Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
On a Saturday morning, as I scrolled through Facebook, I came across an article on the Wessex Scene entitled ‘The Truth Behind Cannabis’. As a strong advocate of both medicinal and recreational cannabis consumption, I was initially intrigued to see what the article said, but quickly I became appalled by the shocking lack of balance from the writer. The article, in my opinion, was nothing short of scaremongering.
Anyone who writes such an unbalanced article on any topic is blatantly harbouring their own vested interests. There is no reference to any positives of cannabis use, only a comprehensive list of mental health issues that, according to the writer, will render the user catatonic within minutes of consumption. As a mental health nursing student, I thought she would have been aware of the medicinal properties of cannabis (more specifically CBD), considering it has been available in the UK for almost a year, after the story of Billy Caldwell and his mother reached national headlines.
Cannabis is growing ever popular in medicinal circles to treat pain relief and other ailments of debilitating health issues. It is a far more attractive option than a series of horribly addictive opioid based painkillers such as tramadol, codeine or morphine.
In recreational realms, cannabis can be perfect to help you relax, unwind and de-stress after a long day. It can also allow you to break free from traditional modes of thought and unleash creativity in artists, musicians and writers alike.
I have smoked cannabis regularly since I was 16 (I am almost 22) and I have never experienced any adverse side effects of smoking, except from the occasional bout of late-night lethargy. In my own personal experience, I have nothing but positive opinions on the use of cannabis. I could have very easily mirrored the anti-cannabis article and talked only about the positives of cannabis, but then I would have failed to inform readers of both sides of this crucial debate, much like the previous article.
With all substances, legal or illegal, there are both risks and rewards. What the other writer stated about the adverse effects of cannabis are not incorrect, but they are misleading. While cannabis can cause mental health issues such as paranoia and schizophrenia, in most cases the patient will have an underlying predisposition to such disorders, and the cannabis merely triggers it.
Recent research from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found that people who use cannabis and carry a specific variant of the AKT1 gene, which codes for an enzyme that affects dopamine signalling in the brain, are at increased risk of developing psychosis. Another study by NIDA found an increased risk of psychosis among adults who had used cannabis during adolescence, if they carried a specific variant of the gene for an enzyme that degrades neurotransmitters such as dopamine.
This information is crucially important, as it is needed to limit the already rare occurrences (1 in 57,000) of developing psychosis or schizophrenia. Potential cannabis users need to be made aware of the existence of such pre-dispositions so that they know if they are safe to consume cannabis.
Cannabis isn’t for everyone; this should be obvious considering the effect it has on the brain. To blame the plant for an individual’s underlying mental health issues is destructive and entirely ignores all the positive aspects of cannabis use.
Cannabis is the most common drug in the UK, and an ever-growing collection of countries are relaxing laws on personal and medicinal use. Like all substances, alcohol included, moderation is an imperative. If you abuse anything you will experience the darkest side of it, and that is not the fault of the substance being consumed, but your own personal decision making.
I am sure the writer, like most Southampton students, has frequented Sobar on a Tuesday and seen the ensuing carnage that brings. Ask yourself this, would you prefer to witness hoards of rowdy students damaging their livers and/or their dignity on a night out, or a group of friends quietly and peacefully sharing a spliff?
To quote the final lines of the article: ‘The potential is still there for you to develop serious, irreversible and life changing health problems. Surely it is not worth it?’ – could be applied to any recreational substance, so why is cannabis attacked so vehemently when other substances ruin more lives? Alcohol and tobacco are far more debilitating to the user and their environment, yet they are legal.
I respect anyone’s opinion on this matter, whether it be positive or negative, but what cannot be tolerated is fear-mongering and twisting the truth to fit one’s own narrative. This mindset is detrimental not only to journalism, but to logic and reason in the debate over legalisation of recreational substances.
Is it worth it? – Yes, as long as you have a firm grasp on your mental health.