Weed, dack, skunk, cabbage, smoke, joint, spliff, dope, mary jane, electric puha… just some of the multitude of slang names for the third most popular drug in Aotearoa/New Zealand – cannabis. The most popular drug is of course alcohol, with the second being nicotine.
So why is marijuana so popular? I think the fact that you can grow your own appeals to the Kiwi ‘do it yourself’ culture and of course for many people smoking a joint gives a welcome break from everyday life. Like any drug, a lot of people use it because it is fun. Like alcohol, cannabis is a depressant, so the first effect is one of instant relaxation. With this there is altered perception. Some people think they are ‘inspirational’ in this state – but often, on reflection, it is just stoned ramblings.
Yes, there is definitely an ‘up’ side to cannabis (ha ha), but what is the ‘down’ side? Of course the major one is that it is illegal and like any drug, its use can become the major focus of your life. This is when money is spent on dope rather than bills, when it becomes something you can’t do without rather than something to give yourself pleasure or ‘time out’ – this is when the nasty underbelly reveals itself and lies, deception and relationship problems often follow.
So cannabis is not a harmless ‘weed’, it is a potent depressive with stimulant and hallucinatory properties. In fact if you are someone with mental health issues, it is something to avoid, or at least use very sparingly. Mental health issues that are associated with cannabis are paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, short-term memory loss, reduced drive and motivation and learning disabilities.
A significant harm to your physical health from smoking cannabis is the hot smoke being held down in your very sensitive, vulnerable lungs. You can easily ameliorate this harm by either eating the cannabis (it just takes longer for the hit to come on, but it is usually stronger) or by not holding down the smoke. Even though it is now commonly known that the THC is absorbed instantly, the old habit of holding down the smoke for as long as you can lives on. Come on, you ‘dyed in the wool’ dope smokers, give it up – blow that smoke out – you are damaging your precious lungs and they are quite important you know!
Then there is cannabis and driving. Cannabis use before driving significantly increases your risk of having an accident and when combined with alcohol, the risk skyrockets! After analysing deaths on New Zealand roads over five years, an Environment, Science and Research (ESR) report found that poly drug use was found in 48 per cent of drivers who died. Remember, too, that the police can now test you for cannabis.
Problems with cannabis can creep up on you or your loved ones. Use can increase until it is daily and then sometimes before work, or during work, or instead of work. If you are wondering about your own or your loved ones use, you can ring or visit us at CADS (see below) or go online to www.marijuana-anonymous.org where there is a twelve-question checklist found under ‘How it works’.
If you have concerns about your own or someone else’s cannabis or other drug use, or if you’d like more information, contact CADS on 845 1818 or www.cads.org.nz. If you live outside Auckland contact the Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797.