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2022 World Drug Report – accelerated drug use where cannabis is legalised

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has released its 2022 World Drug Report, showing increased drug use worldwide and accelerated daily use (and related health impacts) in parts of the world where cannabis has been legalised.

Here are the key findings from the 2022 World Drug Report:

  • Approx. 284 million people aged 15-64 used drugs worldwide in 2020, a 26 per cent increase over the previous decade

  • Cannabis legalisation in parts of the world appears to have accelerated daily use and related health impacts

  • Cannabis legalisation in North America appears to have increased daily cannabis use, especially potent cannabis products and particularly among young adults.

  • Associated increases in people with psychiatric disorders, suicides and hospitalisations have also been reported

  • Record rises in the manufacturing of cocaine, growing 11 percent

  • 1.2 million people worldwide were injecting drugs

  • Trafficking of methamphetamine continues to expand geographically, especially in South East Asia (up by 30 percent)

Women remain in the minority of drug users globally yet tend to increase their rate of drug consumption and progress to drug use disorders more rapidly than men do. Women now represent an estimated 45-49 per cent of users of amphetamines and non-medical users of pharmaceutical stimulants, pharmaceutical opioids, sedatives, and tranquillisers.

Increased drug use also creates negative outcomes for the environment. Key findings include that the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis is between 16 and 100 times more than outdoor cannabis on average and that the footprint of 1 kilogram of cocaine is 30 times greater than that of cocoa beans.

Other environmental impacts include substantial deforestation.


Research: Marijuana users more likely to need emergency care and hospitalisation

New Canadian study, published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, suggests that cannabis use is associated with increased risk for serious adverse health events, and is linked to heightened emergency care and hospital admissions. Researchers conclude “its recreational consumption in the general population should be discouraged”.

“Our research demonstrates that cannabis use in the general population is associated with heightened risk of clinically serious negative outcomes, specifically, needing to present to the ED [emergency department] or be admitted to hospital.” says Dr. Nicholas Vozoris (MD, FRCPC, MHSc), respirologist and lead author of the study. 

The research analysed the national health survey and health records data for 35,114 Canadians aged 12 to 65, from January 2009 until December 2015.

Cannabis users were 22 percent more likely than those who don’t use the drug to end up in emergency care or become hospitalised for any reason. Acute trauma (15%) was the most common cause of emergency admissions, followed closely by respiratory health (14%).

“Unlike tobacco, there is some uncertainty or controversy regarding the adverse health impacts of cannabis. Some individuals may perceive that cannabis has some health benefits and is otherwise benign. Our research highlights to those using – or considering to use – cannabis, that this behavior is associated with important negative health events.” says Dr. Vozoris.

Dr. Vozoris is an Assistant Professor and Clinician Investigator within the Division of Respirology, Department of Medicine, at the University of Toronto. He is also a Staff Respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The evidence is telling, and the message is clear: avoiding recreational drugs, including cannabis, is the only safe choice.

Read more here …

*This post was written by Family First staff writers.

Research: Little evidence for the long-term benefits of medical cannabis

Despite the hype around cannabis products, there is “very little scientifically valid research into most of these products” according to a new systematic review by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University. Reviewers searched more than 3,000 studies in the scientific literature and found only 25 with scientifically valid evidence—18 randomised controlled studies and seven observational studies of at least four weeks. A review of these 25 studies concluded there was insufficient evidence for the long-term pain-relieving effect of cannabis”. This is consistent with a 2020 review by psychiatrists at the University of Melbourne, which concluded the evidence is too weak’ to prove cannabis helps anxiety, depression or insomnia”.

“Many reviews were unable to provide firm conclusions on the effectiveness of medical cannabis, and results of reviews were mixed. Mild adverse effects were frequently but inconsistently reported, and it is possible that harms may outweigh benefits.”

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine and National Library of Medicine

“In general, the limited amount of evidence surprised all of us,” said lead author Marian S. McDonagh, Pharm.D., emeritus professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

“Unfortunately, there is very little scientifically valid research into most these products,” she said. “We saw only a small group of observational cohort studies on cannabis products that would be easily available in states that allow it, and these were not designed to answer the important questions on treating chronic pain.”

Researchers found many of the products now available at U.S. dispensaries have not been well studied.

“For some cannabis products, such as whole-plant products, the data are sparse with imprecise estimates of effect and studies had methodological limitations,” the authors write.

This situation makes it very difficult to for health professionals to safely guide patients.

Pro-cannabis advocates greatly overstate the supposed ‘health’ benefits of cannabis, yet there is simply very little evidence for the benefits of the drug. There are major gaps in knowledge that put in doubt the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis.

Before any drug is approved and released to the wider population, it must typically undergo a lengthy review process involving extensive research and ongoing clinical trials. This simply has not been done for most cannabis products. In fact, since cannabis products vary significantly in chemical make-up, it means no two cannabis products are the same.

“Cannabis products vary quite a bit in terms of their chemical composition, and this could have important effects in terms of benefits and harm to patients,” said co-author Roger Chou, M.D., director of OHSU’s Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center. “That makes it tough for patients and clinicians since the evidence for one cannabis-based product may not be the same for another.”

Yes, researchers did find some evidence to support a short-term benefit in treating some neuropathic pain caused by damage to peripheral nerves. This research involved only two cannabis products. Both products also lead to notable side effects including sedation and dizziness, according to the review.

The harms of medical cannabis may outweigh any claimed benefits.

US: Cannabis legalisation sees “spiralling psychotic illnesses … and booming black market”

We are now seeing some highly alarming outcomes from legalising cannabis in US states, including “spiralling addiction, psychotic illnesses and hospitals facing a deluge of poisonings”. This absolutely affirms New Zealand made the only safe decision by voting NO to dope at the 2020 cannabis legalisation referendum. Legalising recreational cannabis would have been a disaster for New Zealand.

Remember the claims made by pro-drug activists in support of cannabis legalisation in New Zealand. According to the Government, the Green Party, NZ Drug Foundation and Helen Clark Foundation, we were supposed believe that legalising recreational cannabis would lead to significant health benefits, reduced black market, no increase in usage, reduction in mental health issues, reduced crime and so on. Thankfully, 51.2% of us weren’t fooled into believing this, just enough Kiwis to vote down the proposed cannabis legalisation bill.

And there is continued mounting evidence refuting those pro-cannabis claims. US states that legalised recreational cannabis 8 or so years ago are instead seeing spiralling addiction, psychotic illnesses and even deaths. Meanwhile the illegal cannabis market in California is booming, estimated to be worth £6 billion – twice that of the legal industry. Gangs continue to sell products at a higher potency and lower price, thus undercutting the registered shops.

Scientists overwhelmingly conclude that frequent use of the drug is not worth the risks.

In summary, here are some conclusions from the latest research and data:

  • Record levels of cannabis use in states where cannabis has been legalised
  • Experts describe these highly concentrated products as ‘the crack cocaine of cannabis’, and say demand for ever-stronger stuff is another by-product of legalisation
  • Surge in addiction and mental illness – depressive breakdowns, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, all related to cannabis
  • Hospital admissions for cannabis-related complications have shot up – from 1,400 in 2005 to 16,000 by 2019
  • Recreational marijuana users were 25 per cent more likely to end up needing emergency hospital treatment
  • Scientists overwhelmingly conclude that frequent use of the drug is not worth the risks
  • Frequent and heavy cannabis use is becoming normalised in California
  • Rates of addiction are nearly 40 per cent higher in states that have legalised cannabis, than states without legal cannabis
  • Risk of being involved in a cannabis-related accident is significantly higher in states where the drug is legal
  • The black market that has grown by nearly 100 per cent since cannabis laws were relaxed, as bootleggers sell products at a lower price, undercutting the registered shops
  • The illegal cannabis market in California is booming, estimated to be worth £6 billion – twice that of the legal industry
  • Rapid increase of unlicensed stores prescribing and selling medical cannabis
  • Major review of 25 studies concluded there was insufficient evidence for the long-term pain-relieving effect of cannabis
  • 2020 review by psychiatrists at the University of Melbourne concluded the evidence is ‘too weak’ to prove cannabis helps anxiety, depression or insomnia

So this refutes virtually every claim made by pro-drug activists in support of cannabis legalisation.

“We’ve been sold a lie, that cannabis use is harmless and even has a multitude of health benefits. It is exactly the same as what happened with tobacco. The industry told the public it was good for their health at first, before it was proven to be deadly.”

Sourced from Mail on Sunday. Read full article here.

Don’t Downplay the Risks of Rising Teen Marijuana Use – by Dr. Kevin Sabet

This article is written by Dr. Kevin Sabet. He is a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama administration and currently serves as president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. His latest book, Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know, was published on April 20 by Simon & Schuster.

Don’t Downplay the Risks of Rising Teen Marijuana Use

Late last month, the Biden-Harris administration released its National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS). As a former senior drug policy adviser in the Obama administration who helped write the NDCS in 2009, I know how much work this document requires. This year’s strategy addresses untreated addiction and the rise in marijuana use by teens and young adults, and advocates for the expansion of youth-focused drug education campaigns, among other things.

Ironically, the president’s strategy is being introduced just as talk of federal marijuana legalization is ramping up in the halls of Capitol Hill, and as states like New Jersey and New York are preparing to launch retail sales.

Kids are getting mixed messages. While teen alcohol use and smoking rates have steadily declined, marijuana use rates have increased––and there’s no doubt that legalization has played a part. Despite claims to the contrary from pro-pot activists, youth marijuana use has been going up following legalization. A 2021 study found legalization in California was associated with higher youth use; researchers noted that “increases observed in California may portend continued increases in adolescent marijuana use in future years.” A study of Seattle youth found that “nonmedical marijuana legalization predicted a higher likelihood of self-reported past-year marijuana and alcohol use among youth.” Oregon, a state that legalized marijuana eight years ago, now has the highest rate of monthly marijuana use by 12-to-17-year-olds in the country. A study comparing Alaska, a state with legal marijuana, with Hawaii, a state without such a policy, found Alaska’s rate of marijuana use went up after legalization, while Hawaii’s rate actually decreased.

Researchers have further found that youth aged 12 to 17 in states with legalized marijuana were 25 percent more likely to have Cannabis Use Disorder than youth in states without legalized marijuana. And a study that found youth use declining in legal states—which garnered dozens of headlines and was touted by legalization advocates—was retracted last month.

Marijuana use has also skyrocketed among young adults. College-aged youth in particular are seeing historic levels of use, with almost half having used marijuana in the past year—the highest levels recorded since the 1980s. Even the pro-legalization Cato Institute recently acknowledged that, “All states that have legalized marijuana fall below the average U.S. risk perception,” which has resulted in more youth in those states using the drug. Today more than 15 million Americans report using marijuana daily, up from 6 million in 2009 and 900,000 in 1992.

Marijuana is playing a big part in today’s teen mental health crisis. Young people today face astronomical rates of psychological distress, only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to increased feelings of persistent sadness, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. A study of young people with mood disorders by researchers at Ohio State University found that “the presence of cannabis use disorder was significantly associated with an increased risk of nonfatal self-harm, all-cause mortality, and death by unintentional overdose and homicide.”

In February 2022, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who issued an advisory in late 2021 on the youth mental health crisis, testified during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. “When kids also have underlying mental health conditions, the impact of marijuana use can also be more significant,” he told the committee. “I worry…about the messages we may send that say this is ‘utterly harmless’ and ‘there’s no problem here.'”

Dr. Murthy is right. Today’s high-potency marijuana is not Woodstock weed—it has been genetically engineered to have a much higher potency. More potency means more harm. Not only is potency increasing, but so are rates of daily use, and daily marijuana use is associated with an increased likelihood of developing psychosis. Researchers reported daily users of high-potency marijuana were more than four times as likely to develop psychosis. And the link to suicide is, unfortunately, becoming far too common.

Amid America’s opioid overdose epidemic, it is common to disregard the harms of marijuana—but we cannot ignore them.

A study published last week in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that teen opioid overdose deaths nearly doubled in 2020. The opioid epidemic is no doubt having a catastrophic impact on this generation, but legal weed is not the solution. States with legal weed don’t have better rates of opioid overdoses; in fact, research shows that those states fare worse, as another study confirmed in April.

What does all of this mean for parents and policy makers?

We can’t overlook or downplay the risks of today’s highly potent marijuana. We must educate kids on the risks and harms of marijuana use. And as we discuss federal legalization and state rollouts like the ones happening in New York and New Jersey, we must proceed with caution and skepticism.

Dr. Kevin Sabet is a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama administration and currently serves as president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana. His latest book, Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know, was published on April 20 by Simon & Schuster and is available everywhere books are sold.

‘Abysmally low’ – Few drug users engaging with Government’s helpline

Our present Government prefers a “health approach” to drug use in New Zealand, yet this approach does not appear to be favoured by many drug users. In fact, the number of drug users engaging with the Government’s recommended health referral service is ‘abysmally low’, from data released to the NZ Herald under the Official Information Act. Only six to seven drug users a month are engaging with a substance helpline after being given a health referral from police. This number is being described as “abysmally low”, and there’s been no sign of increased uptake five months after Health Minister Andrew Little stressed the importance of increasing uptake.

The Government and pro-drug advocates say that we shouldn’t charge drug offenders because it’s really a health issue. But if many drug users don’t appear to want health treatments, then perhaps drug-use is actually a lifestyle choice for many. Therefore they should be given a clear choice between health treatment or criminal charges – they choose which outcome. A sensible drug policy should be multi-faceted, rather than a one-dimensional health-only approach.

According to the NZ Herald report …

The referral – to Whakarongorau Aotearoa’s Alcohol Drug Helpline – was set up following changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which came into force in August 2019 and was hailed at the time as a turning point towards harm minimisation if someone’s most serious offence was using or possessing illegal substances. The Ministry of Health reviewed the impact of the law change last year, and one of the key findings was the extremely low rate of engagement with the referral pathway. In the 22 months since the law change, police data shows 8586 people faced the possibility of a drug use charge as their most serious offence, but only 959 health referrals were made – or about 44 of about 390 people a month. The referrals are made via an app, and the user is then sent a text message by an alcohol and drug helpline. Only 147 of the 959 people responded to the text message.

If you say you want a ‘health’ approach, the coercion of the law is necessary to force that drug addiction support. National Party health spokesman Shane Reti said a health response centred on an automated text message “strains credibility”. “A text message is not a health response, and certainly not an otherwise alternative to a conviction for use or possession of drugs. The minimum for an adequate health response as an alternative to conviction for drugs should be a requirement to at least meet with a health professional.”

A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ:

  • 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. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide an important societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy – maintaining its illegality but using a smart arrest policy combined with the coercion of the law is the correct response to drug use.


Read the full NZ Herald article here.

UK: Surge in psychosis after Scots decriminalise cannabis

Scotland is showing the world what happens when cannabis is decriminalised – mental health illness soars, with admissions to psychiatric hospitals increasing by 74 percent. Last year, a record number of patients in Scotland sought hospital treatment for psychiatric disorders blamed on cannabis, including schizophrenia (source: NHS data)

A previous Public Health Scotland report also stated psychiatric admissions for cannabis users doubled between 2014 and 2020.

“There has been a notable increase in the percentage of [psychiatric hospital] stays attributed to cannabinoids in recent years, increasing from 9% in 2014/15 to 18% in 2019/20.”

Source: The Sunday Post.

So the trend is obvious – decriminalise (or legalise) cannabis, and mental health problems skyrocket. One US study found that cannabis-linked psychosis admissions are 2.5 times higher in areas where the drug has been legalised. Harvard Medical School studied 246 new psychosis patients aged 16 to 35 and found 78 per cent had used cannabis.

Professor Jonathan Chick, of Castle Craig Hospital, a private rehabilitation centre in Peeblesshire, says:

’We do need to worry about the numbers of young people presenting with psychosis and schizophrenia because of it.

‘We’re dealing with both dependence and psychosis. Often, where there has been a second or third psychotic breakdown, there has been hospital or police involvement because of incidents of self-harm or harm to others.

‘These patients have terrifying thoughts. It is a paranoid psychosis where they can’t even go into the street without misinterpreting thoroughly innocuous cues as malevolent. It is a horrible experience.’

He added: ‘In some cases, people have used cannabis for 20 years and got by up till that point – but typically psychosis will occur within the first three to four years.

‘Sometimes the damage is permanent, in which case the treatment for schizophrenia involves living and working in safer environments and medication.’

Many studies have shown a strong link between cannabis and mental illness. Yet there are still calls to legalise cannabis across all of the UK. Surely this is madness? Fortunately New Zealand voted NO to legalising cannabis in the 2020 referendum. Let’s keep it that way.

Read more here.

McBLOG: Promised benefits of legalising cannabis are hot air

How harmful is cannabis? Does legalisation actually work?
The LA Times newspaper endorsed the referendum ‘Prop 64’ in 2016 which resulted in cannabis being legalised for recreational use in California. Five years later, they have to admit that very little about the proposition is actually working as promised.
And new research has continued to highlight the harms of cannabis use – including acute cognitive impairments and psychosis.

Research: TikTok Serves up ‘Humorous’ Cannabis Videos to Teens

It’s very concerning that teens are at risk of illicit drug use after being exposed to TikTok videos that portray cannabis-use as “humorous or entertaining” rather than risky, according to University of Queensland (UQ) research.
Lead author and PhD student Brienna Rutherford from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research said:
“We know this exposure can influence an adolescent’s attitudes and potentially lead to problematic cannabis use, posing the risk of mental health issues or neuropsychological decline.”
Social Media platforms appear quick to stamp out misinformation on other subjects, so why not stamp out misinformation about drugs?
Read the full story here.

Research – Significant Association Between Cannabis Use and Psychotic Disorders

Researchers find that recreational use of cannabis was significantly associated with a diagnosis of psychotic disorder. Their findings have been published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Here’s what they conclude:

“Nonmedical cannabis use and cannabis use disorder were consistently associated with self-reported psychotic disorders over time, while frequent and daily/near-daily use was also associated with self-reported psychotic disorders in the more recent survey. The increasing perception of cannabis as a harmless substance may deter the general public as well as health care providers from recognizing that nonmedical cannabis use may play a role in exacerbating the risk for psychotic disorders.

Therefore, improving public knowledge and educating providers about this risk may serve a useful function. In particular, identifying cannabis use disorder may help indicate individuals at increased risk of psychotic disorders. This information can inform addiction specialists and other clinicians about the need for evaluation and appropriate interventions and therapeutic modalities for individuals at risk.”

Read full article here:

Significant Association Between Cannabis Use and Psychotic Disorders