The ConCourt on Tuesday ruled that officers are no longer allowed to arrest adults in private spaces for using or growing dagga for their own use.
JOHANNESBURG – Research has shown that 9% of individuals who experiment with cannabis will become addicted to it.
This number increases to 1 in 6 when use starts during adolescence.
The Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that officers are no longer allowed to arrest adults in private spaces for using or growing dagga for their own use as it infringes on the right to privacy.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop) notes with concern a growing public perception of cannabis as a ‘harmless’ plant.
According to Dr Abdul Kader Domingo, member of the Sasop Special Group on Addictions, it is estimated that 1 in 6 teenagers using cannabis will become addicted to it.
“Human brain development and maturation is a process that is guided by the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system and occurs until the early 20s. Exposure to phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids obtained from the cannabis plant) during this vulnerable period may disrupt the process of brain maturation and affect aspects of memory, attention, processing speed and overall intelligence. Cannabis use during the adolescent period may cause lasting cognitive deficits, even after sustained abstinence.”
Domingo points out that the Global Burden of Diseases Study of 2010 estimates that two million years lived with disability were attributed to cannabis.
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The South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (Sacendu) reports that, during the second half of 2016, cannabis was the most common primary substance of abuse for persons younger than 20 years presenting to treatment facilities in all areas across South Africa, except for the Free State, Northern Cape and North West.
A review article by the World Health Organization in 2016 concluded that current evidence points to a modest contributory causal role for cannabis in schizophrenia and that a consistent dose-response relationship exists between cannabis use in adolescence and the risk of developing psychotic symptoms or schizophrenia.
Domingo says that any change to the legislation regulating cannabis use should have been undertaken in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders, be based on good quality scientific evidence and take into consideration the availability and accessibility of current drug addiction prevention and treatment resources in South Africa.
“We [Sasop] agree with the Executive Committee of the Central Drug Authority (CDA) of South Africa that there is currently insufficient evidence to predict the long-term consequences of the legalisation of cannabis.
“The ease of accessing an intoxicating substance may have an underestimated impact on the initiation, frequency and amount of use, and the subsequent risk of developing a substance use disorder.”
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Domingo adds that available evidence does not support the strong positive public opinion and anecdotal reports favouring medicinal cannabis.
“The exceptions are the moderate quality evidence of medicinal cannabis for treating chronic pain, spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis and weight loss associated with HIV. Any potential benefit obtained from cannabis must, therefore, be weighed against its risk of causing addiction, psychosis, cognitive impairments and a 2.6 times greater likelihood of motor vehicle accidents.”
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