Friday, March 28, 2008

Cannabis - A Choice

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I just saw a report of a woman (working for the BBC, reported on who took part in an experiment to find out the "real" effects of Cannabis smoking. This required her to move to Amsterdam (one of the few progressive countries to have decriminalized Cannabis) for a month, and work in a Coffee-shop. (Please read the article for your own judgement: (article is below)

She claimed to have had an unreasonable amount of Paranoia and thought that everyone on the BBC crew and the people who came into her Coffee-shop were talking about her. I would have thought that they would have been talking about here anyway considering that she was the focal point of the study. Also she claimed sleeplessness and, in the case of weaker Cannabis varieties, the inability to put together packed furniture... Uh, yeah... Highly disturbing behaviour!

An excerpt from the article goes as follows: "This is not the first time Nicky has become a guinea pig - other programmes have seen her binge drinking, and undergoing plastic surgery. "

Now this also throws up a few questions to my mind... How about if the binge drinking experiment made her more prone to psychotic episodes? What if her previous experience of other experiments had an effect of bias in her own analysis? Is this the same with every person?

I do not concur with the idea that everybody will react to the same stimuli in the same way. This is assuming that the stimuli is the same! What if she just smoked way too much!? What if she hadn't found which strain of cannabis would calm her down to the levels that she was comfortable with? What about all of the organic Cannabis which is grown without the addition of chemical fertilizers, and has a more pure effect? (I urge you to talk to Cannabis smokers of the non-stoner variety, the equivalent of an appreciator of wine rather than a wino!). Could it be that her inexperience and her recruitment bias, would have had an adverse effect of what she might have said (or divulged) otherwise?

These questions are not aimed at dis-reputing her endeavour, or for proclaiming the methodology in this "study" a sham (though one might be tempted to!). They are merely questions which I would like answered to clarify my position on the subject.

I will go into the legal aspects of the Plant in a later post, but must mention here that the majority of smokers who go in for hard-hitting varieties (eg. Skunk) are those that do not have the option of buying good quality Cannabis of lower THC content. These are the people who live in oppressive regimes with regard to Cannabis, and are in favor of being able to smoke in the privacy of their (or their friend's) homes.

If when you walked into a liquor store or bar and all they had was Everclear (180% proof grain alcohol), and Absinthe, would you really be surprised that people were just getting way out of control after a night out? Would you then put forth the suggestion that maybe what they need is a weaker alternative, say, beer, or wine, or even whisky? It would seem the sensible option rather than to say that all alcohol was evil and caused death!! Seems silly when put like that doesn't it?

Weaker varieties of Cannabis can have an equally profound and therapeutic value, as would stronger varieties, for specific uses. There are times when the therapeutic value of the drug comes from the strength of a particular property of the plant. An example of this is when a patient would suffer from major muscular cramps and would be forced to have a lot of pharmaceutical alternatives for pain and muscle relaxation. Particular strains of Cannabis would be able to help the patient control the cramps, rather than palliatively hiding it from the brain until it re-emerges even stronger! Pharmaceuticals routinely have side-effects which can be very harmful in the long term. Cannabis does too (and no I don't count the Munchies as an adverse reaction!), and as such should be used with care and diligence!

Cannabis is often looked at as an alternative to Pharmaceuticals. I am not one to go for the "Pharma companies are keeping all of this under wraps and misleading the public so that their sales won't drop!" philosophy. I work for a Pharma company myself, and I assure you that there are no conspiracies against the smokers!

The therapeutic value comes not from a particular compound but a mix of many! A large misconception is that THC is the only compound to have an effect. This is incorrect. There are several compounds which act in concert with each other to have the desired effect. This is why different varieties, with the same THC levels, have different effects on people. There are even compounds in these plants which can retard the onset of psychosis (CBDs) and have been proved to do so (though probably by the same types of scientists who came up with these types of studies!). It is a natural and complex plant, which should be respected!

Is it not that person's right to have a natural alternative without the repercussions of jail time and heavy fines? (This seems to be getting through more and more since medical use of Cannabis is being decriminalized in many places).

Analysing one of the last paragraphs: "Fortunately, after the end of the month-long experiment, she has suffered no long-term effects, but has vowed to try to keep her children away from the drug."

As my best friend would say,"Damn straight!!" We should keep our kids away from psychotropic substances such as alcohol and Cannabis, while they are kids! They are young and impressionable and easily swayed without having had the time OR the guidance (just yelling, or repeating "Drugs are bad M'kay!" is NOT adequate guidance!) to cope with it!

She suffers no long term side effects from the total over-indulgence FOR A MONTH!! To be on the brink of insanity (as it has been so voraciously stuffed down our throats by the article) and to spring back to normality, is really something! I wonder if she was as far gone as it was made to seem. Or could it (POSSIBLY? MAYBE? BY SOME FREAKISH CHANCE?) just be that she was really high at the time because she toked a few doobies too many?

Finally I must reiterate, I do not think that Cannabis is for everyone! I have a friend who, after taking two drags off a joint, pukes his guts out! This is not the thing for him! I have another friend who is bipolar and would routinely freak out (Randomly! And incidentally he was not a smoker of the weed!) until someone would give him some Cannabis (and hoping that he'd stop fighting with everyone for everything!) and he would mellow out enough for someone to talk him through his episode! This might be of some use to him! At least give these two the choice.

I end this post with an urge to keep writing. Please assess for yourself the ideas which I have put forth here, and please do comment. The debate must continue for change to ever take place. Replace the fallacies with experience and knowledge!

Till the next time!



New Delhi : India
'Month of cannabis terrified me'
Nicky Taylor
Nicky had tried cannabis at university
A mother-of-three who smoked cannabis for a month as part of a BBC documentary has described how the drug left her paranoid and frightened.

She said that the effects of a powerful version of the drug called "skunk" were "absolutely horrendous", though not long-lasting.

Nicky Taylor, from Kidderminster, took part in the experiment in Amsterdam, where the drug is legal. She also became psychotic after an injection of an active ingredient of cannabis.

The drug totally wrecked my mind
Nicky Taylor

This is not the first time Nicky has become a guinea pig - other programmes have seen her binge drinking, and undergoing plastic surgery.

Although scientific research has firmly linked cannabis use with health problems, the UK has, according to UNICEF, the third highest rate of use among young people in the Western world.

Although she had previously used cannabis two decades ago at university, Nicky said that she wanted to find out what would happen to her children if any of them went on to take today's version of the drug.

Some modern varieties are said to have up to five times higher levels of the active ingredient THC.

After taking a job at an Amsterdam coffee shop she smoked different varieties and strengths on a daily basis.

Her experiences with "skunk" cannabis, she said, made her feel "irrational and paranoid".

"Some nights I couldn't sleep at all, and would be pacing my room, becoming more and more paranoid and thinking everyone I'd met at the cafe, as well as the BBC crew, was talking about me."

Although weaker types of cannabis did not have the same effect, she said that her ability to function properly was compromised, making it even more difficult than usual to perform tasks such as putting together flat pack furniture.

"The drug totally wrecked my mind," she said. "There is no way I would want to repeat it again. Nothing made much sense to me any more."

Pure injection

Another noticeable effect of the drug was on her appetite - she said she gained half a stone over the course of the month due to cravings for sweet and salty snacks.

Nicky Taylor
Nicky went to Amsterdam for her experiment

After the month was over, she visited scientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, where she was injected with THC alone, and THC with cannabinoid, the combination found in less potent cannabis. After the pure THC, she had a severe psychotic episode.

"I thought that the reasearchers conducting the episode were characters from a horror film. "I was thinking about jumping out of a window."

A psychological score taken during the experiment suggested that the level of her psychosis was greater than that found in some people suffering a schizophrenic attack.

Fortunately, after the end of the month-long experiment, she has suffered no long-term effects, but has vowed to try to keep her children away from the drug.

Debate needed

However, she said a sober public debate was needed about cannabis, as there was growing evidence that it had potentially useful medical applications.

"This is a complex plant, it can do an awful amount of harm, but it can also do an awful amount of good," she said.

"On one hand you have people who think it is the spawn of the devil, and then you have people who think it's fantastic, so nobody ever gets to sit down and actually talk constructively about what we should do with the problem."

Martin Barnes, chief executive of charity Drugscope, said that most evidence about the potential health harms of cannabis had been gathered using lower-strength cannabis varieties.

"The average potency of cannabis available in the UK has increased, and while it is intuitive that greater harm potentially will arise from stronger forms of cannabis, people shouldn't assume that only the stronger types are harmful.

"A big issue is also the longer-term problems which may arise from cannabis use."

A spokesman for Addaction, the drug treatment charity, said cannabis was easily obtained, and normally the first drug used by young people.

She said: "Using the drug can provoke the onset of psychosis or worsen existing psychotic illness - so for people with a history of mental health problems or depression, taking this drug is not a good idea.

"What we need is open, realistic education and information on the associated risks of cannabis use and to make sure high quality treatment is available to all those who need help."

  • The documentary, "Should I Smoke Dope?" can be seen on BBC3 on Wednesday 26 March at 2200.

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