Some days I wake up wondering if the anti legalisation lobby are right.
So incessant is the cry of ‘what about the children?’ coupled with reports of the Dagga ‘scourge’ amongst our youth, I’m beginning to believe all their spin:
Dagga does mess with the developing minds of adolescents. Mental problems do increase in later life, so does the spectre of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders – all because of teen abuse of dagga.
Our various social media streams regularly pick up more and more reconstructed metadata on the subject of teen brains and weed,. (A quick search on ‘Pubmed’ with ‘cannabis and schizophrenia’ in the search reveals over 1000 studies on just this one subject.
As a long time activist once said. “the prohibitionists have been trying to pin the schizophrenia tail on the Dagga donkey for nearly 200 years”
In the mid 19th century, the British colonial conquerors in India, South Africa and the Caribbean were obsessed with weed and its inherent insanity. In fact, at one stage there were no less than three degrees of mental disorder at the turn of the 20th century. Idiot, imbecile and insane, all duly promulgated in the ‘Idiot Act of 1886’.
The effects of dagga on the uninitiated to this day could be construed as some kind of delirium. A couple of beers and a peer pressure rip of an oversized bong can lead some to behave in a completely unpredictable manner as we all know. Too much THC has klapped the best of us at times. But as seasoned cannabis users, we all know that everything is temporary and ‘normal viewing will return shortly’.
This 19th century account of bringing back inexperienced young hashish smokers from ‘insanity’ with the weirdest of procedures makes the eyes water:
“It is desirable to notice the singular form of delirium which the incautious use of the Hemp preparations often occasions, especially among young men first commencing the practice. Several such cases have presented themselves to my notice. They are as peculiar as the ‘delirium tremens,’ which succeeds the prolonged abuse of spiritous liquors, but are quite distinct from any other species of delirium with which I am acquainted.
This state is at once recognized by the strange balancing gait of the patient’s; a constant rubbing of the hands; perpetual giggling; and a propensity to caress and chafe the feet of all bystanders of whatever rank. The eye wears an expression of cunning and merriment which can scarcely be mistaken. In a few cases, the patients are violent; in many highly aphrodisiac; in all that I have seen, voraciously hungry. There is no increased heat or frequency of circulation, or any appearance of inflammation or congestion, and the skin and general functions are in a perfectly natural state. A blister to the nape of the neck, leeches to the temples, and nauseating doses of tartar emetic with saline purgatives have rapidly dispelled the symptoms in all the cases I have met with, and have restored the patient to perfect health.”
(ON THE PREPARATIONS OF THE INDIAN HEMP, OR GUNJAH
By W. B. O’Shaughnessy, M.D. Assistant-Surgeon, and Professor of Chemistry, Medical College of Calcutta. October, 1839.)
So next time your homie goes white out on an oversize dab, make sure you’ve got some leeches to hand….
Dr O’ Shaughnessy was as excited about the prospects of medical marijuana as anyone in Victorian history. His accounts of the plant’s curative properties just ooze enthusiasm; as if he understood he’d found the panacea.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the British had built a number of notorious asylums in their territories Egypt, India, South Africa and Jamaica. A parallel history of colonial abuse across the globe as the empire used every means to stick that illusive schizo tail on the dagga donkey as a continued form of minority suppression.
It was thought that this peculiar brand of Indian hemp insanity was something indigenous people were susceptible to; ‘a culture bound phenomena’ as Dr FE Dunjibhoy put it in the early 1930’s in Calcutta – ‘a special form of mental disease, commonly met with and peculiar to India.”
What in fact he was seeing were the deep states of tripping that a big edible dose of top draw charras could instill on someone. Lights out for the day, like a dank muffin.
The 1930’s ‘Reefer Madness’ era was proof that if you repeat the same thing over and over, it becomes the gospel. So it was with the marijuana/insanity link from India, to Cairo to Chicago.
Emanating from colonial masters worldwide, the obsession with dagga abuse reached a crescendo in the 1930’s on radio, in magazines and in more and more draconian legislation – especially over the Atlantic in the USA. Harry J Anslinger himself penned a chilling tale of debauchery, crime and of course, insanity through marihuana use, ‘Marihuana- Assassin Of Youth’
Although the US Govt had conveniently unbanned hemp during WWll, the scaremongering continued after the even more convenient re-banning of the plant after the war.
Colliers Magazine, a household name for over 50 years published “Crazy Dreamers” in 1949 to remind their legions of avid readers that “the prolonged use of the poison gives rise to progressive weakening of all the faculties of the brain, eventually leading to dementia”
Here in SA by the mid 20th century, there was consensus that whatever the psychosis, it was a temporary condition – but it came with a caveat: “Whilst it is generally agreed that dagga does not produce any permanent psychotic condition, it does produce very definite moral deterioration”. (RIDCAD 1951:192)
Ah ah, now we’re getting closer to the truth. Morals. Oh, and there’s that word again – ‘abuse’.
Newsreels and infomercials of the 1960s played at the Drive In prior to the main feature did their best to scare teens into believing cannabis use would invariably lead to mental illness. These productions continued to spread the word of how our governments had banned Dagga for our own good – to protect us from ourselves.
Nixon’s war on drugs started in the early 70’s, just after he’d put his copy of the ‘Shafer Report’ in the shredder. His own experts told him the mental illness and the wild sex crazed abandon stuff was all hype, in fact: “The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behaviour, a step which our society takes only with the greatest reluctance.”
Nixon famously ignored the findings, but there seemed to be some scientific sanity appearing in the debate.
What is still one of the longest chronic Cannabis use studies completed in the 1970’s in Jamaica concluded after extensive research over 25 years:
“The psychiatric findings do not bear out any of the extreme allegations about the deleterious effects of chronic use of cannabis on sanity, cerebral atrophy, brain damage or personality deterioration. There is no evidence of withdrawal symptoms or reports of severe overdose reactions or of physical dependency. The psychological findings show no significant differences between long-term smokers and non-smokers”.
Not much in the way of ‘might’ ‘could’ or ‘maybe’ is there? But still, it was completely ignored by the lawmakers.
The same conclusions were drawn after another extensive long term cannabis effects study in Costa Rica in the early 1980’s. After 10 years of study it was surmised: “On the basis of our research we are convinced that if chronic cannabis use leads, in the long run, to deleterious effects, they must be subtle indeed”.
Still the lawmakers ignored any positive findings.
The Reagan presidency stopped at nothing to pin the tail to the donkey stating “I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.” His remarks were made after his now infamous ‘monkey experiments’.
The modern era of the war on drugs has brought government study after study to keep the reinforcing tactic of repetitive info alive and well. Studies designed to find the negative in the plant, by any meta analytical means. In the USA, The biggest National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) budget allocation goes to the New York Psychiatric Institute. It would seem the holy grail of prohibition psychiatry is to prove a concrete connection between cannabis use/abuse and mental disorder. It is still, after all these years, very much a case of ‘maybe’ ‘could’ ‘might’, or even ‘likely’ in one case.
Having said that, a US government funded study at Harvard reported to great media fanfare in 2013 that cannabis DID NOT cause schizophrenia. It was a small study – but a breakthrough.
The best way I can describe the tenuous link between Dagga and insanity is by quoting a DC supporter:
“Dagga doesn’t make you mad, but if you are – it’ll bring it out”.
If you’re a bit bossies, or a bit agro, or on other medication, or have a history of abuse, or family addiction issues…..it’s possible, on the wrong day, at the wrong time for the wrong person to smoke the wrong strength joint.
I’ve seen with my own eyes, on two occasions in 30 years, where the same person has left this planet and gone mentally exploring another. Completely incommunicado. This person has a history of childhood trauma and social detachment growing up, and the onset of cannabis ‘derangement’ is almost instant.
This person isn’t an idiot, isn’t an imbecile or even insane – just differently wired to us and should not be using cannabis. The Dagga is a trigger for some kind of substance induced trauma but is a temporary state. As always, the plant returns us back to where we were.
The same batshit crazy stuff can happen to some people predisposed to a love of alcohol. Just saying.
According to the South African government, schizophrenia affects approximately one percent of the population while the percentage of people who have smoked Dagga in South Africa is as high as 50% of the general population depending on who you listen to.
So, where are all the schizophrenics? After thousands of years of use, surely the youth would be severely affected by now – with the strength of Dagga on the rise and the decline in the age of first use, it must surely be reaching epidemic proportions?
British studies, Australian studies and American studies all conclude the rates of cannabis use and schizophrenia do not correlate. In fact, the rates of schizophrenia seem to be constant for 50 years in the UK.
By midway through the second decade of the 21st century, “The relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia fulfills many but not all of the standard criteria for causality, including temporality, biological gradient, biological plausibility, experimental evidence, consistency, and coherence” (Gone to pot: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4033190/).
Still a lot of boxes to tick to get to the Holy Grail.
Pretty much every sensational headline linking Dagga to brain disorders is almost immediately refuted, but the prohibitionist sensationalist headlines remain embedded in people’s minds and still the mental disorder myths persist.
At a recent legalisation debate we attended at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, a pro legalisation clinical psychologist working for the State referred to the category of individual experiencing a negative Cannabis experience as the ‘vulnerable minority’. An almost statistically minute percentage of the world’s tens of millions of Cannabis users adversely affected by the plant.
The only lasting effects of Dagga use are the numbers of studies being funded to still find the harm in the plant, when for the overwhelming majority of responsible adult users, the plant is nothing but a beneficial addition to their lives and has been so for thousands of years of responsible (and sometimes irresponsible) use.
The way we see it in the Dagga Couple office, if someone flips a bit after puffing on a spliff, then it could be considered a diagnostic tool to identify faulty wiring in a person in some cases.
Now wouldn’t it be nice if all that research funding could be channelled into the positive effects of the plant, as a precursor or alarm bell for an impending hard drive crash in a person. And what about some research on the people that have been labelled ‘schizophrenic’ by mainstream medicine? We get correspondence from people who prefer to use weed to control their schizophrenia, having none of the side effects a bottle of prescribed medication has.
So stop trying to pin the schizophrenia tail on the Cannabis donkey; It’s wearing thin as a concept. let’s move on to ensuring the ‘vulnerable minority’ are cared for, if it is care they need, and leave the rest of us Dagga users to go about our lives without fear of prosecution and the loss of our liberty.
Personally – I’d end up insane in a jail cell………