view of Pot as Recreational Drug

24 November 2006

Reefer Madness1w

Cannabis and tobacco use continued to decline among young Australians but there was still room for improvement, particularly regarding alcohol use, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, said today.

“The latest survey results show some satisfying trends, but alcohol misuse is still a concern,” Mr Pyne said when issuing the three reports of the eighth triennial Australian Secondary Students’ Use of Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

The illicit drug report shows that cannabis use among Australian secondary school students declined from 35 per cent in 1996 to 18 per cent in 2005.

Similarly, smoking was found to have declined across all ages. In 2005, 7 per cent of 12- to 15-year-old students had smoked in the week before the survey, compared with 15 per cent in 1999.

Mr Pyne said it was still a concern that so many students smoked, despite substantial decreases in the proportion of young smokers.

“Youth smoking is an issue at the forefront of the public health agenda, and that is why, as part of the 2005-2006 Budget, the Australian Government committed $25 million over four years to a National Tobacco Campaign focusing on young people,” he said.

“Preventing adolescents from becoming regular users of tobacco is an important goal of tobacco control programs in Australia.”

The report showed that the proportion of 16- and 17-year-old students smoking in the week before the survey had dropped from 30 per cent in 1999 to 17 per cent in 2005.

Mr Pyne said it was pleasing to see there was also a downward trend in cannabis use.

“For example, in the 12- to 15-year-old age group, cannabis use in the past month declined from 15 per cent of the age group in 1996 to 6 per cent in 2005; and in the 16- to 17-year-old age group, there was a drop from 27 per cent in 1996 to 12 per cent in 2005,” he said.

“This is an extraordinary vindication of the Government’s Tough on Drugs program.

“The Australian Government is committed to keeping young people informed about the harms of illicit drug use,” he said.

“The 2006 Federal Budget allocated $23.7 million to the third phase of the National Illicit Drugs Campaign that will further increase awareness of the harm associated with cannabis and psychostimulant use, particularly among young people.”

However, alcohol use by young people remained a problem.

“The report on alcohol use shows that drinking by students at levels where there is a risk of short-term harm has not changed significantly since the 2002 survey,” Mr Pyne said.

“However, about 21 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds, and 42 per cent of 16- to 17-year-olds continue to drink at levels which put them at risk of harming their health in the short term. Apart from the health and other problems this underage drinking presents, we also ought to be concerned about the supply of alcohol to these young people.”

To counter this, the Government has allocated $25 million over four years from 2006-07 to conduct a national alcohol education and information campaign and update the Australian Alcohol Guidelines.

The survey reports can be found at http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/publications-monographs