Drugs: Medicine is critical of the release of cannabis

Drugs: Medicine is critical of the release of cannabis

For over 40 years, the cultivation and sale of cannabis was largely prohibited in Germany. A planned law will soon allow adults to do this with rules. Doubts arise from medicine.

Smoke a joint and the day is your friend? The Health Committee in the Bundestag is scheduled to finally deal with the planned cannabis law this Wednesday. It is expected that the Bundestag will vote on it this week. According to plans by the traffic light coalition, cultivation and possession will be permitted for adults within set limits from April – and many a stoner’s dream in Germany could come true.

The idea still remains controversial. It’s less about the goal of stopping dealers. Almost everyone wants that. But medical concerns arise as to whether young people are sufficiently aware of the risks of cannabis. The brain matures by the age of 25. Anyone who disrupts this process by smoking weed heavily can suffer lifelong consequences – keyword psychosis.

“I fear that with the planned law we will cast out the devil with Beelzebub,” says Euphrosyne Gouzoulis-Mayfrank. The neurologist and psychiatrist is the future president of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (DGPPN). Age is the crucial point in this discussion. This is not seen enough.

Risky consumption has many factors

Cannabis is a psychoactive substance from the hemp plant that can be addictive – whether packaged as a joint, hash cookie or otherwise. “Risky consumption cannot be identified across the board,” says Stephanie Eckhardt, head of the addiction prevention department at the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA). There are factors that interact: How often is cannabis used? How much of it? And how high is the THC content, i.e. the concentration of the drug tetrahydrocannabinol?

Cannabis consumption has increased in Germany, especially among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, reports Eckhardt. According to the latest information from the BZgA, half of them had already had cannabis consumption experience in 2021 – this is the highest value recorded by the BZgA since 1973. There are only assumptions about the increase: the availability, the social environment, social trends and also the price Black market. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, around 4.5 million adults in Germany used cannabis at least once in 2022 – most often between the ages of 18 and 24.

Manipulation in the brain

According to the planned law, cannabis should remain banned until people reach the age of majority. There is also a tiered model based on age: in cannabis clubs, club members should be allowed to grow the drug together and give it to each other – a maximum of 50 grams per member per month. For 18 to 21 year olds, it can only be up to 30 grams per month with a maximum content of ten percent of the psychoactive substance THC. “This is no longer unproblematic leisure consumption,” says Gouzoulis-Mayfrank, medical director of the LVR Clinic in Cologne. 50 grams a month was enough for several joints a day. Even 30 grams is too much for young adults. “The planned legalization is a field test in society,” says the doctor for the DGPPN. “From our point of view, we shouldn’t move forward quite so recklessly at the moment.”

Researchers are thinking about the body’s own system for cannabinoid molecules: there are naturally structures and docking points for these substances in the brain. Among other things, they regulate appetite, emotions and the sensation of pain. This complex system matures slowly in humans until their mid-20s. If cannabis is added from outside, this process can be disrupted. Doctors assume that frequent smoking of weed in adolescents shifts and changes the cannabinoid structures in the brain – and that this manipulation can have effects throughout life.

Increased risk of psychosis

There is evidence for this from various research strands, explains Gouzoulis-Mayfrank. Anyone who smokes weed early and a lot has a significantly increased risk of psychosis – even many years later. Another consequence of this could be a greater susceptibility to all kinds of addictions. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is also aware of the risks. Cannabis is particularly damaging to the still-growing brain, he says. He had already emphasized in August that no one should misunderstand the law. “Cannabis consumption is being legalized. It still remains dangerous.” But has this message arrived?

Expert misses clear signal to adults

“In recent years there has been an increasing openness to talk about cannabis, including about the risks associated with its consumption,” says Eckhardt from the Federal Center for Health Education. “It shouldn’t be a taboo topic.” But it also imposes restrictions. “There are opportunities and risks.” The BZgA’s message to young people is therefore: Stop smoking weed.

Psychiatrist Gouzoulis-Mayfrank expects collateral damage in Germany if legalization goes ahead as planned. “I fear that it will not be possible to convey the dangers of cannabis credibly.” That’s why your trade association is only in favor of approval from the age of 21. “This would also send a clear signal to young adults that smoking weed is problematic for them.” Due to different rules and controls, the effects of legalization can vary from country to country. Experiences from abroad are therefore not always transferable to Germany. According to research by the German Center for Addiction Issues, alongside alcohol and nicotine, cannabis is considered the most popular intoxicant worldwide.

Source: Stern

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