The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction has made disturbing recommendations on the legal treatment of drugs which will actually worsen mental health rates.
Anybody who has worked with young people especially but also those in the mental health field will have observed that marijuana is called dope for good reason. According to virtually every scientific review, marijuana is addictive and harmful – despite rhetoric from the marijuana industry and drug supporters. But the real concern is the effect on mental health and suicide ideation. The suddenness of suicidal ideation means that intervention may not always be possible.
New Zealand has some of the richest data on the adverse consequences of cannabis use coming from two major studies: the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS). The use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including increased risks of psychotic symptoms and major depression. In the case of the Dunedin-based study, the scientists, said “Cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects.”
Researchers led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (and including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide. Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since legalisation of marijuana.
The Christchurch study also found that regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.
University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse professor Wayne Hall says that legalising the drug would likely have the most significant impact on current users. If cannabis was made more affordable and easier to access, then consumption would increase, like any commodity.”
A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars of drug policy:
- supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
- demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
- harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit, using the coercion of the law for those whose addiction is controlling them
The current illegal status of drugs is an inhibitor that deters people from participating. It’s not about a ‘war on drugs’ as erroneously labelled by drug supporters. It’s about the defence of our brain. We need a “Stay Drug-Free” message.
We should continue fighting drugs and the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general. It’s working for tobacco. Why not drugs?