Nz Young Among World’s highest users of cannabis-NZ Herald- Sat October 17

This was in the NZ Herald today, note cannabis is known to cause psychotic episodes.

Lancet study includes long list of health risks for the world’s 166 million cannabis smokers.

Young people in New Zealand are among the world’s biggest users of cannabis. Nearly 4 percent of adults globally use the drug, though it raises many health concerns according to a paper published in the Lancet yesterday.

It cited figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which estimated that in 2006 there were 166 million users of cannabis aged from 15-64 0r 3.9 percent of the world’s population  in this age category. The drug is the most used among young people in rich countries, led by New Zealand, Australia and the US, followed bu Europe, but appears to be becoming popular on a global scale, with use rising in low and middle income countries it said.

The study by Australia professors Wayne Hall and Louisa Degenhardt, is an overview of published research into cannabis use and impacts.

Hall and Degenhardt say that as a problem for public health, cannabis is “probably modest” compared with the burden from alcohol, tobacco and other illegal drugs.Even so, cannabis has a long list of suspected adverse health effects they warn.

They include the risk of dependence, car accidents,impaired breathing, damaged cardiovascular healtg, psychotic episodes and educational failure among teens who smoke the drug regularly. Around 9 percent of people who ever use cannabis become dependent on it, says the paper. By comparison, the risk of addiction for nicotine is 32 percent, 23 percent for heroin, 17 percent for cocaine and 15 percent for alcohol.

   “Acute adverse effects of cannabis use include anxiety and panic in naive( first time) users, and a probable increased risk of accidents if users drive while intoxicated” it says…

…Another area of concern is so-called “skunk”- extremely potent cannabis from plants selected to have higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the drugs active ingredient. Level’s of THC found in seized cannabis have risen in the past two decades, says the study. ” A hugh THC content can increase anxiety, depression and psychotic symptoms if regular users do not titrate(measure out) their dose.

END

On the Lancet site they also have an article on cannabis and Psychosis B ut you have to be registered to see it.

This website – The Medical Journal of Australia– has some interesting information also on cannabis and psychosis:

Cannabis and schizophrenia
  Does cannabis cause schizophrenia? Perhaps the more worrying question is whether cannabis causes chronic psychosis, particularly schizophrenia. The work of Andreasson and others examined this question in a cohort of male Swedish conscripts, followed up through a national psychiatric case register.16 They found that having used cannabis between one and 10 times at conscription increased the relative risk of schizophrenia to 1.3, the risk rising to 6.0 for those who had used cannabis on 50 or more occasions. However, this relative risk was reduced after adjustment for factors which independently contributed to the risk of schizophrenia. While this study provides some of the strongest evidence for a link between cannabis and psychosis, methodological concerns have been raised. These include the temporal gap between self-reported cannabis use at conscription and later schizophrenia, the potential confounding role of other substance use (particularly as amphetamines were a major drug of abuse during the study period), the adequacy of psychological assessment at conscription, and the reliability of self-reported drug use at conscription.3

Nevertheless, the association between cannabis use and schizophrenia is strengthened by studies which demonstrate that cannabis is widely used among people with schizophrenia. A recent study in Newcastle examined substance use in all outpatients with schizophrenia, finding 29.9% of subjects had some use of cannabis in their lifetime, with 7.7% and 28.3% of subjects having lifetime diagnoses of cannabis abuse and dependence, respectively.17 Notably, alcohol was more commonly used than cannabis, while amphetamines were the third most commonly used substance.

Hearing voices? You’re not alone -ABC NEWs

Thu Aug 27, 2009 7:49am.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/08/27/2668099.htm

 New support groups are offering help for people who suffer from auditory hallucinations . Hearing Voices network launched in Victoria (AM) Mental health researchers estimate that about 4 per cent of people experience auditory hallucinations, where they hear voices. In Australia, the problem has typically been treated with medication. But a network of self-help groups that has been successful overseas is now gradually being rolled out around the country.

 Janet Karagounis started hearing the voices of her imaginary friends when she was 8, but by her late 20s the voices were more sinister and she ended up in a psychiatric unit. “Basically I had aliens, I had government conspiracies, every couple of years I basically was put in a psychiatric unit and I was first diagnosed chronic schizophrenic,” she said. “That wrote me off so to speak. I had no hope, no future, no chance of working. And yeah, now my life is glowing.” Ms Karagounis credits a Hearing Voices group for turning her life around and she’s now a group facilitator. “When I discovered that actual past events in your life and trauma are associated with hearing voices, once I made that connection, everything started to become clearer,” she said.

 “You discovered whether your voices were male or female. They asked you questions about your voices. They made you feel like a person. And the other people, every time someone would come, you would see people nodding and that acknowledgement gave you power and gave you power over your voices.”

Hearing Voices groups are being set up in Western Australia and New South Wales and a Tasmanian network has just received funding. The Voices Vic network is being rolled out in Melbourne and the regions by community service organisation the Prahran Mission. It is working with mental health services, community groups, voice hearers and carers and is being funded mainly by philanthropic trusts. Indigo Daya is the project manager. She says that although the latest research suggests about 4 per cent of people hear voices, less than a quarter of them are actually diagnosed with schizophrenia. But hearing voices can still be a distressing experience and that’s what the groups help people handle. “We are not interested in getting rid of people’s voices, which is a key difference for us,” she said. “Our approach is to say that hearing voices can be a very normal human experience. What is not so great is the distress that can be associated with it. So we are interested in working with the distress. “What we do is teach people to listen, but listen selectively. To recognise that they have just as much power as the voices, and in fact more. And to set boundaries.