Last week we wrote about the high demand of legal marijuana in Australia, but before this prescription drug becomes global, scientists need to know more about its effects on users. Researcher Amir Englund writes in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal that due to the drug being legalised and used to treat chronic and painful illnesses that research has never been needed more. He and other scientists are seeking less harmful ways to use cannabis so that users are not more prone to psychosis later in life.
Seven European countries including Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, eight US states and Australia have legalised cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes with Canada likely to do the same. Cannabis use has doubled in the past decade, and extra strong doses of the drug can be found (and are quite popular) on the black market. As a result, in the past eight years those attending specialist clinics in Europe due to the drug’s effects have increased by 50%. Englund said this of the new policies towards marijuana around the world: “A lot of countries are deciding to change their cannabis policies to more permissive ones and we don’t know whether that will lead to significantly more use and problems, but we do know there are vulnerable groups out there.”
Researchers at King’s College London and UCL are hoping that health officials will understand how important and necessary new research into the drug’s use is to ensure less harm coming to users. Those smoking the drug with tobacco- one of the most harmful ways to use the medication- are being strongly advised to use a vaporiser instead. Other means to reduce the danger is with higher taxation, matching the potency of the dose and creating a cap/ limit to the strength of each dose. A more serious method in reducing the health risks of cannabis would be to chemically alter the drug. This could be done through increasing the CBD (cannabidiol) in the stronger doses of the drug, which could decrease the damaging effects caused by THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) known to occasionally cause paranoia and loss of memory. This would still allow users the feeling and ‘hit’ of the drug, but minimise the risk of developing psychosis.
Englund confirms this theory: “We are fairly confident that higher THC levels in cannabis are not a good thing, and it does seem that higher CBD levels in cannabis are protective, at least to some extent.”
With marijuana use rising both medically and illicitly in numerous countries, it is paramount that steps are taken to reduce its risk and find safer, healthier ways for it to be taken and used.