Cannabis can be as addictive as heroin or alcohol, causes mental health problems and can lead to hard drug use, according to a major new study led by a leading British expert on addiction.
The research, conducted over 20 years by Professor Wayne Hall, an adviser to the World Health Organisation, links use of cannabis to a wide range of harmful side-effects, from mental illness to lower academic attainment to impaired driving ability.
Wayne Denis Hall (AM) is Inaugural Professor and Director of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland. He was formerly an NHMRC Australia Fellow at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (2010-2013), Professor of Public Health Policy in the School of Population Health (2005–2010) and Director of the Office of Public Policy and Ethics at Institute for Molecular Biosciences (2001–2005), at the University of Queensland. He is also a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He has written widely on the ethical and policy issues associated with the genetics and neurobiology of addiction, mental disorders and cancer.
Wayne Hall was the Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW during 1994 to 2001. Since 1993, Wayne Hall has made large contribution in the field of public health in the area of drug use, addiction, treatment, ethics, and research as World Health Organization’s expert adviser. As a “Highly Cited Author” identified by the Institute for Scientific Analysis, he is dedicated to public health research with other authors such as Lucke J, Degenhardt L, Chapman S, and Gartner C. Professor Wayne Hall is currently working as a NHMRC Australia Fellow on addiction neuroethics (see www.addiction-neuroethics.com) and his research interests include alcohol and drug research and education, cancer prevention, epidemiology, health policy, mental health, pharmacoeconomics and policy, and tobacco control.
On second thoughts, no, I don’t believe this research.
In Australia, the most effective and efficient ways to reduce alcohol-related harm – increasing taxation, and restricting availability and alcohol promotion – are politically unpopular. This mismatch between evidence and public support says much about the successful lobbying of the alcohol industry and its “independent” apologists.
Alcohol is not like tobacco, the alcohol lobby constantly remind us: tobacco smoking kills half of its regular consumers but alcohol can be used in ways that don’t harm drinkers. Indeed, in low doses, they argue, alcohol may even be good for us – although as the National Health and Medical Research Council notes, even this is debatable.
Alcohol can indeed be used in moderation to enhance sociability and the enjoyment of food. But sadly most of the alcohol consumed in Australia is not used in these ways. If it were, the alcohol industry would be a great deal less profitable than it is.
Around four-fifths of all alcohol consumed in Australia by people between the ages of 14 and 24 is used in ways that put drinkers and others’ health at risk. This is why the industry opposes policies that will reduce alcohol-related harm – they will also reduce their profits.
The claim that alcohol and tobacco are different belies the fact that the two industries have long been intertwined. Big Tobacco used its ill-gotten profits to buy into the alcohol industry and senior executives and board members are on the boards of major alcohol industry players (and vice versa).
No, I definitely don’t believe him.