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Marijuana and mental health


Fri, Mar 06, 2015

Editor: In the Vincentian of February 27, 2015 I read the latest opinion of Mr. Grant Connell regarding legalizing the planting of marijuana. Mr. Connell’s statements thus far have not reflected marijuana’s impact on mental health in SVG or the rest of the Caribbean. Madam Editor one has only to speak with professionals in the Mental Health system or the mothers, sisters, aunties and grandmothers of those affected, to understand the real cost of marijuana to our nation.

Understand clearly Madame Editor that in SVG, over 50 per cent of admissions to the Mental Health Center involve marijuana abuse. Many of those admitted due to marijuana abuse suffer from psychotic symptoms, schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. Still others have to be re-admitted because a diagnosis, which would be otherwise stable, was made profoundly worse because of marijuana abuse.{{more}} Quite frankly Madame Editor, anyone with a family history or personal history of mental illness should stay well clear of marijuana. There are even those who having no history of a mental illness, become ill after abusing marijuana.

Madame Editor this writer wants to know why so many of people lie to each other and themselves regarding marijuana? Most Vincentians know someone whose mental health has been destroyed due to their marijuana escapades, but we still refuse to admit that these dangers are real. Many psychiatric associations have put out reports showing that up to 20 per cent of those abusing marijuana will suffer from serious mental illness that will NEVER GO AWAY!!! All of the reports agree that THE YOUNGER persons begin abusing THE GREATER THEIR RISK of developing a serious mental illness. (The link at the bottom goes in depth on risks marijuana poses to mental health.)

No one wants our young people to be unduly arrested for a few sticks of marijuana, but we also do not wish to see its availability increased given its already wide spread abuse in SVG. The concern, and I am certain you will agree, is that the use of marijuana will increase with increased availability. Given that many who enter the MH centre remain as patients for years even after discharge, this means increased public debt to supply individuals with medication. Many who become ill are unable to work in the fields for which they were trained and still others are flat out unemployable. The marijuana problem is also in our schools at tertiary, secondary and primary levels, and all of the evidence shows that marijuana use hampers education and contributes seriously to behavioral problems. Quite apart from its effects on mental health, marijuana carries the same health risks as smoking tobacco which include heart disease, cancers, strokes, lung disease, and kidney disease.

Madame Editor the issues surrounding marijuana use and abuse require much greater study and public awareness so that suitable policies, programmes, facilities and expenditure can be made before increasing its availability. A multi-disciplinary approach to this issue must be taken. Lastly, but not least, the WIDE SPREAD DELUSION that marijuana is not harmful must be actively combated by parents, teachers, preachers, health care providers, politicians and those with political aspirations.