The Wall Street Journal 4 January 2019 Family First Comment: “The number of Americans who use cannabis heavily is soaring. In 2006, about 3 million Americans reported using the drug at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, that number had increased to 8 million.” And the link to violence including family violence should cause NZ to pause and think. www.VoteNo.nz
As legalization spreads, more Americans are becoming heavy users of cannabis, despite its links to violence and mental illness
Over the past 30 years, a shrewd and expensive lobbying campaign has made Americans more tolerant of marijuana. In November 2018, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational cannabis use; New Jersey and others may soon follow. Already, more than 200 million Americans live in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. Yet even as marijuana use has become more socially acceptable, psychiatrists and epidemiologists have reached a consensus that it presents more serious risks than most people realize.
Contrary to the predictions of both advocates and opponents, legalization hasn’t led to a huge increase in people using the drug casually. About 15% of Americans used cannabis at least once in 2017, up from 10% in 2006, according to the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. By contrast, almost 70% of Americans had an alcoholic drink in the past year.
But the number of Americans who use cannabis heavily is soaring. In 2006, about 3 million Americans reported using the drug at least 300 times a year, the standard for daily use. By 2017, that number had increased to 8 million—approaching the 12 million Americans who drank every day. Put another way, only one in 15 drinkers consumed alcohol daily; about one in five marijuana users used cannabis that often.
And they are consuming cannabis that is far more potent than ever before, as measured by the amount of THC it contains. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects. In the 1970s, most marijuana contained less than 2% THC. Today, marijuana routinely contains 20-25% THC, thanks to sophisticated farming and cloning techniques and to the demand of users to get a stronger high more quickly. In states where cannabis is legal, many users prefer extracts that are nearly pure THC.
Cannabis advocates often argue that the drug can’t be as neurotoxic as studies suggest because otherwise Western countries would have seen population-wide increases in psychosis alongside rising marijuana use. In reality, accurately tracking psychosis cases is impossible in the U.S. The government carefully tracks diseases such as cancer with central registries, but no such system exists for schizophrenia or other severe mental illnesses.
Some population-level data does exist, though. Research from Finland and Denmark, two countries that track mental illness more accurately, shows a significant increase in psychosis since 2000, following an increase in cannabis use. And last September, a large survey found a rise in serious mental illness in the U.S. too. In 2017, 7.5% of young adults met the criteria for serious mental illness, double the rate in 2008.
None of these studies prove that rising cannabis use has caused population-wide increases in psychosis or other mental illness, although they do offer suggestive evidence of a link. What is clear is that, in individual cases, marijuana can cause psychosis, and psychosis is a high risk factor for violence. What’s more, much of that violence occurs when psychotic people are using drugs. As long as people with schizophrenia are avoiding recreational drugs, they are only moderately more likely to become violent than healthy people. But when they use drugs, their risk of violence skyrockets. The drug they are most likely to use is cannabis.
The most obvious way that cannabis fuels violence in psychotic people is through its tendency to cause paranoia. Even marijuana advocates acknowledge that the drug can cause paranoia; the risk is so obvious that users joke about it, and dispensaries advertise certain strains as less likely to do so. But for people with psychotic disorders, paranoia can fuel extreme violence. A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia looked at 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes. It found that most of the killers believed they were in danger from the victim, and almost two-thirds reported misusing cannabis—more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.
The link between marijuana and violence doesn’t appear limited to people with pre-existing psychosis. Researchers have studied alcohol and violence for generations, proving that alcohol is a risk factor for domestic abuse, assault and even murder. Far less work has been done on marijuana, in part because advocates have stigmatized anyone who raises the issue. Still, there are studies showing that marijuana use is a significant risk factor for violence.
A 2012 paper in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, examining a federal survey of more than 9,000 adolescents, found that marijuana use was associated with a doubling of domestic violence in the U.S. A 2017 paper in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, examining drivers of violence among 6,000 British and Chinese men, found that drug use was linked to a fivefold increase in violence, and the drug used was nearly always cannabis.
Before states legalized recreational cannabis, advocates predicted that legalization would let police focus on hardened criminals rather than on marijuana smokers and thus reduce violent crime. Some advocates even claim that legalization has reduced violent crime: In a 2017 speech calling for federal legalization, Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) said that “these states are seeing decreases in violent crime.”
But Mr. Booker is wrong. The first four states to legalize marijuana for recreational use were Colorado and Washington in 2014 and Alaska and Oregon in 2015. Combined, those four states had about 450 murders and 30,300 aggravated assaults in 2013. In 2017, they had almost 620 murders and 38,000 aggravated assaults—an increase far greater than the national average.
Knowing exactly how much of that increase is related to cannabis is impossible without researching every crime. But for centuries, people all over the world have understood that cannabis causes mental illness and violence—just as they’ve known that opiates cause addiction and overdose. Hard data on the relationship between marijuana and madness dates back 150 years, to British asylum registers in India.
Yet 20 years ago, the U.S. moved to encourage wider use of cannabis and opiates. In both cases, we decided we could outsmart these drugs—enjoying their benefits without their costs. And in both cases, we were wrong. Opiates are riskier than cannabis, and the overdose deaths they cause are a more imminent crisis, so public and government attention have focused on them. Soon, the mental illness and violence that follow cannabis use also may be too widespread to ignore.
NZ Herald 6 January 2019 Family First Comment: We’ve been saying this for years. And we’ll be saying the same thing if marijuana is foolishly legalised.
The price of your summer tipple would be hiked along with the drinking age under changes wanted by DHBs struggling with booze-related carnage and disease.
There are 47,000 people who drink hazardously within Auckland DHB’s boundary, with more than one in four men in that category.
The DHB has now joined other health boards including Counties Manukau in endorsing a position statement on alcohol harm. It calls for price hikes, restrictions on advertising and sponsorship, and an increase in the purchasing age.
“Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity. It is an intoxicant, toxin, and addictive psychotropic drug,” the DHB concludes. “Alcohol has been normalised and largely accepted by society, and causes more harm than any other drug in society.
“Harm from alcohol is not limited to those with alcohol addiction and dependence, but affects even those that drink low to moderate amounts.”
The stance adds to growing calls by DHBs to address the environment people live in, in order to improve their health. Wellington region DHBs recently called for a tax on sugary drinks.
Auckland DHB cited research showing consuming between 10 to 20 standard drinks a week slashes life expectancy by an estimated six months.
Drinking is linked to liver cirrhosis, cancers and stroke. At least 75 per cent of assaults between 9pm and 6am are estimated to be alcohol-related.
“In addition to the impact on health services in the community, treating alcohol-related harm in our hospitals requires significant staff time and resources, including security. Our ED staff often face physical abuse from intoxicated patients and visitors,” a DHB spokeswoman told the Herald on Sunday. READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12186017&ref=twitter
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Guest editorial: Unborn Kiwis need more protection NZ Herald 3 January 2019 Family First Comment: Excellent commentary from a Christchurch mum… “It’s time to update our abortion law. It’s the 21st Century; the law is 40 years old, and it needs to be modernised. That’s what we keep hearing, and I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, the proposals in the Law Commission’s report would be a big step backwards. A truly progressive society protects the rights of all its members, down to the smallest and most vulnerable. The advice the Law Commission has provided would achieve the opposite of that. It would strip unborn Kiwis of any recognition of humanity under the law, placing them at even greater risk. We should be bolstering the rights of unborn children, not stripping them away.” Well said. #chooselife
It’s time to update our abortion law. It’s the 21st Century; the law is 40 years old, and it needs to be modernised. That’s what we keep hearing, and I couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, the proposals in the Law Commission’s report would be a big step backwards.
A truly progressive society protects the rights of all its members, down to the smallest and most vulnerable. The advice the Law Commission has provided would achieve the opposite of that. It would strip unborn Kiwis of any recognition of humanity under the law, placing them at even greater risk. We should be bolstering the rights of unborn children, not stripping them away.
There is no longer any excuse for imprecision over what is developing in a pregnant woman’s womb. We know that at the point of conception, a new organism comes into being. This new organism has its own DNA and its own blood type, distinct from the mother and father. In other words, it is a unique human being. An unborn baby isn’t part of the woman’s body; it is a different body.
We’ve known this for a while, but with today’s technology we have an unprecedented view into the womb.
We know that a baby is formed with astonishing speed: by eight weeks’ gestation the baby already has discernible arms and legs, all its organs are present and its heart is beating; by 13 weeks all major development has taken place, tooth buds are developing and the baby has well-defined fingers and toes; by 16 weeks the baby has eyelids, hair, nails and fingerprints. Mothers often feel the baby moving and kicking between 16 and 20 weeks’ gestation. All this has occurred well before the 22-week threshold in Model C of the Law Commission’s report.
By 22 weeks, babies born prematurely have been known to survive. By 24 weeks, the baby is almost completely formed; over the remaining 16 weeks, the baby primarily just gets bigger and heavier.
This is not fringe theory, and it’s not new. We’ve known all this for some time. Yet Model A of the Law Commission’s report would permit all abortions up to birth.
At this point some will protest that this unborn human should not be called a baby — a foetus, instead, or an embryo or zygote for the earliest stages of development. These terms are fine if used for technical accuracy — a human foetus describes a young, unborn human, just as a newborn and toddler describe older, post-birth humans. It becomes problematic, however, when we use the term as a way to dehumanise the unborn child.
We have dehumanised unborn children, not in response to but in defiance of the evidence, because it justifies us in treating them as less than human.
Some will then argue that, despite its humanity, the foetus should not be considered a person. Arguing for personhood to be bestowed separately to someone’s humanity is arbitrary and not based on scientific fact. There are, not surprisingly, multiple different stages that people point to as marking personhood — implantation, viability, consciousness, even birth.
Shouldn’t the fact that it is human be enough for it to have human rights?
Abortion deprives unborn Kiwis of their most fundamental human right — their right to life. The express purpose of an abortion is to kill a human being. It is not akin to simply removing life support. In abortions performed before 22 weeks, the foetus normally dies in the process of being removed from the womb. After 22 weeks, killing the foetus before removal needs to be part of a successful abortion procedure.
The Law Commission’s report notes the Abortion Supervisory Committee’s advice that “other than in exceptional circumstances, foeticide (the act of causing the death of the foetus) should be part of the abortion process after 22 weeks’ gestation … if a woman does not consent to foeticide, the abortion should not go ahead, because there is a possibility of neonatal survival”.
In other words, simple termination of the pregnancy is not enough. The foetus needs to be killed, because we all know that if you end up with a live baby, the abortion hasn’t gone as planned.
Abortion is not just a women’s rights issue; it is a human rights issue. The point is not whether women are capable of making good decisions. It’s that no individual should hold such untrammelled power, the power of life and death, over another human being.
I don’t deny that many women find themselves in extremely tough situations, and that those who choose an abortion often feel it is their only choice. I don’t want to minimise the stress and trauma of women facing a crisis pregnancy, but too often the discussion ends with the woman’s difficult situation.