Cannabis. let facts guide your decisions

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1 Cannabis let facts guide your decisions

2 In this document we will describe what cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids are, their intoxication effects, how they affect us in the short and long term as well as the risks this may entail. Let us start with four common questions on cannabis: Is it possible to become addicted to cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids? Yes, and it can occur almost without you noticing it as the physical withdrawal symptoms are fairly mild. The addiction is more psychological than physical. You crave those first experiences of intoxication but if you continue to use the drug on a regular basis another mechanism will come into the picture. You will then find yourself in a permanent state of lethargy and passivity and will only feel active and normal after using the drug.

3 Is it true that cannabis is legal in certain countries? In accordance with the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, all free trade of substances classified as narcotics, such as cannabis, is prohibited. Despite the drug being illegal, some countries have weakened the legislation and allow for example the possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use. In Sweden it is prohibited to use, possess, sell and help others acquire cannabis. Is alcohol more dangerous than cannabis? It is pointless to compare the danger of two different drugs. Both result in intoxication, which increases the risk of accidents and impairs judgment. Both can also be addictive. In addition, both have harmful long-term effects when used repeatedly. Alcohol can damage the liver and cause cancer, among other things. The most thoroughly proven longterm risk of cannabis and synthetic cannabinoid use is that they impair brain function, particularly in young people. You can read more on page 6 about these damaging effects on the brain. Can cannabis be used as a medicinal product? Cannabis has medicinal effects and can ease pain, nausea, lack of appetite and muscle cramps but it can also cause severe adverse effects such as anxiety, hallucinations and depression. Cannabis is not an approved pharmaceutical. However, the Netherlands and some US states still approve the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. This is currently not the case in Sweden. However, there is an oral spray in Sweden, available only by prescription, which contains THC (a substance in cannabis that affects the brain s receptors). It is used to reduce spastic cramps in people suffering from the neurological disease MS. There is also a great deal of research currently underway which seeks to find new effective and secure pharmaceuticals that affect the same systems in the body as cannabis does.

4 Cannabis Cannabis is an umbrella term for marijuana, hash and hash oil that are produced from hemp plants including Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. The most common way to use hash and marijuana is to smoke it. Hash oil can be used by heating it up and inhaling the vapour. Cannabis preparations can also be mixed into food or drink and taken orally. Synthetic cannabinoids There are growing numbers of synthetically produced drugs, made to give intoxicating effects similar to those obtained by cannabis. These substances are called synthetic cannabinoids and are often mixed with herbs and/or tobacco. The mixes are intended for smoking. Examples of product names are Spice, Black Mamba, K2 and Lava Red. The smoke mixtures often contain higher concentrations of active ingredients than cannabis, which also increases the risks. Marijuana the bud and other plant parts that have been dried and ground into fine particles. Looks similar to dried grass or herbs. 4 Hash dried resin from the hemp plant, brown or almost black pieces. Hash Oil extracted from the plant with the aid of chemical solvents, a thick brown liquid.

5 How cannabis affects you Cannabis contains many substances that affect the psyche. The strongest one is delta-g-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC. Researchers have so far identified two types of receptors that cannabis binds to in the body, and given them the designations CB1 and CB2. CB1 is the most common in the brain. When THC binds to these receptors in the brain, several different signal systems are affected. One of the effects is that the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain reward system. The release offers a harmonious sense of pleasure and is at the same time strongly linked to the development of addiction. During cannabis intoxication, sensory impressions are enhanced. The reward system is far from the only area of the brain affected by cannabis. Areas in the frontal parts of the brain are also sensitive to cannabis intoxication and they govern functions such as analysis, decision making and control over behaviour. Cannabis intoxication therefore impairs capacity for thought and impulse control. The decreased capacity for thought can manifest through difficulties to concentrate, poor memory and impaired learning ability. Emotions can also be changed in a distressing manner. It can result in a feeling of panic and paranoia. Physical short-term effects include raised pulse, increased hunger, dry mouth, large pupils, bloodshot and watery eyes, clumsiness and poor balance. 5

6 Impaired memory and difficulties in learning Those who regularly use cannabis like to compare it to alcohol and think that one advantage with cannabis is that there is no hangover. It is easy to be deluded by the fact that you do not feel a hangover effect and believe that the effects of the drug quickly leave your system. In actual fact, THC leaves the body very slowly. This is because the substance, unlike the water-soluble alcohol, is fat-soluble and stored in organs with a high fat content. One such organ is the brain. When THC enters the body it transforms into several degradation products that are secreted in the urine. After using cannabis on a single occasion, degradation products can be traced in a urine sample for 1 2 weeks afterwards. After a period of continuous cannabis use, degradation products can be traced in the urine two months after the last occasion. The fact that THC leaves the body so slowly means that the decrease in brain functions lasts significantly longer than the 2 3 hours that the immediate cannabis intoxication lasts. Research shows that short-term memory and learning ability as a rule are impaired for 1 2 days. THC stays in the body much longer than that and with repeated use, this storage process means that the levels are constantly high enough to impair brain functions. Consequently, if an individual smokes cannabis 1 2 times per month or more frequently, their memory, concentration and learning abilities are constantly impaired. They also become less capable of expressing themselves and planning ahead. This means that academic studies and cannabis use is an unsuccessful combination. 6

7 If an individual smokes cannabis 1 2 times per month or more frequently, their memory, concentration and learning abilities are constantly impaired. They also become less capable of expressing themselves and planning ahead. This means that academic studies and cannabis use is an unsuccessful combination. The brains of young people are particularly sensitive to damaging effects as the brain s biological maturity continues to the age of 25. A number of research results indicate that the brain cannot fully repair the damaging effects of cannabis even if you stop using the drug. One study showed that individuals who started smoking cannabis when they were teen agers had a lower IQ when they were middle-aged, even though they had stopped smoking many years ago. Early use of cannabis also entails an increased risk of developing anxiety syndromes, depression and addiction to cannabis or other drugs later in life. Memory, concentration and learning ability are impaired by cannabis. The abilities to analyse and make decisions are also affected. 7

8 Synthetic cannabinoids often entail even greater risks Not for human consumption is often printed on the drugs sold on various websites. Substances with intoxicating effects are created in laboratories and sold, but the manufacturers do not want to take responsibility for how their products affect health. At the same time there are powerful financial interests that argue for the legalisation of these drugs. Many of these online drugs are synthetic cannabinoids substances made to give intoxicating effects similar to those obtained by cannabis. According to experts, such products can entail some of the same risks connected to cannabis, but also greater and more serious risks as the substances bind even more to the brain receptors susceptible to cannabis. Furthermore, the concentration of active ingredients is, as a rule, much higher in synthetic products, which further increases the risks of damage. Finally, synthetic canna binoids are more dangerous because they lack the ingredient cannabidiol that is found in the hemp plant and which to some extent lessens the damaging effects. Synthetic cannabinoids have caused acute psychoses, panic attacks, palpitations, increased blood pressure, vomiting and cramps, amongst others. There have also been cases of deaths in connection with the use of synthetic cannabinoids. 8

9 Many of these online drugs are synthetic cannabinoids substances made to give intoxicating effects similar to those obtained by cannabis. According to experts, such products can entail some of the same risks connected to cannabis, but also greater and more serious risks as the substances bind even more to the brain receptors susceptible to cannabis. 9

10

11 Risks Regular cannabis use can inhibit mental development and subsequently affect personality. This is in part due to the effects of the drug impairing the ability to reflect upon yourself and your views and to con sciously change your way of thinking. Cannabis use affects brain function. Memory as well as concentration and learning ability are decreased. Cannabis use increases the risk of mental illness depression, anxiety, short-term psychoses, panic disorder and schizophrenia and for suicide. The risk of traffic accidents increases: A compilation of collected international knowledge published in 2013 shows that smoking cannabis within three hours prior to operating a vehicle almost doubles the risk of causing a traffic accident. In this study the researchers could for the first time separate the accident risks caused by cannabis from the risks caused by alcohol and other drugs. Smoking cannabis during pregnancy can cause foetal damage and lead to a slower mental and social maturity in the child, among other things. Smoking cannabis can cause lung cancer and other serious respiratory diseases. 11

12 Would you like to know more? We hope that you have learned something new about cannabis and that you now have facts that will help you make wise decisions in the future. If you want to read more about cannabis you will find tips for further reading and links below. Good luck with your studies! Links can.se, cannabishjalpen.se, drugsmart.com, droginfo.com folkhalsomyndigheten.se, hjarnguiden.se You can find advice and support here If you have questions about your own or someone else s cannabis use, please contact the Student Health Unit. Solna Nobels väg 18, SE Solna Östersund Forskarens väg 3, SE Östersund Folkhälsomyndigheten, 2014 ISBN (pdf) ISBN (print) Graphic production: AB Typoform Print: Edita, 2014

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