October 24th 2015

  Buy Issue 2959

Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Labor proposes expanded role for infrastructure fund

CANBERRA OBSERVED Crossbench unity plugs Coalition water spill

EDITORIAL Deplorable attack on Sir Peter Lawler

LITIGATION Appeal to freedoms will not avail for Archbishop

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Europe generous in face of Middle-Eastern influx

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Europe's refugee crisis was much worse last time

CULTURE WARS The PC left is saving us from ... Tintin and Twain

SCIENCE AND CERTAINTY No safety in numbers as variable as these

EUTHANASIA Belgium, Netherlands in the grip of the small laws

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Marriage redefinition will feed government business

PUBLIC POLICY A wake-up call from land of rocky highs and lows

CINEMA Respectfully intended to make you laugh: The Intern

BOOK REVIEW Clearing the head


Books promotion page

Clearing the head

News Weekly, October 24, 2015


QUIT CANNABIS: Proven Techniques to Help You Quit Forever

by Jan Copeland, with Sally Rooke and Etty Matalon

(Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2015)
Paperback: 194 pages
ISBN: 9781743319925
Price: AUD$22.99


Reviewed by Gabrielle Walsh


Professor Jan Copeland, author of Quit Cannabis, is director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC). Professor Copeland has brought her long-standing professional expertise to this handy manual, which offers an effective guide to quitting cannabis.

Knowledge and experience guide Copeland as she outlines the harms of cannabis use. After three decades, the scientific research has testified to the significant detrimental effects of cannabis on the brain, motor skills, lung function and IQ of users. The work is punctuated with relevant and telling personal accounts from users who have worked at quitting.

Copeland points out that a well-financed normalisation campaign pushing for legal change consistently trumpets the no-harm mantra to counter these findings. This is misleading, particularly for youth, many of whom think cannabis is safe.

Scientific discussion about cannabis can be difficult due to the aggressive marketing of the drug. Legalising it would allow for a profitable commercial industry that would target the young, while selling the story that cannabis does no harm.

Cannabis produces more than a hundred cannabinoids that are known to date. The main ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This produces the high and is believed to be responsible for the feelings of anxiety and paranoia that can be experienced when using the drug. The second most common ingredient is cannabidiol (CBD). This part of the plant has the most potential as a medicine. It is known to reduce anxiety and paranoia. Cannabis can be used as a whole plant, resin and oil, smoked, as tobacco, inhaled or in foods.

Copeland outlines the scientific facts about cannabis, which prove false the commonly held view that cannabis is harmless. Cannabis acts as a mood-altering drug, producing feelings of euphoria but also of anxiety and aggravation of psychotic states. It affects mental performance and judgement, leads to memory loss and impaired performance, and is addictive on long-term use. The science is new and rapidly developing on the effects of taking in high levels of THC on the short and long-term functioning of the two major body systems, CB1 (brain and nervous system) and CB2 (receptors abundant in the immune and reproductive systems).

Recent studies have shown that regular long-term use of cannabis does appear to damage the brain and impair cognitive function. To give the example of cannabis use and driving: cannabis slows the reaction time to the point where even driving more slowly will not compensate for the reduced ability to respond rapidly to a traffic situation. At least six hours after smoking should be the amount of time allowed before driving.

More controversial is the part cannabis in producing depression and anxiety. Cannabis users who are suffering from depression are advised to seek treatment through their family doctor. In developed countries, suicide is now the second leading cause of death among 10–24 year olds, so any preventable risk factor is potentially of great importance to public health.

Cannabis use has been shown to be an important risk factor for suicidal behaviours. In trials, cannabis use at three times per week led to higher rates of developing suicidal thoughts – though only among males. Cannabis was also shown to increase feelings of stress and anxiety. It is estimated that cannabis use is implicated in 8 to 14 per cent of psychosis cases.

As cannabis is part of a culture that promotes it as harmless, it can be alarming for a user to be told that they are addicted to cannabis and will suffer withdrawal when reducing or stopping use. Little is known of cannabis dependence. Activation of the brain’s reward system, inducing feelings of pleasure or euphoria, is central to problems arising from drug use. People who use cannabis are at a higher risk than non-users of short-term memory impairment, mental health problems and respiratory diseases.

Withdrawal from cannabis is the most controversial topic of cannabis use. The real value of this text is Copeland’s strategy for those attempting cannabis withdrawal along the path to quitting and sets out pointers: access the correct information; look at the timing; contemplate the change; prepare and plan for change. Action: the start of the change; then maintain the change until it becomes the norm.

Language, Copeland says, is impor­tant in working towards quitting. Change is difficult and supportive language around those embracing change is important. Language that is non-confrontational, non-adversarial and non-judgemental has proved more effective in supporting people adjusting to a non-cannabis lifestyle.

Copeland includes warnings for those supporting users who are quitting: be genuine and be prepared for defensive responses; be prepared for the discussion on the cost of cannabis but do not blame the user, rather concentrate on your concern, thereby shifting the focus from the user to you.

Quitting cannabis is not easy but is certainly achievable. Plan for success and beware excuses to have a smoke. Quitters can have a sense of loss as they change friendship groups or activities they enjoyed as smokers.

This book is a gem, not only for cannabis users who are considering quitting, but also those who support them. Long overdue!

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