Hash Isn’t Harmless

“It’s such a nice day for a spliff.”

It’s Saturday afternoon.
I’m sitting in St. Stephens Green with the girl that I’m seeing, and she’s in the process of lighting up a joint. Before you can say Luke Ming Flanagan, she’s stoned.

As I listen to her spout conspiracy theories regarding the future of currency, I find myself questioning my willingness to believe her assurances that her addiction to weed wouldn’t have a negative impact on her behaviour and in turn, affect our relationship.

When she begins to giggle at a duck who innocently paddles past, I vow never to date another cannabis user again.

The fact of the matter is this – people like my ex, who claim that smoking cannabis has no negative impact on behaviour or mental health, are biased in their views. After all, they are speaking from an addict’s mind-set. They revel in pointing out that alcohol is legal to purchase, despite the risks it poses to young people’s health and well – being. They demand cannabis be viewed no differently.

In essence, they are in denial. After all, how can any reasonable person advocate for the legalisation of a drug that contains tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC – a chemical regularly linked to psychotic conditions?

In a recent study by Japanese clinical psychiatrist Dr Hiroshi Ujike of Okayama University, THC was found to affect chemicals in the brain that transmit information from one nerve cell to another. It was discovered that this disruption of chemical balance could result in memory loss, anxiety and other conditions – including schizophrenia.

In fact, a recently published 20 year review, undertaken by Professor Hall, a substance abuse expert at Kings College London and the University of Queensland, found that the risk of developing psychotic disorders doubled with long term cannabis use.

While excessive alcohol consumption can result in mental health issues such as depression, only once has a friend called me in the middle of the night, terrified because she was ‘hearing’ African tribal chanting. This hallucination was not induced by alcohol, but a frightening side – effect of smoking too much cannabis.

A recent report by the European Commission has revealed that the majority of fifteen to twenty – four year olds support the legalisation of the drug. Taking these findings into account, it is clear that the very real voices, who advocate for the legalisation of cannabis, and claim that it is not addictive or damaging to mental health, are too being heard.

Such individuals will no doubt view the restructuring of the 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act to allow the introduction of medicinal cannabis in Ireland as a step towards their ultimate goal – the unconditional legalisation of cannabis on our shores.

However, to those of you who continue to take a laid back approach towards cannabis, remember that the facts are against you. According to the medical journal The Lancet, students who smoke cannabis on a regular basis are 60 per cent less likely to get a college degree.

If that’s not enough of a deterrent, I’ll leave you with the sobering words of Mark Winstanley, chief executive of the charity Rethink Mental Illness. “Too often cannabis is wrongly seen as a safe drug but as the literature shows, there is a clear link with psychosis and schizophrenia. Smoking cannabis is essentially playing a very real game of Russian roulette with your mental health.”

Christine Allen

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