- Lachlan MacDonald
- Lachlan MacDonald is an occupational therapist working with people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, and thinks getting high is bullshit.
There is a bullshit cultural milieu surrounding the use of cannabis. The general perception seems to be that marijuana is not only a completely harmless substance, but actually a panacea capable of alleviating/curing a vast array of medical conditions. However, its use is hindered by mean, moralistic politicians who are kept in the back pockets of nefarious pharmaceutical interests. This perception would be fine if cannabis was a completely harmless substance with a wide array of medicinal uses, as has been intimated in The Coast’s recent story about the PEACE EAST festival, but it is not. It is sad to see an article pandering to these poorly formed ideas rather than engaging in substantive journalism.
There is a developing body of knowledge on the benefits and consequences of cannabis use based on (gasp!) rigorous scientific evidence. An editorial attached to a systematic review and meta-analysis published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in June lays it out nicely. Cannabis use can be beneficial in specific situations (treating nausea and vomiting secondary to chemotherapy; specific pain syndromes and spasticity from multiple sclerosis), but other than that, the evidence for medical use is scant. These areas deserve further study to determine proper doses of the specific compounds involved, so they can be properly regulated and effectively applied. Until there is rigorous scientific evidence indicating otherwise, all other medicinal uses of cannabis appear to be nonsense.
There are several consequences of cannabis use, including the well-documented increased risk of the development of a psychotic disorder in those individuals who are vulnerable. For people who develop psychosis in the context of cannabis use, the severity of the disorder is increased and overall outcomes are reduced.
The earlier and more frequent the cannabis use, the worse off things go, generally. There is also emerging evidence that cannabis use in adolescents interferes with brain development (actually changing the size/shape/structure of the brain), with long-term effects on cognition, behaviour, affect and neurochemical functioning, even once use has ceased. Cannabis use in adults over the age of approximately 25 does not carry this risk—it is related specifically to stages of brain development happening during adolescence/early adulthood. Which is, sadly, when many people begin sustained cannabis use.
As well, one in 10 people who use cannabis develop a substance use disorder. (People generally find this idea laughable, because cannabis not “addictive” in the way something like an opioid is. But ask anyone with a gambling disorder whether something that is not physiologically addictive can cause significant life problems.) Cannabis use also has a negative impact on other mental health issues, as it becomes an easy way to escape feelings of depression and anxiety. This avoidant behaviour tends to entrench those negative experiences. Every time you avoid things that trigger your depression or anxiety, you strengthen those mental phenomena.
Catering to poorly informed ideas about marijuana use can have serious implications. Given this, it is sad to see The Coast contributing to the bullshit cultural milieu we inhabit.