Should cannabis be legalized

Should cannabis be legalized?

There is a growing tolerance towards marijuana in the western world. Medical marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-induced nausea appears to be the first main arguments for approval. The fact that cannabis use can provide relief for chronic pain has recently been accepted by lawmakers in Germany and new regulations have been created. At the same time, the idea of ​​dealing with illegal activity and hidden drug behavior by releasing recreational drugs is growing. The authors comment on this critically.

In Australia, the renowned Professor Robin Room of the University of Melbourne asked his government to legalize hemp as a "youth protection measure" due to health and social aspects. Proponents of cannabis clearance also argue that the acquisition and consumption of alcohol is not a criminal offense, and spread the claim that cannabis is supposedly less dangerous to health than alcohol. The states of the United States that recently legalized cannabis faced a very serious methamphetamine problem. Methamphetamines cause considerable health problems even at low doses. This problem lets seek remedial action. Some believe they have found the solution in cannabis.

How does addiction arise?

The addiction occurs mainly in the central nervous system and there in the mesolimbic dopaminergic system. Here, the various addictive substances cause the intoxication by reacting at the receptors of the nerve cells of the anterior tegmentum and, via action potentials, leading to the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Incidentally, all addictive substances can cause considerable physical and psychological damage to health and often lead to death.

Hashish or its active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can under certain circumstances cause considerable depression and anxiety attacks. Schizophrenia and psychosis are discussed. A strong link between cannabis and suicide has been seen in connection with psychological and behavioral disorders. The effect of THC on the spermogenesis of the male gonads can also prevent the man’s fertility after several years of consumption. In addition, the cognitive-intellectual abilities are impaired as a result of hashish consumption under acute exposure, which could be reversible after discontinuation of the drug. Impairment through intoxication, reversible or irreversible, would in any case represent an addictive event for a certain period of time.

According to a study, small amounts of THC mean that people are no longer able to drive on the road. The reasons for this are attention disorders and misunderstanding of reality as well as disturbed spatial perception, hallucinations and loss of control over the vehicle as a result of coordination disorders in the fine motor skills of the muscles. Contrary to the argument that only heavy or frequent use of cannabis reduces mental ability, the authors found that irregular use in particular makes people unable to drive.

Cannabis and alcohol: an inadmissible comparison

Compared to stimulants like amphetamines, which induce increased arousal and alertness, cannabis is more likely to slow down the central nervous system. Therefore, in subcultures, it is often taken after amphetamines or stimulants. Conversely, amphetamines try to eliminate the anxiety that cannabis can cause. So there could be a correlation between methamphetamine and cannabis use. It has been observed that many users of stimulating drugs, such as the “wake-up amines” amphetamine and methamphetamine, cannabis and benzodiazepines use to offset the disturbing effects. In subcultures and anonymous Internet sites, cannabis is even propagated as a therapeutic agent in order to be able to break away from methamphetamine addiction more easily, in the sense of "driving out the devil with the Belzebub".

Although the dangers of alcohol are widely known, its dangerousness is revised from time to time. Its consumption is regulated by law in connection with road traffic. A recently published study discovered that the consumption of alcoholic beverages in small quantities is harmful to health. Although the risk of harm from alcohol varies from person to person, the figures for criminal offenses and traffic offenses in connection with alcohol are sometimes high.

In the reasons for the legalization of cannabis, large amounts of alcohol up to "binge drinking" were often compared to small amounts of cannabis. This cannot lead to a proper assessment. It is also not sensible to justify social tolerance of the toxic effects of one substance with that of another. Alcohol, despite the harm that is possible under its influence, is culturally established. The next addictive substance, cannabis, is to be established, whereby it can be hypothetically assumed that the extent of damage increases under the influence of addiction. It is not uncommon for cannabis to trigger psychological disorders the first time or in subsequent intoxicating experiences. This means that just one test can be devastating. Even where goodwill is shown and the medical effects of marijuana are to be emphasized, such as in pain management, the side effects such as hypotension, palpitations and psychological impairment as well as anxiety attacks emerged.

The call for legalization of addictive cannabis use is loud and the lobby is active, strong and ready to take arguments from all directions. One tries to emphasize the advantages of cannabis in negative contrast to methamphetamine and alcohol. It often confuses the value of medicinal cannabis with the right to use cannabis as a recreational drug, blurring the line between the two uses. A great need for cannabis legalization is propagated using a few possible therapeutic examples. The risk of a cultural establishment of legalized marijuana, which, like alcohol, will only allow little correction in the future, is not taken into account. More research is needed into the interaction of individual, already problematic, addictive substances.

1. Kauert G, Iwersen - Bergmann S: Drugs as a cause of traffic accidents, In Focus: Cannabis, Addiction, 2004, pages 327-333
2. Sabia S, Elbaz A, Britton A, Bell S, Dugravot A, Shipley M, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A: Alcohol consumption and cognitive decline in early old age, Neurology, 2014, 82 (4): pages 332- 339
3. Schreiber LH: Comparison of the health risks from alcohol or hashish, military medicine and military pharmacy, 2007; Pages 58-64

Jason R. Schreiber, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM), Department for Forensic Medicine, Monash University Melbourne / Australia;
Dr. med. Dr. jur. Lothar H. Schreiber, addiction medicine doctor, St. Wendel / Germany