Cannabis is anything but harmless

Vienna, January 24th, 2022 (KAP) The Vienna Institute for Medical Anthropology and Bioethics (IMABE) has expressed criticism of the drug policy of the new German traffic light government. Politicians are hoping for tax revenues of up to 2.8 billion euros a year as well as new jobs from the controlled release of cannabis for leisure use laid down in the coalition agreement, but the foreseeable damage to health, especially for young people, is consciously accepted. “A mandatory use of tax revenue for the health care system is nowhere to be found,” warned IMABE Managing Director Susanne Kummer in a broadcast on Monday.

Comprehensive studies over the past 20 years have shown that cannabis is “anything but harmless,” the ethicist summarized the state of research. “The drug becomes addictive very quickly, can trigger depression, psychosis and other serious mental illnesses and is paving the way for hard drugs.” Recent results of a US study published in 2021 showed that cannabis use has been shown to cause permanent brain damage in adolescents under the age of 25. In the US state of Colorado, after the legalization of cannabis, the capacity of adolescent psychiatry had to be doubled due to the rapidly increasing number of addicts and cannabis-induced psychosis.

The latest study, published in the JAMA Network Open (doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.42521), shows what Kummer calls a “startling” increase in the number of emergency response calls for cannabis poisoning in children in Canada since legalization in 2018 – ninefold. The number exploded, especially after consuming foods such as cannabis biscuits or cannabis gummy bears. The number of children who have to be hospitalized has also doubled. Their average age was between three years and nine months. One in ten child poisonings evaluated at Ontario’s central emergency room was due to the use of cannabis-containing products. Almost a third (32.7%) of the children had to be treated in hospital due to their poisoning, some (3.6%) even in the intensive care unit. So far there has not been a death.

For the study, researchers at the Hospital of Ottawa and the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa examined all emergency department admissions of children in the province of Ontario (population 14.6 million) in three time periods: before cannabis was legalized (2016 to 2018) , after the legalization of cannabis flowers, seeds and oils (2018 to 2020) and after the legalization of cannabis-containing edibles (February 2020). In the entire study period, there were 522 admissions to the emergency room due to poisoning in children. Fortunately, while the overall number of intoxications in children decreased, the proportion of cannabis intoxications increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is likely to be related to the increased cannabis use by adults during the pandemic period.

“The results are so dramatic because Canada had hoped that legalization would reduce accidental consumption among children,” study leader Daniel Myran was quoted as saying in the IMABE broadcast. There are regulations on how high the concentration in the food can be, as well as on child-proof packaging. In addition, training for parents and caregivers should reduce the risk for children. “However, the numbers from the study show that this goal was not achieved,” concluded Myran.

The 125th German Medical Association (DÄT) also voiced sharp criticism of a possible legalization of cannabis in Germany in November. “Legalization downplays the health risks, negative consequences and long-term effects of cannabis use for children and young people,” it said in a statement. The doctors warn of possible risks to the health of consumers and consequences for medical care. Experiences from other countries show that there is an increase in cannabis-related emergency admissions, an increased need for psychiatric treatment and cannabis-related fatal traffic accidents and suicides.

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