Saturday, December 16, 2006

Regular users of cannabis are at greater risk to mental illnesses!


The Sydney Morning Herald When tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in cannabis, collides with the growing brain of a teenager the results are dangerously unpredictable.

Some use cannabis socially for a time then dump it as they take on the responsibilities of adulthood, suffering no serious effects. But for a significant number of others, psychosis, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses develop and a vicious cycle of self-medication and worsening symptoms is amplified by torrid teenage emotions.

In 1920, when Australia first outlawed cannabis, there was little evidence of its use here. Now it is the country's most widely used illicit drug: at its peak in 1998, 60 per cent of 20- to 29-year-olds reported having used cannabis.

Once viewed as a bit of harmless fun, it is now recognized as the third most prevalent drug of dependence after alcohol and tobacco. About 10 per cent of people who try cannabis become dependent - this is 3 per cent of Australia's population, or 700,000 people.

Those most vulnerable are the young and those who use regularly. With the age when people first try the drug dropping from 30 to below 16, many young brains are at risk of harm from cannabis.

The key question for those in the field is not whether cannabis is associated with mental illness, but how to reduce the harm it causes.

The Mental Health Council of Australia says most of the effort must be directed at teenagers, many of whom do not associate their cannabis use with the negative feelings they are experiencing.

Read more of this story…

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