Study outlines indirect cannabis harm

The indirect dangers of cannabis have been highlighted in a new report. The study examined 100 regular and 90 casual users of the drug - those indulging between two and seven days a week were classed as regular users: infrequent users took the drug once a week.

"Much effort by policy-makers has been directed towards identifying potential health problems that might result from cannabis use. However, the indirect consequences of cannabis use may be just as significant," said Dr Phillip Terry of the University of Birmingham.

Dr Terry found that 74 per cent of cannabis users had driven under the influence of the drug, with over 70 per cent believing it to effect their driving. Nearly 80 per cent said they would be deterred if roadside testing were introduced. The drug "is the most common illicit drug detected in casualties of driving accidents," pointed out Dr Terry.

Cannabis use before sex was reported by 87 per cent with one in ten saying that this made it less likely they would use a condom. Even though a quarter of users admitted taking the drug at work, use did not seem to result in more absenteeism and workplace accidents.

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Economic and Social Research Council

Press Release: Tuesday, 27th January (Economic and Social Research Council)

 

Cannabis use: new study spells out the potential for indirect harm

TUESDAY 27 JANUARY 2004

Largely overlooked indirect dangers and effects of cannabis use are examined today for the first time in new research sponsored by the ESRC.

The potential for harm for people's physical, social and economic well-being is set out in a study led by Dr Philip Terry, of the University of Birmingham, which examines effects on performing risky activities ranging from working or driving a car to relationships and having sex.

It reveals that among the cannabis users surveyed who also drive motor vehicles, 74 per cent had driven while under the influence of the drug. More than 70 per cent of these believed that it had impaired their driving.

A quarter of those in the study said they used cannabis before or at work, and just over half of these admitted to some degree of impairment. However, use did not seem to result in more absenteeism, workplace accidents or injuries, or frequent job changes.

Cannabis use before and during sex was reported by 87 per cent, with one in 10 saying this made it less likely they would use a condom.

For the study, involving 100 regular and 90 casual users of cannabis, those on the drug between two and seven days a week were regarded as frequent users, whilst infrequent users were those indulging, at most, four days per month.

Researchers found that whilst 64 per cent of drivers amongst frequent users considered cannabis to impair performance, 41 per cent felt it acceptable to drive whilst under the influence of the drug. This compares with 19 per cent of occasional users. One-third of frequent users were willing to drive even when 'very high' on cannabis.

Although 24 people had been stopped by the police while driving under the influence of the drug, none had been tested for cannabis intoxication or charged with driving while intoxicated.

Nearly 80 per cent of those who had driven while or after using cannabis said they would be deterred from doing so if roadside testing were introduced.

The vast majority surveyed said they had used other legal and illegal drugs, often at the same time as cannabis. Ninety-seven per cent took alcohol, with 85 per cent doing so with cannabis, says the report. And 40 per cent used illegal drugs - mainly cocaine and ecstasy.

Frequent users reported considerably more guilt and a greater incidence of medical problems related to cannabis use, as well as more neglect of their families. Yet the study found that only two per cent of all those surveyed had received counselling or treatment.

Dr Terry said 'Much effort by policy-makers has been directed towards identifying potential health problems that might result from cannabis use. However, the indirect consequences of cannabis use may be just as significant.

'Previous studies have failed to examine the extent to which chronic use of cannabis is likely to increase someone's risk of accident or injury, or to have potentially significant adverse effects on their financial or social well-being by affecting their job performance or personal relationships.

'Cannabis is the most common illicit drug detected in casualties of driving accidents. It is often consumed in the workplace. And if it makes people more likely to take risks during sex, it may increase their chances of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases, or of unwanted pregnancies.'

 

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