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What are the dangers?

There have been many studies looking into the physical and psychological effects of regular cannabis use. In fact the amount of studies, are numerous and the findings can often be contradictory, depending on who carries out the research.

The young people who use regularly will ignore the information which may highlight the dangers and focus on the less damaging evidence. I have heard from young people that cannabis is less harmful than tobacco, it is a natural plant so cannot be that bad, it makes them more confident, it makes them more creative, these and other reasons make it very difficult to persuade young people to stop using. This has been recognised by the agencies that support and inform young people and it is why they will inform them of the dangers and look initially at harm reduction rather than total abstinence.

You can check the links below for more information on the risks involved, these are mainly as follows:

• The legal consequences for being found In possession or supplying

• Physical harm (the way that the smoke is inhaled and held in longer)

• The effect on the short term memory, lack of concentration, lethargy (not helpful when trying to study)

• Possible link to mental health problems

• Feelings of anxiety and paranoia

• Some cannabis may have unsuspected additives a recent study has found, glass, pesticides, lead and aluminium

The problem when trying to point these dangers out to young people or any addict for that matter is that they feel that it will not happen to them, that they are in control and can quit whenever they want to, they will stop before any lasting damage is done, they know someone who has been using for years and they are fine.

In conversations with young people I have found that concentrating on the effects on the brain gets the most attention. When they understand that the brain is still developing and will continue to do so into their twenties, and that the damage that may be done may be irreversible, it will give some of them food for thought. During the teenage years the brain goes through massive neural development and any experience or psychoactive substance that interferes with this process has the potential to produce long- term psychology effects. This is even more so if there is a history of mental illness in the family.

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