Drugs are part of the society we live in and particularly so are illegal drugs; and these drugs have a role in the creation of social policy. The aim of this paper is to discuss the impact of cannabis on social policy, as well as its history, effects, prevalence of usage and treatment options.
History of cannabis
Cannabis is a drug known for its illegal use and its medical uses and it has been in existence for a long period. It goes my many names depending on the people involved and their locations and the language known to them. For example, cannabis is also known by common names such as cannabis Sativa, weed, grass, ganja, pot, aunt mary, boom, mary jane, hash, herb and marijuana among others (Weedfarmer, n.d., Para. 2). The history of use of the use of cannabis goes to time immemorial where it was used in the ages ranging from 2737B.C. to date. In ancient China, it was for medicinal purposes and its medicinal uses spread from china to India and then to North Africa. It had official recognition by Chinese emperor Shen Nung who acknowledged its ability in treating certain conditions such as gout, malaria and rheumatism (Narconon International, n.d., Para. 2).
During this entire time, individuals, institutions and medical practitioners have used the drug both medicinally and recreationally. In the United Kingdom, it administered to Queen Victoria to relieve her period pains while Scythians used it recreationally by inhaling it in the form of vapor. The drug’s penetration into modern civilization was widely as a result of trade among nations and individuals, as well as exploration. This is evident in America where it was brought by the Spanish and introduced as a cash crop by the English in the early 17th century. In the time, it was used to produce medicines that were patented despite containing; only a small percentage of the active ingredients; while others were combined with cocaine and opium (Narconon international, n.d., Para. 4).
Effects of cannabis
The effects of cannabis on a user depend on the dose that one consumes, mode of administration, previous experience with the drug and the affective expectations of the user (Hall & Dagenhardt, 2009, p. 1383). The effects cover a wide range of areas ranging from reproductive, psychosocial, nervous and chronic. The drug is mainly used by the youth for recreational purposes in order to experience a mild feeling of euphoria, relaxation and perceptual alterations these effects cause experiences that they go through more intense, such as watching films or listening to music. In this way, it causes hysteria in that consumers become highly sociable and more talkative; while these effects, usually, set in after approximately 30 minutes after consumption and last for close to two hours.
Acute effects of cannabis manifest themselves in the form of anxiety, panic attacks and psychotic symptoms (Hall & Dagenhardt, 2009, p. 1384). The impairment is coupled with variance in response time, information processing, perceptual-motor coordination and variation in attention and tracking behavior. These lead to increased risk of accidents for users who participate in certain activities, such as driving, while under the influence. This is because users have lapses in reaction time and impairment in judgment. Use of cannabis has a profound impact on the immune system as it lowers resistance against infections due to the nature of its active ingredient. The smoke of cannabis is also carcinogenic and mutagenic thus increasing the risk of contracting cancerous growths. In addition, smoking cannabis impairs the immunological competence of the respiratory system so that they are more prone to respiratory infections (Hall & Dagenhardt, 2009, p. 1386).
In regard to reproductive effects, high doses of cannabis lead to retardation of growth in children born of mothers who are users. This is because; such mothers pass on the effects of carbon monoxide to their unborn children thus resulting in slow development of sight after birth, increased tremors and startles to the children, as well as reduced cognitive abilities. Psychosocially, cannabis lowers the level of academic achievement thus causing poor performance in school. In addition, its use increases involvement in drug related crime and lowers the user’s ability to form a family and maintain it because; it acts as a gateway to harder drugs such as cocaine and opioids (Hall & Slowij, 1998, p. 1613). Concerning the central nervous system, cannabis has adverse effects to it in regard to learning and cognitive functioning. Frequent and heavy users of cannabis have deficits in verbal learning, memory and attention as it interferes in the brain functions thus impairing neuro-cognitive performance (Hall & Dagenhardt, 2009, p. 1387).
Cannabis is the world’s most common illegal drug in use and is used mainly by the youth and young adults. The key reason for its use is its recreational value among users and it effect. In the world, roughly 147 million people use the drug and the figure is rising rapidly as compared to those of other drug users (World Health Organization, n.d., Para. 2).
In medicinal use, it is common in therapy for nausea and vomiting in illnesses like cancer and HIV/ AIDS (World Health Organization, n.d., Para. 5). In addition, it is used in treatment and suppression of certain conditions such as asthma, glaucoma; while it is used as an appetite stimulant, antidepressant and anticonvulsant in other conditions. This means, medicinally, considering that there are not many people suffering from these conditions, it is not so common as compared to recreational use.
Social and policy responses
Society views drug use as an individual liberty provide it does not infringe on other peoples’ liberties (Iowa Medical Marijuana, 2012, Para. 5). However, other members of society are of the view that authorities hold the power to justify or restrain individual behavior. Due to usage of drugs that end up making the consumer a slave, rather than a master of their own wellbeing, policies have been put in place to handle the circumstances under which drugs should be used; thus preventing harmful usage of drugs towards society and the individual.
Moreover, to control cannabis use and distribution, legislation has been passed, in the form of drug acts, making possession and transfer of the drug illegal. This is particularly so in the USA where the Marijuana Act of 1937 was passed to regulate its use and possession. Use of cannabis is only allowed for medicinal purposes and logs of sales of the drug are strictly kept (The History of Medicinal Cannabis, n.d., p.1). Moreover, there have been harsh penalties for those found violating the legal provision against cannabis except for medicinal purposes, only.
To overcome cannabis addiction and use, consumers have a range of viable treatment options. They can choose to go through; cognitive-behavioral therapy or motivational incentives as there is no medication to treat the condition. However, there are scientific discoveries wit promise of coming up with medication that suppresses cannabis intoxication, eases withdrawal symptoms and even prevents relapse (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010, Para. 15). In addition, cannabis users can use support groups where they share experiences and strategies on how best to overcome the task, as well as motivating each other into beating addiction.
Illegal drugs play a crucial role in the making of social policy as they directly affect the society. Therefore, social policy should pay more attention towards helping the society in making it a better place.
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Narconon International (n.d.). History of Marijuana. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://www.narconon.org/drug-information/marijuana-history.html
Hall, W. & Dagenhardt, L. (2009). Adverse Health Effects of Non-Medical Cannabis Use. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://blog.uvm.edu/jrhughes/files/2011/11/10.1.1.175.3772.pdf
Hall, W. & Slowij, N. (1998). Adverse Effects of Cannabis. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://www.ukcia.org/research/AdverseEffectsOfCannabis.pdf
World Health Organization (n.d.). Management of Substance Abuse. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/cannabis/en/
The History of Medicinal Cannabis (n.d.). The History of Medicinal Cannabis. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://leg.mt.gov/content/Committees/Interim/2009_2010/Children_Family/Emerging-Issue/mmga-presentation-cannabis-history-aug2010.pdf
Iowa Medical Marijuana (2012). Report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://iowamedicalmarijuana.org/documents/nc1ch5.aspx
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2010). Drug Facts: Marijuana. Retrieved on 23 June 2012 from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana