The debate about the legalisation of cannabis has been reignited within the media. As advocates claim that recreational use of the drug is “harmless” and the government takes an even harder stance on the subject, MONOLITH undertakes an objective analysis on the facts about Cannabis.
Cannabis, as many know, is a genus of flowering plants, its three varieties utilised as a source of fibre, for medicinal purposes and as a recreational drug. The putative strand, Cannabis Sativais prepared from the Cannabis plant and used as a psychoactive drug. A psychoactive is a chemical substance that breaches the blood to brain barrier, and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function, which results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition and behaviour.
The main psychoactive constituent of Cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol(THC), although it contains over four hundred other compounds. As most cannabinoids are lipophilic compounds, they have a high level of chemical sustainability within the body. Unlike most other psychoactive substances, THC does not possess a nitrogenous base and like most pharmacologically active metabolites of plants, THC in cannabis is assumed to be involved with self defence, primarily from herbivores.
The pharmacological actions of THC are resultant of its agonist activity directed at the cannabinoid receptors within the body. The first is located in the central nervous system and the second within the immune system. THC binds itself to those receptors and triggers a response in those cells, mimicking the action of naturally occurring substances within the endocannabinoid system, specifically anandamide, the effects of which THC emulates.
The endocannabinoid system is a group of neuromodulatory molecules (or lipids) that comprise a number of physiological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory. The genetic and pharmacological exploration of this system has lead to the discovery that cannabinoids fundamentally act as neuromodulators, affecting further physiological processes, inclusive of motor learning and even synaptic plasticity.
The physiological effects of cannabis have proven to be short term — most young adults would be able to dispel any physiological and cardiovascular symptoms without any clinical significance, longer lasting symptoms or side effects. The media has generally neglected this aspect of cannabis usage.
The psychological effect of cannabis is completely subjective and unpredictable: variants are specifically dependent on circumstantial factors, such as the subject and the method of use. Cannabis is considered a unique, atypical and sometimes paradoxical psychotropic due to its multitudinous and sometimes contradictory throng of effects. The subjective experience induced by using cannabis can be considered stimulatory and yet also sedative or as a depressant. It can also exhibit markedly mild psychedelic and even dissociative characteristics. After THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors, the resultant changes in the levels of neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine and norepinephrine, can affect feelings of euphoria and anxiety.
The long-term effects of cannabis are at the heart of the legalisation debate. Although the topic has been studied extensively, there have been no concrete advancements and there is much still to be concluded: both advocates and opponents are already calling for more research to be performed. The insinuation that the recreational use of cannabis is the causation of mental health issues such as depression and even schizophrenia has been largely discredited by a lack of evidence. Despite this, the affinity between cannabis users and later mental health problems in those who have a genetic predisposition to them has been solidified.
Without solid and scientifically accredited results the debate over cannabis will continue to be questionable. It’s legality, however, will not.