Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Worldwide Concerns about Cannabis Usage

According to the 2006 United Nations World Drug Report, cannabis in the form of marijuana or hashish is the most commonly used drug in the world. Approximately four percent of the world's adult population used cannabis in 2004, and cannabis use is growing all around the globe. In the U.S., eleven percent of the adult population over twelve years of age uses cannabis regularly, with a high concentration of users falling in the under twenty-five crowd.

According to the U.N.:

Two types of cannabis are produced in the world drug market. Production of cannabis herb (marijuana) is widely dispersed. Cannabis resin (hashish) is produced in about 40 countries in the world...

The type of cannabis most popular in the world and in North America is herbal cannabis which comes from the leaves and flowers of the plant and is called marijuana. On the other hand, cannabis resin, which is most popular in Europe, is the pressed secretions of the plant and is called hashish.

Countries have difficulty estimating use accurately because cannabis can be grown easily in virtually any country, indoors or out. Even when grown out of doors, the plant can be interspersed with others, making detection by authorities difficult. "Unlike other illicit drugs, users can, and do, cultivate their own supply, and so production is diffuse." Estimates of cannabis use must therefore be extrapolated from seizures.

As it turns out, cannabis is not a relatively harmless drug, as it has often been portrayed. The plant itself has been altered over the last several decades, and much is still unknown about this drug. The United Nations report warns:

There are two sets of developments that should cause policymakers to re-think their positions on cannabis. One is a doubling of potency in sinsemilla cannabis (consisting of the unfertilised buds of the female plant) and a growing market share for this drug. The second is recent research indicating that the health risks associated with cannabis consumption may have been underestimated in the past. The two trends may be related: as high-potency cannabis grows in popularity, the risks of consumption may have been thrown into high relief.

Since the 1970s, cannabis breeders in North America and Europe have been working to create more potent cannabis, and the market for high-potency, indoor-produced sinsemilla appears to be growing in many key consumption countries. Sinsemilla potency has increased dramatically in the last decade in the United States, Canada, and Netherlands – the three countries at the vanguard of cannabis breeding and production technology – and there are indications that its market share is growing in many others.

While more research is required to determine the impact of this ‘new’ cannabis, there has been an increase of acute health episodes, with the number of people complaining of ‘unexpected effects’ of consuming cannabis in emergency rooms increasing in the United States. Similarly, in parallel, there has been a growth of rehabilitation demand by those seeking help with cannabis problems in the United States and Europe.

In addition, the most recent research indicates that the health risks of using cannabis have been underestimated in the past. About 9 per cent of those who try cannabis find themselves unable to stop using the drug. Cannabis has been linked to precipitating psychosis in vulnerable individuals, and aggravating its symptoms in diagnosed schizophrenics. Cannabis can also produce negative acute effects, including panic attacks, paranoia, and psychotic symptoms.

Despite the popular perception that the risks of cannabis are widely understood, new research indicates that there is still much to be learned about the drug. At the same time, cannabis itself is changing, and more potent forms of the drug are growing in popularity.
Note: All italics are mine.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has published its 2006 World Drug Report on the internet for easy access in pdf files. In Volume 1, not only do they mention cannabis in chapter one with other illicit drugs, but they feature cannabis in the whole second chapter. The executive summary also contains a section entitled, "Cannabis: Why We Should Care", which may be the best place to start for an overall view.

Useful links:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
World Drug Report 2006: Executive Summary
World Drug Report 2006- Volume 1: Analysis
World Drug Report 2006- Volume 2: Statistics

Parents: The Anti-Drug section on marijuana
FoxNews story


At 6/27/2006 9:29 AM, Anonymous NosyNeighbor said...

Four percent of the world's population? Four? How many are using Heroin, Crack, Meth, etc.? These are the drugs that they world should be worried about. These are the drugs that are killing our children. How many times have you heard of a marijuana overdose? THC is not a physically addicting substance. It may be mentally addicting but the body doesn't physcially become addicted as is the case in herion, cocaine, etc. Now, I'm not sure that additives in the "new" crops aren't physically addicting but the naturally grown marijuana plant is not.

While addiction to any substance is nothing to laugh at, there are many other drugs that are much more harmful to one's body, soul, loved ones and society in general. Hell, there are perscription drugs that are way more damaging and addicting!

I'm sure there are more people addicted to and using alochol than marijuana yet because it's "legal" (taxable by the government) we turn the other cheek. I'm also willing to wage a bet that more people die from the direct and indirect use of alochol than marijuana.

And in case you're wondering I am not a user. I was back in my high school days but that was a long, long time ago. :)

At 6/27/2006 10:12 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

There are whole sections in the report on other drugs also and of course they are of concern.

Sure, there are worse drugs. The UN Report didn't shirk from reporting on them either. Cannabis is the most abused, however. And notice that a full 11% of the adult population in the U.S. are regular users. It is at the very least considered a gateway drug, a starting place on the road to full-scale drug abuse.

They are finding that it is more harmful than was thought. It is far more potent than back in the '60's and '70's when its use took off, so it may not be the same drug that those of us who are older remember. People are coming to emergency rooms because of unintended side effects.

About 9% of users do become addicted. In addition to the other side effects, cannabis usage can precipitate psychosis in those who have a susceptibility to diseases in that category. Personally, I would prefer not to find out if I could possibly be one of those. :)

Obviously, for self-respecting and health conscious souls, any drug or alcohol abuse is to be avoided.

At 6/27/2006 2:18 PM, Blogger AnonymousOpinion said...

I don't disagree with you, but I'm just surprised that you would quote the UN of all places. :-)

At 6/27/2006 3:19 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

I know. I know. The Irony of it all! Thought about it the whole time I was typing away, too! I figured someone would have to call me on it.

But as I considered the inconguity, I figured what the heck could the UN do to mess up a study like that one? And as I read through sections of it, it appeared they had their ducks in a row (although what ducks have to do with drugs is beyond me.) :)

At 6/30/2006 9:46 PM, Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

Pot has drawbacks but it is a healing medicinal herb as well and the idea that it is bannished is well known to be tied to corporate poly-fiber makers early in the last century (read DuPont) that wanted to eliminate a competetor - hemp fiber......Pot (using the UN figures: 9% of 4% addicted to an herb that is SOOOOO much less harmful than any other drug - legal like tobacco or not) is nothing, nothing to go to "war" over.


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