To what extent does research show cannabis is SAFE or DANGEROUS, assess its harmful effects and discuss effects of its chronic use on MENTAL FUNCTIONING, COGNITION, PERSONALITY and MEMORY IMPAIRMENTS, does it deserve its status in LAW? INTRODUCTING CANNABIS
Kingery, Alford & Coggeshall (1999) highlight that cannabis is frequently used by adolescents as the first illicit drug. It is a popular illegal recreational drug, which has been upgraded back to Class B since 2009 in the UK. The most important psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant is delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), which is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant that binds to specific receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. In low doses, THC can cause some pain reduction, may reduce aggression, can stimulate appetite, and may help reduce nausea. Higher doses may cause a 'high' leading to altered perception of time and space, and feelings of happiness or fatigue (Hall & Pacula, 2003). In the 1960s the THC content of the cannabis plant was 2-5%, it has now risen to around 5-10%, which indicates higher susceptibility to a 'high'. Hall (2006) suggests that the rising use of cannabis has heightened community concern about its impact on the health and psychological development of young people because of the observations that regular cannabis users are more likely to use other illicit drugs, perform poorly in schools, and report psychotic symptoms, depression and poorer mental health than their peers. IS CANNABIS DANGEROUS?
There are a number of negative factors associated with the use of cannabis, however the following essay aims to report a counterbalanced argument including any empirical evidence available in support of cannabis use and against it. Chait and Pierri (1992) suggest that cannabis intoxication produces dose-related impairments such as slowing reaction time and information processing, impairing perceptual-motor coordination and motor performance, signal detection and time perception. A major concern with cannabis intoxication is the possibility of accidents if users drive or operate machinery (Hall, 1995), as all the above impairments would affect an individual conducting these activities. If the dose of THC is increased then these effects would also increase and would be more persistent in tasks that require sustained attention. Cannabis is the illicit drug most often detected in drivers who have been injured or killed in motor vehicle crashes. Asbridge, Poulin and Donato (2005) found that drivers who reported using cannabis were twice as likely to report being involved in accidents than drivers who did not. However, a number of reasons have been put forward to propose the uncertainty of whether cannabis played a causal role in the accidents stated above. Bates and Blakely (1999) found that early studies measured inactive cannabinoid metabolites, which did not indicate that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Many of the drivers who were found to have cannabinoids in their blood also had high blood alcohol levels, making it difficult to distinguish which of the two caused the accident. Further to this, Smiley (1999) found modest impairments because cannabis intoxicated drivers drove more slowly and took fewer risks than alcohol-intoxicated drivers. Further to this it has been shown that people who are regular smokers of cannabis but not tobacco have more symptoms on chronic bronchitis than non-smokers. The competence of the respiratory system in people who only smoke cannabis has also been found to be impaired, which increases their susceptibility to infectious diseases such as pneumonia (Baldwin et al., 1997). Tashkin (1999) has reported histopathological changes in the lung tissue of chronic cannabis smokers that may be the precursors of carcinoma (cancer). In addition to this finding, Donald (1991) and Taylor (1988) have reported cases of upper aero-digestive tract cancers in young...
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