The present issue of EXARTISEIS focuses on cannabis use and its implications. This decision was very much influenced by the debate that’s been going on for quite some time now, regarding the negative health effects from using the substance.
Cannabis is the most widely spread substance globally. It maintains its place as the most prevailing substance among youth, and men tend to report cannabis use more often than women. The prevalence of cannabis reaches the highest levels in the United States, and there’s a quite large number of studies focusing on the risks posed by cannabis use for schizophrenia, especially for people with a history of the disease or a genetic predisposition.
Recent studies in Canada and Sweden, also included in this issue, deal with the burden of disease from cannabis use as well as the social problems related to this phenomenon. It is worth noting that Prof Issidorides from the University of Athens, Department of Psychiatry, conducted a study in Greece a long time ago. The study was included in an international scientific publication. It focused on the implications of the systematic use of cannabis as well as the behavioural changes related to the use of the substance. We were also able to pull up an article describing the great influence of Grifﬁth Edwards in the policy making in the United Kingdom regarding cannabis use. His valid input underlined even back then important aspects of the use of cannabis both on an individual level and a social level as well.
Edwards argued that legalizing cannabis would probably lead to an increase of the systematic use of the substance. He expressed his scepticism for this type of policies, invoking similar policies for alcohol, and arguing that cannabis users will eventually become poly-drug users.
An article that appeared recently in ADDICTION (2015) verified his concerns regarding the negative implications from the chronic use of cannabis. The author of this article maintains that Edwards was right when he started referring to a cannabis use disorder.
Further investigating this issue we came across a very interesting study published in the journal ADDICTION in 2015, which supports that the systematic use of cannabis at the end of adolescence is associated with social, socioeconomic implications, cognitive functioning impairment, poor academic achievements as well as with unemployment, and dependence from welfare aid at the age of 40. The research included a total of 49,321 Swedish men born in 1949–51. The results of this study showed that systematic cannabis use usually coexists with the systematic use of tobacco and alcohol and that all these behaviours essentially influence negatively the social life of the individual in the future.
A similar research in Canada, presented in the current issue estimates that cannabis use is linked to premature mortality, disability, disease, lung cancer, schizophrenia and driving accidents.
In an effort to try and capture the mentality around the use of cannabis today in Greece, we found a paper on the attitudes and perceptions of parents about the use of cannabis in adolescence. The data were collected using an anonymous questionnaire in the prefecture of Thessaloniki, a town on the north of Greece. The results of the study showed that the educational level, the gender, as well as the personal experience of having used the substance influence greatly the perceptions around the risks related with the substance but also underlined a lack of information of the parents regarding agencies and services that offer prevention services.
Around the same time and in the same geographical area another study was conducted that dealt with the Individual counselling for parents who approach prevention units asking for help with cannabis use and problematic use of the internet by adolescents. The study showed that cannabis use co-exists with aggressive behaviours, isolation and anxiety, and this troubles the parents of adolescents. At the same time, both Greek studies showed that a use friendly culture and especially an ambivalent and allowing attitude on behalf of the parents about drug use reinforces adolescent drug use, especially in an environment where impasses are increasing and the roads to development are blocked.
In the 90s Sweden went through a very serious financial crisis, that led to an increase of unemployment and welfare aid recipients. Around the end of 2000, Greece entered a vicious cycle of socio-economic crisis and instability, leading to circumstances that favour the spreading of substance use. Forty years ago, Griffith Edwards had expressed an opinion still very relevant: “…the social and psychological ground of poverty favour the use of destructive substances… how one deals with these substances is related to the value system we select for ourselves, world as a whole and its quality, as perceived by our inner self…”
We hope you’ll enjoy it!