The article entitled “Dope Head” in The Weekend Australia argues that the dangers of cannabis use have been underestimated. “Dope Head” claims that cannabis use has been linked to problems such as depression, psychosis, and criminal behavior. Several researchers and journal articles are quoted in the article to support the idea that cannabis use causes psychological problems. These studies correlate the prevalence of psychotic episodes or some other problem with the person’s usage of cannabis.
Because correlation does not imply causation, many researchers and others believe that the studies are flawed; perhaps people turn to cannabis because they are more psychotic or criminally minded to begin with. This article addresses this common objection, citing a study from New Zealand that stated that cannabis use causes psychotic symptoms, not the other way around. The article also claims that young people are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of cannabis on the brain. The article suggests that this is particularly alarming because cannabis use starts at earlier ages today than before.
Both increased potency and more dangerous methods of using cannabis is said to lead to increased brain damage among the youth. The article then brings up another common objection made by people that believe that cannabis use is not harmful: the brain is near its adult size when people begin cannabis use, so using cannabis should have minimal effects on brain development. The article argues that the brain continues to rewire itself and that the cells in the brain are not protected from the THC in cannabis until a later age.
“Dope Head” concludes by stating that there is much additional research to be performed and that we do not yet know the full extent or ways in which cannabis use damages the young brain. Personal opinion I think this article gave a lot of reasons why cannabis use may be bad for some people, particularly young people and perhaps those that are predisposed towards psychotic or criminal behaviors. But I think that the article and the argument that cannabis should not be used at all is still flawed because there are many ways to explain most of the statements this article makes.
For example, other researchers have found that people that use cannabis are much more likely than the general population to use more dangerous drugs like PCP, ketamine, and methamphetamine. These drugs have a stronger link to psychotic behavior and other problems. If cannabis users are more likely to use these drugs than the general population, then we would expect that cannabis use would be correlated with psychotic episodes and other problems, but not because cannabis was causing the problem.
Cannabis use is more socially acceptable than other drugs, so I would not expect that a study could isolate its effects on mental problems if the study was based on self-reported use of cannabis and other drugs. I think most people have seen or heard about dumb, criminal, and sometimes psychotic things that people have done while drunk that they would never have done while sober. Likewise, I think that most of the statements that were made about cannabis use could be said about alcohol.
If alcohol is very harmful to the developing brains of teenagers, then I would think cannabis would also be harmful. I also imagine that people that start using cannabis at a young age start using alcohol at a young age as well, and again, I do not see how these studies could have controlled for that effect. If the studies did control for alcohol and other drug use, this article did a poor job of summarizing that research. This article did not convince me that cannabis should be treated any differently by the law than alcohol.
Whether alcohol should be allowed or not is a very different question; though previous experiments with prohibition have led to rampant crime and disregard for the law. Arguably, the sale of cannabis supports illegal activities still today. Indeed, commercials from the US government after 9/11 suggested that cannabis users were supporting the terrorists. In other countries, it may be that the sale of cannabis supports other violent activities that are arguably a far greater problem than the 1% increase in psychotic episodes and behaviors that this article attributes to smoking cannabis.
In light of all these facts, I think that banning cannabis probably does more harm than good, though the fact that we do not know much about the long-term effects is enough to keep me from using it. In general, I think that the article exaggerated the mental problems associated with cannabis use. Furthermore, it mostly ignores the possibility that the same factors that led the person to use cannabis may have made them more likely to display other criminal or psychotic behaviors.
Perhaps if the researchers concentrated on what leads or drives someone towards drug use, they might find a much stronger link. It may be true that cannabis is enough to drive some people who are already on the brink of mental problems over the edge, but perhaps cannabis use helps others, both for pain and mental problems. After all, alcohol makes some people mellow and happy, while it makes other people depressed or angry. The research would have been more useful if it examined cannabis use in terms of when cannabis use might help and when it might hurt, which is how most drugs are investigated.
As it is, the article is similar to hundreds of others that claim that cannabis use is bad while providing only weak supporting evidence. This article is better than most in that it does address a couple of common objections to cannabis use, but it still comes far short of providing a convincing reason why no one should use marijuana or why it should be illegal in most of the world. Bibliography Dayton, L (2005). Dope Head. The Weekend Australia, pp. 19-20