Cannabis – what’s the problem?

Everyone has heard of the drug cannabis – sometimes more commonly referred to as marijuana, pot, weed or dope – yet whilst anyone could tell me it is illegal in the UK, not many seem to be able to explain why, and so I decided to look into it for myself.

From what I have heard about cannabis in the past, it seems to be the most controversial drug, not because of the effects it has, but because across the world, the laws regarding cannabis are so different. For example, whilst here in the UK, cannabis is considered a class B drug and consequently can result in 5 years in prison for possession, in America, 28 states allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes , with 8 of these allowing it for recreational purposes as well. In addition, the majority of countries in South America, and several across Asia allow possession of cannabis provided the person can prove it is for personal use only.

Some people are adamant that cannabis is not harmful in any way, but with the majority of the world’s laws against possession and supplying of the drug, I decided to find out for myself whether what people argue is really true…

In terms of physical health, long term use of cannabis has been linked to the development of multiple types of cancer, including lung, head and even testicular cancers (cannabis is also thought to lower testosterone production levels). Also, it is believed that over a prolonged period of time, cannabis is able to elevate heart rate and blood pressure, meaning it could be an indirect cause of cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes or heart attacks. Furthermore, evidence suggests that cannabis can cause inflammation of the respiratory system, which combined with regular nausea or vomiting is likely to put the person in hospital. Other symptoms include increased hunger, disorientation, slowed reaction times, red eyes and loss of memory.

However, it seems that the physical health symptoms are less of an issue, compared with the mental health problems which appear to affect many more people. Along with a loss of the ability to focus on any one thing for a long period of time, the main risk is of the development of psychosis, and in particular can lead to schizophrenia in some people. As well as this, those who suffer from bipolar or social anxiety disorders are likely to have the symptoms exacerbated by repeated use of cannabis, although the evidence for this is weak. Finally, given that cannabis is considered highly addictive, withdrawal symptoms for those who have become dependant on it not only include fatigue, sleeplessness and fidgeting, but also increased anxiety levels, paranoia and depression.

Despite all this, cannabis also has strong evidence to suggest that it is very helpful in the treatment of some medical conditions, such as benefitting those with glaucoma, controlling epileptic seizures, and in particular the treatment of chronic pain, especially in those with multiple sclerosis. As well as this, it is thought to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, lessens the side effects of treatments for other illnesses (e.g. HEP C treatments) and finally it can massively improve the quality of life for those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as it is able to inhibit release of hormones that cause fear and anxiety.

I would argue that the benefits of cannabis to medicine are incredibly advantageous, although I can appreciate why the government is so unwilling to legalise cannabis. Personally, I believe that the drug ought to be able to be licensed to some hospitals in the UK for medical use only, especially given that it is able to provide treatment / relief for such a wide variety of illnesses that are otherwise considered almost untreatable. However, considering the effects on both physical and mental health when the drug is used for purely recreational purposes, I am yet to be convinced that possession of cannabis should be legal for the general public.

I realise that what I have written about remains a very controversial topic, and if you have any comments or additional arguments for or against what I have mentioned then please do let me know.

Thank you for reading!

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