Harvard University Weighs in on Casual Cannabis Use

There is a long-standing argument as to whether or not long-term cannabis use is dangerous to the human body. Proponents of recreational cannabis claim using the drug on a casual basis has no direct effects except in very specific cases. Those on the other side of the argument claim that cannabis, in any amount, can be detrimental to the brain. Recently, America’s Harvard University weighed in on the topic.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School conducted a study involving two groups of students: one group that casually used cannabis but were not addicted, and a second group that never used it. It turns out that two different areas of the brain are measurably affected by cannabis. These areas are directly involved in motivation, emotion, and addiction potential. Among the students who used cannabis casually, brain function was noticeably different.

Researchers concluded that casual cannabis use just once or twice per week could result in permanent brain damage. Unfortunately, the 3-D brain scans used to prove their hypothesis could not explain exactly what the brain damage leads to. Nevertheless, the research seems to support decades-old research that suggests cannabis users who start using prior to age 15 are four times more likely to develop psychosis later in life.

Imperial College London professor David Nutt, a former government drug advisor, criticised the American research on the basis that a sample of 40 students is not enough to draw any real conclusions. He also asserted that any harm cannabis presents is much less than that of alcohol. With regards to both arguments, Prof Nutt is likely correct. Yet that does not mean that smoking cannabis is a wise idea.

Gateway Problem

Regardless of the severity of cannabis related brain damage, very few in the medical community argue that cannabis can be addictive and can be a gateway to stronger drugs. Time and again, rehab clinics treat addicts whose first experience with drugs came by way of smoking marijuana. Any drug with the potential of introducing users to something stronger and more harmful should be avoided.

One of the American researchers, Dr Hans Breiter, suggests cannabis should not be used by anyone under the age of 30 unless a specific medical condition requires it. In other words, people with certain diseases and illnesses can benefit from the pain relieving aspects of cannabis. However, other than that, Breiter believes the drug should be avoided.

Breiter’s assertions lead to another obvious controversy over whether or not medical marijuana should be dispensed as a combustible product or in tablet form. There is also the question of high and low THC products and their medical applications. It seems the farther we go down this path, the more confusing it becomes.

Abstinence Is the Best Solution

Rather than continuing to debate the validity of cannabis as a safe drug for casual use, we believe a better approach is simply to adopt abstinence as the best solution. One can never suffer cannabis-related brain damage if he or she does not use the drug. Likewise, someone cannot become an alcoholic if he or she never drinks alcohol.

In the UK, we have a serious problem with drugs of all kinds. We are only making the problem worse by arguing over things like cannabis. Our efforts would be better directed toward educating people about why taking drugs of any kind is dangerous. We would also do well to figure out why people start down the road to addiction to begin with. If we can address those factors, perhaps we can eventually reach a stage where a debate over casual cannabis use, unlike cannabis addiction, is meaningful.

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