Heavy cannabis use changes one's personality

The stupid thing about smoking weed: It spoils the character


From Rob Lyons

The current scientific studies on alleged harm from cannabis use are completely disregarded - how about a moral argument against weed? The editor of the UK's Novo partner magazine Spiked explainswhat bothers him about smoking weed

A friend once told me about a conversation in an Edinburgh restaurant where he was working at the time. The kitchen staff talked about which was the most dangerous drug. Tobacco? Or maybe the alcohol? Sure, heroin would be a candidate. The head chef said directly: "It's cannabis. That stuff messed up your brain so much that you don't even notice how much it harms you. "

This anecdote popped into my mind as soon as I read the reports about a recent study on the long-term effects of cannabis smoking. The study is the result of a research program that followed the lives of more than 1,000 children born in the city of Dunedin in southern New Zealand in 1972/73. The main finding was that subjects who started smoking cannabis in their youth did less well on a number of cognitive tests than those who only started smoking in adulthood.

The researchers suggest that this shows, quite obviously, that cannabis is not harmless. In particular, however, they argue that the consumption of a relatively strong psychoactive drug is a particular problem in the teenage years, a time when parts of the brain are still developing.

The essay in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported, “Cannabis use of over 20 years has been associated with neuropsychological decline. This was even more pronounced with very regular users. […] All in all, this finding confirms the assumption that cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain undergoes decisive development, could have neurotoxic consequences. "

In fact, what can definitely be seen from this study is that people who start smoking marijuana at an early age do less well on IQ and other cognitive tests in later years. However, the cause-and-effect relationship could also be the other way round - namely that those affected start smoking cannabis earlier due to their cognitive weaknesses - possibly as a kind of self-medication. While the link suggested by the researchers seems plausible, it is difficult to make a clear judgment. In addition, a logical consequence of this claim would be that starting cannabis use after the age of 18 does not damage the brain.

Nevertheless, such research results are likely to be a nuisance for all those who in recent years have compared the supposedly harmful alcohol with cannabis as a safer and friendlier alternative. Cannabis is the drug of choice for those who prefer harmless stoners to noisy, boisterous drinkers.

The problem is that these interpretations of the study results, as is customary today, evaluate incorrectly and correctly on the basis of risk and not morality. Our food choices are therefore always viewed from the perspective of obesity, diabetes and other health hysteria, and not according to old-fashioned concepts like satiety (as opposed to overeating) and indulgence. Smoking is perceived as an inherently evil because active smoking definitely increases the risk of developing certain chronic diseases and because smokers, on average, die before non-smokers. Whether we go by car or take a plane, everything has to be weighed against the possible risks to the planet from climate change.

All of this is a lousy substitute for the dodgy and complex business of wrestling with morals, of seriously asking yourself how best to lead your life. Neither the consumption of “junk food”, binge drinking or full weed is wrong from the outset. Everything practiced in good time can bring pleasure and even improve the quality of life.

It is also not just about the question of the third party exposure achieved through these activities - a question that all too often nowadays leads to scientifically questionable debates about “passive smoking” or interfering with bad habits “for the sake of the children”. Of course, it is right to consider the feelings of outsiders when looking at one's own actions; However, we should not allow ourselves to be persuaded to have such a strong guilt complex by means of invented dangers to third parties that we submit to a health fetishistic culture of prohibition.

The aspect that seems to be missing from all the debates of our day is whether it can be moral to just exist. Regardless of whether it concerns the totally drunk, the drunkard or someone else who only takes up space in this world without really actively living in it - criticism of people who do not try to find their place in the world, but simply to it trusting that society will catch them is perfectly legitimate.

This is not about moralizing about the actions of others and about dressing personal differences in taste in ethical standpoints. This is definitely not a fanfare call for a classic state crackdown. There is a great variety of legitimate ways of life - otherwise value discussions would be pointless too - and tolerance of others is a virtue that we should all advocate. The man on the corner with his joint would undoubtedly say "Every little animal his little bit".

Rather, it is a matter of honestly evaluating what is de facto value judgments, perhaps also political tactics, not to hide behind a smoke screen of science or statistics. Due to the decay of traditional and very often restrictive norms and ways of life, the idea of ​​a value debate as such seems to be in question in the last few decades. The petty authoritarians of this world are grateful that the delicate problem of value judgment has been replaced by sheer risk aversion. Why convince someone of the correctness of a life plan when you can bring them into line simply by fear?

Of course, it is good to know what you are getting yourself into and to know the dangers before you take action. I doubt, however, that parents would ever have needed a longitudinal study to find that their children are doing their mental abilities a disservice by using marijuana. However, we cannot make judgments about our lives on such a crude basis alone.

So if I have a problem with smoking weed, it has nothing to do with long-term health risks. Nor do I have a problem with someone indulging in a joint now and then. I am disturbed by the drop-out attitude, this idleness and the “relax-age” attitude that so many stoners exude. Worse still, the cultural trend of portraying this quasi professional uselessness as something positive is downright immoral.

As I conclude this article, I am well aware that drinking significant amounts of alcohol will likely ruin my sleep, give me headaches, and maybe even damage my liver. Even so, I'm going to a party tonight and I intend to drink more than the recommended daily allowance, no doubt killing a few thousand brain cells in the process. So I'll have a good time with friends, but I'll also get up the next morning and go to work. This is what a value judgment looks like in practice - far better than all this drink-this-and-die or smoke-that-and-die.