Extracts from 'be ALERT and ALARMED'
1: It is said that the War on Drugs is lost.
Anyone who says that there is a 'War on Drugs' in Australia obviously doesn’t know much about our drug policies. There is no ‘War on Drugs’ never has been a ‘War on Drugs’ and never likely to be a ‘War on Drugs.’(2)
It is a meaningless cliché similar to other trendy sayings such as 'soft drug', 'recreational use' and 'prohibition doesn’t work’. Then there is the latest banality ‘you can’t arrest people out of drug use.’ Whoever suggested that you could?
2: What do you mean?
The slogan a ‘War on Drugs’ was used during the election campaign of U.S. President Nixon who saw the increasing popularity of street drugs as a political issue.(3) It has absolutely nothing to do with Australian drug policies. Australia’s official drug policy is ‘Harm Minimisation’.(4)
3: But I constantly hear the expression ‘war on drugs’ used by experts.
Those who promote this particular cliché use it to divert attention from failed harm minimisation policies. They also believe that it is an easy one for the general public to remember. People who are seriously involved in the field of drugs talk about ‘policy’ not about a ‘war’.
Referring to a ‘war on drugs’ aims to give the impression that drug users are unfairly prosecuted and that the Australian National Drug Policy is based solely on prohibition and law enforcement.
The agenda of those who foster this euphemism is to bring about changes to drug laws and drug policy. As Michael Moore former Minister of Health for the ACT and an enthusiastic pro-drug advocate stated in his manifesto to other drug reform activists:
“I blatantly colour the language to assist in building the picture of the failure of prohibition.”(5)
4: Why let a few clichés bother you?
In the conversation about street drugs, language is consistently used as a deceptive and pacifying technique. For example it is applied to the use of ‘soft drug’, ‘recreational use’, ‘safe injecting room’ and the term ‘medical marijuana’.
Unfortunately many people have picked up this drug culture language. They are unaware of the when and the where and the why it began. One needs to question how a drug such as marijuana that is associated with psychosis, schizophrenia, suicide and many drug related problems is still promoted as a ‘soft’ drug? Secondly, how can the use of mind altering, stupefying substances such as heroin, cocaine and ice be considered ‘recreational’, similar to playing football or reading a good book?
Referring to ‘mull’ i.e. as ‘medical marijuana’, is another example of using language to mislead and confuse people. Particularly for children who assume that marijuana must be beneficial.
Another example of deceptive language is ‘Safe’ Injecting Rooms. The vast majority of heroin addicts are polydrug users and most fatalities occur after using a combination of drugs, particularly heroin mixed with alcohol and prescription pills. It is a travesty to refer to these establishments as ‘safe’. The only people who are ‘safe’ are the dealers and drug pushers who mill around the area catching their ‘customers’ as they come and go.
These are all typical examples of ‘colouring the language’ that Mr Moore recommended. The words ‘soft’, ‘safe’, ‘recreational’ and ‘medical marijuana’ are chosen to conjure up positive images. Even the word ‘exchange’ used in Needle Exchange Programmes is misleading. Thirty to forty per cent of intravenous drug users don’t bother to return their needles and either reuse them or discard them. Words are very powerful and a clever way of influencing peoples perception and shaping attitudes and opinions.
5: Why is there so much disagreement about the drug issue?
It is the influence of a coterie of lawyers, academics and some bureaucrats within the drug and alcohol system itself that have been responsible for the issue of illegal drugs becoming a never-ending saga of confusion and controversy.
I can appreciate the fact that there are opposite views to mine. What I object to is the way a campaign has been conducted to create an impression that ‘A War on Drugs’ has been taking place in Australia and failed, whereas in fact ‘Harm Minimisation’ has been the policy since 1986. It is this policy that has failed.
6: Have you other concerns?
I also object strongly to the campaign to discredit people who believe the priority of drug education should be prevention. Furthermore the fact that we believe in fostering the ‘ideal’ of a drug free existence for young people and favour abstinence based rehabilitation seems to be an anathema to self-proclaimed ‘experts’ and those who want to change the existing laws e.g. The Drug Law Reform Foundation, Australia 21 and NORML. These organisations give the impression of being on the side of reform when in fact they are actually promoting legalisation. However it’s not only manipulation of language, we are also subjected to a constant barrage of insults.
7: What do you mean?
Michael Moore in his ‘Manual for Drug Policy Activists’ (refer additional information) urges his associates not only to blatantly colour the language to assist in the picture of the failure of the so called policy of ‘prohibition’. He also wants to discredit those who wish to uphold the law to be commonly referred to as ‘prohibitionist’.
As he wrote in his ‘Manual for the Drug Policy Activists’:
“An intolerant approach, a punitive approach is now not only socially unacceptable – but it would only be supported by an ‘idiot’.”
Furthermore people like me are accused of:
“Racism, and encouraging corruption in the criminal justice system, eroding civil liberties, damaging community health, increasing the burden on the taxpayer”, and believe it or not “assisting organised crime and drug traffickers.”
8: Who else supports his point of view?
Mr Moore is not alone in making extraordinary claims. Professor David Pennington former vice chancellor of Melbourne University and a prominent advocate for legalisation made reference to those with an opposing view to his own as:
“…Those people identifying themselves with the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan passing by the other side. The drug user is seen as a reject from society no longer deserving of help or compassion.’’(6)
In my experience the people who devote themselves to caring for drug and alcohol dependents and their families are exceedingly caring and compassionate people. They also believe in upholding the law and support the idea of abstinence-based programmes.
In 2012 when commenting in The Age newspaper on the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s rejection of Australia 21 drug law reform proposals Professor Pennington made another curious comment:
“That is why she has taken the position she’s taken on gay marriage and all those sort of things, because she is appealing to the uneducated, conservative, emotional reactions to all sorts of things.”(7)
Considering that a majority of Australians wish to maintain legal sanctions on all illegal drugs does that mean according to David Pennington - we are a nation of “uneducated, conservative and emotional people” and according to Michael Moore those who wish to uphold the law are not only idiots but also “encouraging corruption, eroding civil liberties and assisting organized crime and drug traffickers”?
I am also reminded about a book written by the journalist David Marr in which he not only ridicules Major Brian Watters from the Salvation Army, who was founding Chairman of the Prime Ministers Drug Advisory Council but also gives the impression in his book that those who don’t share his views are involved in some kind of Christian conspiracy. (8)
9: What is your greatest concern about pro-drug activists?
Far too many of them are masters of hyperbole* and while all their meaningless rhetoric is tossed about and the debate about legalisation of street drugs is going on little thought seems to be given to young people who view this conflict of opinion as an indication that if ‘experts’ regard illegal drug use as a legitimate social activity, then it is the law their parents and society in general who are out of touch.
The problem is further exacerbated because many people do not really want to know the facts and thereby justify their continued use of illegal drugs. If these people happen to be in positions of authority, such as in government departments, the medical or teaching professions, their opinions pass right down to the youngest and most impressionable people in the organisation.
Not only that but in an effort to emulate their associates in the United States, Australian pro-drug advocates create false dilemmas about the drug problem in Australia.
An example of the typical pro-drug propaganda that the Australian public has to contend with occurred in 1994 when headlines blazed across the nations newspapers declaring that there were over one thousand young people languishing in Australian jails for simple possession and use of marijuana. This caused a great hue and cry and personally I also thought it was absolutely disgraceful.
I phoned various government departments and was told that they had been inundated with phone calls from irate magistrates demanding to know who was imposing jail terms on first offenders.
Eventually I was able to track down correct statistics from the Department of Criminology. The number of young first offenders to be given jail terms was two hundred and nineteen. However, these people were not jailed for simple possession and use of marijuana, but also for possession of a smorgasbord of other street drugs including heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, etc.
I have been exceedingly disturbed by the trend in Australia for `experts' to create false dilemmas and gain credence and publicity for them through the media.
This attempt to keep pacifying and placating community concerns and fears about the effects of marijuana is nothing short of scandalous. It is reminiscent of the attempts by tobacco companies to conceal the dangers associated with cigarette smoking.
However perception can often surpass the reality and pro-drug activists consider every headline a victory. As Dick Cowan an executive of NORML said:“I want a velvet revolution” (24)
11: What does a ‘velvet revolution’ mean?
I suppose it means they hope to win people over to their point of view through the popular press. They do not engage in logical analysis and evaluations; they rely on hype and hysteria. From my experience pro-drug activists are more inclined to denigrate the person rather than analyse the propositions put forward by those with alternative ideas.
Barry Mc Caffrey, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is also aware of the hidden agenda of the advocates of ‘harm minimisation’. As he said when speaking to members of the sub committee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources:
“...the fact remains that many who advocate harm reduction* use it as a subterfuge for legalisation. It is too often a linguistic ploy to confuse the public, cover their intentions and thereby quell legitimate public inquiry and debate. Changing the name of the plan doesn’t constitute a new solution or alter the nature of the problem.”(65)
12: But surely street drugs are no more dangerous than other substances as long as they are not abused?
This uncritical assumption is one of a number of theories advanced in the last three decades to underpin the argument for removing legal sanctions. It is a fallacy because it underestimates the inherent neuro-behavioural properties of dependence-producing drugs. Heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, ice and cannabis/marijuana are the best known of the street drugs but there are many others that are readily available.
13: But why can’t drugs be used in moderation?
`Moderate use’ is an imprecise and unscientific term and implies that a certain amount of mind alteration is acceptable. It must be remembered that even prescribed psychoactive drugs can be dangerous for adolescents. The fact that the same ‘experts’ recommend that addictive mind-altering drugs can be used in a safe or a ‘responsible’ way demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the nature of adolescence and the susceptibility of the immature body and mind to addiction. They also fail to grasp the concept of the dynamics of this modern obsession with drugs, or the fact that alcohol, which is widely used by many teenagers potentiates i.e. ‘fires up’ the impairing effects of virtually all illegal drugs.
Because young people lack coping skills they are extremely susceptible once they cross the threshold with their first use. This is why it is important to challenge the notion that experimentation with street drugs is a normal part of growing up. Once young people begin to use drugs for producing good feelings in times of stress a problem is already established; the problem of reinforcement and dependency.
14: Why are adolescents so particularly vulnerable to drugs?
Adolescence is the developmental link between childhood and adult life and it is during this transition that additional neural connections are forged and new hormones secreted. Not only do they have to cope with emotional and physical changes but adolescents are also learning to manage stress. It is vitally important that none of these complex processes are interfered with by the absorption of toxic pharmacologically active chemicals. (8-16)
Q: Why was cannabis classified as illegal?
At the international conference in 1924 the Egyptian delegate, Dr El Guindy insisted that hashish should also be included. He declared that:
“This substance and its derivatives wrought such havoc, that the Egyptian Government has for a long time past prohibited their introduction into the country. I cannot emphasise sufficiently the importance of including this product in the list of narcotics, the use of which is regulated by this conference. This illicit use of hashish is the principal cause of insanity in Egypt, varying from thirty per cent to sixty per cent of the total number of cases reported. Taken occasionally and in small doses, hashish perhaps does not offer much danger, but there is always the risk that once a person begins to take it he will continue. He acquires the habit and becomes addicted to the drug and once this happens it is very difficult to escape.”
Q: Is this the reason you are particularly concerned about removing sanctions on marijuana?
There is a concerted effort by a well funded international consortium of pro drug activists to remove legal sanctions on marijuana as the first step to introducing other street drugs into western culture.
This is why it is particularly important to examine historical precedents where psychoactive drugs, particularly marijuana have been inculcated i.e. ‘normalised’ into a society. And most importantly, once this happened, how it was virtually impossible to reverse the situation.
The controversy about marijuana / hashish caused as much debate in the ancient Muslim world in much the same way as it does today.
Between the twelfth and the sixteenth centuries ‘medieval activists’ wanted hashish to be made freely accessible to the general public. Many scholars and religious leaders objected to this. Their objections were not the result of religious fervor, but they believed that it would cause wide-
ranging cultural and economic disaster if it became endemic. They referred to it as ‘ the weed that impairs body and mind, and damages society.’
However the pro hashish factions outmanouvered them. As the historian of the era Al Magrizy noted, there was ‘general debasement’ within the community once ‘the weed’ became endemic. By the time the detrimental effects of hashish became obvious, and despite the determined and often drastic attempts by sultans and emirs to reintroduce restrictions, it has remained endemic in many Middle Eastern countries.
There is an Ancient Arabic question:
‘Say to those who eat hashish in ignorance
The worth of a man is a jewel
The ornament of a man is his mind
Why then you fools do you sell it for a piece of grass?
Not only are there manuscripts about the controversy during the ancient Muslim era, but there is also an interesting account of the situation that Napoleon and his army encountered when they conquered Egypt in the 1800s. One officer reported that:
‘The mass of the male population is in a perpetual state of stupor.’
Hoping to breathe some life into the stagnant nation, but mostly wishing to protect his own soldiers, Napoleon decreed:
‘The use of the strong liquor made by some Moslems with a certain weed called hashish, as well as the smoking of the flowering tops of hemp is forbidden in all Egypt’.
Although he managed to restrain his troops from using the drug Napoleon had little effect on cannabis use in the Moslem world.
Q: But you can’t compare Australia with Medieval Muslim history.
In a modern technologically sophisticated society like Australia, where a high standard of skill and expertise is necessary, the end result of cannabis use would be even more damaging than those experienced in Middle Eastern Countries.
Q: Are there practical reasons the law cannot be changed?
Removing legal sanctions sounds fine in theory but in reality would cause more problems than it set out to solve.
i. Which drugs would be legalised?
ii. Would it be those prohibited at the turn of the century – the derivatives of the Opium Poppy, Coca Leaf and Cannabis Sativa?
iii. Would drugs like amphetamines, PCP, LSD, ICE, Ecstasy, MDMA be made available, and what about the synthetic drugs that have appeared on
the market in recent years?
iv. What about prescribed drugs like Valium and Serepax;
v. How would the quality and strength of the drugs be determined?
vi. How would they be sold and distributed?
vii. What responsibilities would the police have?
viii. What would sporting bodies do?
ix. What regulations would there be for professional groups, drivers of public transport, employers in workplace regulations etc. etc.
These all require serious consideration. No rational person would consider removing legal sanctions from street drugs until all these problems were resolved.
Q: The government could control the quality and strength.
But there is no limit to synthetic combinations i.e. ‘designer drugs’.
Would chemists be constantly updating and creating these drugs to conform to the fashion of the time? Take a look at the recent ‘drug scandals’ in sporting institutions, ‘designer drugs’ were actually part of some programmes.
It is difficult to imagine a responsible government manufacturing Ice or crack, but if not available, a black market will supply it.
And how will the intoxicant level of marijuana be determined: 2%, 8% or 50%? If the potency is too low, people will either not buy it or boost the potency through illegal trafficking. And what quantities do you suggest could be purchased at a time?
Q: People could decide for themselves.
Well I am sure you will agree that single doses would be impractical, but if preparations were supplied in multidose forms, how would the flow of these drugs to the general population be prevented? (The Grey Market).
Would they be available on prescription, from physicians, or would they be available merely on demand? And how could we prevent drug users becoming dependent?
Q: What do you mean?
How would the degree of tolerance among users be regulated, and what penalties would be involved for breaking these controls?
Who would decide if a drug user was dependent and should be referred to treatment? Clearly the courts will no longer be in a position to do so!
Would poly drug users be able to buy up a range of substances?
Would sales be restricted to only those who were dependent on them? e.g. cocaine to cocaine addicts, heroin to heroin addicts.
What if heroin addicts wanted to purchase PCP or cocaine?
Would the use of cocaine and heroin together (speed balling) be permitted?
If only addicts were allowed to buy legitimately, where will the ‘experimental’ and ‘occasional users’ obtain their drugs?
What age limit do you suggest?
Q: People would have to be over eighteen?
When we already face an enormous problem with underage drinking, how could we hope to control adolescents accessing the legitimate market or using a black market?
Q: But at least we could tax drugs.
Will these taxes cover the costs of the increase in violent crime, burgeoning welfare, health care and rehabilitation? If so, the prices will have to be very high because the tax generated through alcohol sales certainly does not cover the costs of alcohol related problems. But if the prices were too high, once again a black market for cheap drugs will be created. And where would we sell these drugs?
Q: At different places.
We only have a few choices: either they would have to be sold in government controlled agencies, pharmacies or through private enterprise.
If government controlled, a new bureaucracy will have to be set up to grow, import, transport etc., and this will mean negotiating with International Drug Cartels or establishing new industries to produce the basic ingredients.
Surely we are not advocating government representatives negotiate with Columbian cocaine cartels?
If private enterprise is to be involved it will certainly be monopolized by those same cartels. And I doubt very much if you would find an ethical pharmacist who would be prepared to sell dangerous, addictive, mind altering drugs.
Q: We could just decriminalise marijuana.
If it is legal to use marijuana, it seems to me somewhat bizarre to legislate against trafficking and dealing. As far as the dealers are concerned it is a great advantage to have laws condoning a customers possession of an illegal product.
Q: What about personal use of marijuana?
Perhaps we could follow the Swedish model that waives charges where the amount possessed is so small that it cannot be divided that is, at most one joint of cannabis or one dose of amphetamine. Where possession of other street drugs is concerned, charges, in principle, are never waived.
Q: But Australians would consider that far too restrictive.
I don’t think we should underestimate the desire of parents to protect their children, or protect their own safety in their homes and on the streets. They don’t want to continue supporting failed and flawed drug policies and those people who undermine the law.
Q: But many prominent people support legalisation?
While I appreciate the genuine concern of many sincere people who put forward an argument in favor of removing legal sanctions, I believe the logic used takes us a certain distance and then leaves us with a sense of indeterminacy and incompletion. Many of the proposals rely on frail generalisations, and do not consider historical precedents and the experience of other countries. Nor has there been a correct analysis of the ‘contagion’ and ‘addiction’ factors or the collateral effects including later complications e.g. hepatitis C. (injecting drugs has now become the single most important factor for acquiring hepatitis C, accounting for 80% of infections.)
They have also failed to understand the dynamics of the drug market. If drugs such as Mandrax which do not produce ‘pleasure’, were under discussion the thought of making them freely available would never be considered.
Q: Why does the United Nations believe that marijuana should remain illegal?
I don’t think most people realise that it was for humanitarian reasons that at the turn of the century world governments originally placed legal sanctions on dangerous addictive mind-altering drugs.
And in the 1960's it was a handful of irresponsible academics at Harvard University who influenced immature and inexperienced university students to use them on the pretext that they were tremendous fun and quite harmless. Unfortunately, instead of being a passing trend this “social experiment” became the genesis of a worldwide youth-oriented `drug culture'.
Despite the fact that thousands of families are suffering pain and disharmony as a result of young people's drug use, this culture is now being fostered by equally irresponsible reformers, pushing the cause of normalisation, decriminalisation and eventual the legalisation of heroin, cocaine, cannabis, Ice, amphetamines, hallucinogens, ecstasy, PCP, LSD, and a never-ending variety of synthetic designer drugs.
Q: But you must admit that prohibition of alcohol didn't work in America?
The U.S. experience with alcohol during the 1920’s cannot compare with the way in which street drugs are used in today’s society.
Advocates of legalisation claim that the U.S. experience with alcohol prohibition from 1920 to 1933 proves that drug prohibition does not work. However, the historical analogy is incorrect. Alcohol use had been a socially accepted, legally sanctioned behaviour in most Western societies for centuries.
In the United States before prohibition, alcohol sales were restricted to adults and regulated as to time, place, amount, etc. Alcohol problems among minors were extremely rare and there was no commercial youth-alcohol culture. Thus prohibition removed a previously acceptable adult beverage from the legal market.
Conversely the consumption and sale of street drugs, especially marijuana and hallucinogens expanded predominantly among minors. The majority of adults in Western societies have never socially or legally accepted use of these drugs.
Proponents of legalisation often claim that prohibition failed to curb alcohol abuse and led to vast increases in crime. They fail however to consider that the law banned "the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors" but it allowed the purchase and consumption of alcohol. Thus it countenanced, through omission, patronage of the bootlegger. Alcohol use was half-legal, half-illegal - a situation similar to the experimentation with decriminalisation of marijuana.
But regardless of the facts this cliché is now part of the myth and popular perception, it is not unusual to hear people, particularly TV and radio interviewers parroting the phrase 'Prohibition doesn't work'.
Q: Why are adolescents so particularly vulnerable to drugs?
Adolescence is the developmental link between childhood and adult life. And it is during this transition that additional neural connections are forged and new hormones secreted. Not only do they have to cope with emotional and physical changes but adolescents are also learning to manage stress. It is vitally important that none of these complex processes are interfered with by the absorption of toxic pharmacologically active chemicals. (8-16)
Q: Do you seriously think that anyone believes the drug free message?
The concept of ‘drug free” presents young people with an ideal, a belief in the best there is. I hope our society hasn’t become so cynical that we have forgotten how important it is to inspire children with idyllic purposes?
What has happened to chivalry, kindness, justice and all the other wonderful ideals?
Do we accept that because they are difficult to achieve, we tell our children not to bother to aspire to them?
The drug free message is certainly better than the dark and depressing acquiescence of pro drug advocates who want to teach teenagers, many of whom are already chemically befuddled, how to use street drugs ‘responsibly’.
Q: But do drug free programmes work?
Sweden has based its whole drug policy on abstinence i.e. the drug free strategy and has the lowest drug use in the world. In Sweden approximately one in twenty have ever used marijuana whereas in Australia it is one in three. Does this suggest that the ‘drug free’ message has failed?
In America at a time when approximately half the students in the senior classes were using marijuana to some degree, a very structured and coordinated drug education curriculum based on abstinence/drug free was introduced into the schools. It was an outstanding success. (18-19)
However, funding for drug education was cut during the Clinton administration and there was less emphasis on the issue of drugs. Perception of harm decreased, and predictably the uptake of marijuana and other drugs by students increased. But nevertheless, during the time of the survey, when street drugs were an important part of the U.S. government agenda, drug education based on abstinence was a great success.
Although most of the credit was due to the drug education programmes, parents also reinforced the school policy in the home. They formed ‘parent groups’ agreeing to impose certain rules on the teenagers such as supervising parties and monitoring films and other cultural supports in which drug use was portrayed as an acceptable past time. There was also significant political influence and media support in favour of the drug free ideal.
Australia has the highest number of users of ecstasy per head of population in the world. We are third in the use of methamphetamines and fourth in the use of cocaine. There has also been a sharp rise in the use of prescription drugs and black market opiods such as codeine and morphine and more than ten per cent of the working population regularly use cannabis. Each year thousands of adolescents and young adults in Australia start to smoke cannabis and use other substances such as ecstasy and psychoactive pills.
Q: What can parents do to prevent drug abuse?
In order to be effective parents must work together, Drug abuse is a community problem that demands community solutions. One way is to form a parent peer group with the parents of your children's friends. These groups are based on the idea that the most effective way to stop a child from using drugs is to stop his or her friends from using them too.
When parents join together and take a united stand against drug abuse they become much more effective than if they act separately. It is important to educate parents and other adults about the scientific basis of drug and alcohol laws. Such evidence provides a consistent and credible rationale for enforcement of family, school and community rules.
If a young person has problems that the parents believe are associated with drug use it is very important to find a competent health professional. Unfortunately, many counsellors, psychologists, social workers and doctors are confused about the side effects of drugs, especially marijuana, and often recommend that marijuana can be used in `moderation’. Exactly what this means however is never made clear.
The informed parent, regardless of economic or educational level, often becomes a catalyst for broader community and political action when needed. Positive preventive strategies should focus on strengthening the capacity of ordinary people to prevent, diagnose and intervene in illegal intoxicant use that threatens the health and safety of their children.
Q: Does this really help?
It has been demonstrated that collective parental peer pressure is generally successful in reversing negative adolescent peer pressure and even the indifference or ignorance of politicians and policy makers.
Parents need to be aware that denial is common among other parents, either because they are ignorant of their child's marijuana use or they fear being seen as inadequate. Unfortunately blaming parents for their children's drug use is promoted by many who work in the area of drugs.
They cite parents' use of legal drugs as a bad example, and even go so far as to suggest it is the reason for their children's drug use.
This promotes guilt and fear in parents and can often prevent them from confronting the problem. Young people will also often deny that they are using marijuana. This is a form of self-protection and is recognised as being one of the most consistent psychological effects of marijuana. Denial of course occurs with the abuse of most addictive drugs, including alcohol.
On the other hand parents are often deterred from acknowledging that their children may be involved in drug use because they don’t want to be thought as inadequate. Another problem is the disproportionate amount of cultural support for the drug scene in the entertainment industry, e.g. music, videos, etc.
However, it is difficult to accept that illegal drug taking is a form of natural behaviour. The majority of people avoid such behaviour, as the use of mind-altering substances is recognised as dangerous and inappropriate.
MARIJUANA - A Simple Lesson.
Marijuana is the most complex of all the street drugs. It has hundreds of chemical compounds.
Over 60 are unique to the cannabis sativa plant and are classified as cannabinoids.
Tetrahydrocannabinol – THC- is the psychoactive i.e mind altering ingredient.
Unlike alcohol, which is water soluble and eliminated from the body within twenty-four hours, cannabinoids are lipophilic i.e. they dissolve in fatty tissue.
When a joint is smoked the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream via the tiny alveoli that line the lungs.
Among the blood thickeners are corpuscles and natural chemicals called lipoproteins.
The fat loving cannabinoids latch onto the fatty surfaces of corpuscles and bind to the lipoproteins, both of which are carried throughout the body and are eliminated very slowly from the body.
The cannabinoids seep into the three main types of fat deposits in the body:
The brain, which is approximately 60% fat.
The gonads (testes and ovaries), the adrenals, the liver and other major organs that act as fat storage depots. (The brain, testes and ovaries are the most sensitive to the effect of cannabinoids).
The protective cushions of fat that surround many major organs such as the heart and kidneys.
The surface and internal membranes of every cell in the body.
Two important features of cannabinoids are their fat solubility and prolonged retention - half-life of five to seven days. i.e. it takes five to seven days to eliminate 50% of the ingested cannabinnoids
Half the THC from a single joint remains in fatty tissues and cell membranes for approximately one week after it is smoked. The rest is slowly eliminated over a period of several weeks. If another joint is smoked before the cannabinoids from the previous one have been eliminated, cannabinoids accumulate in the body.
However, when cannabinoids are in the blood stream many are unable to pass through the membrane and instead become embedded.
As more joints are smoked, cannabinoids then start to accumulate and eventually saturate the membrane. When that happens cells can no longer function normally.
Because the brain is sixty per cent fat, when the neurons (brain cells) are saturated, the brain loses its ability to process information effectively. The brain starts to slow down, thinking coherently becomes difficult, and speech becomes slurred and slow.