Keywords: Cannabis, 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, mental illness, psychosis, AKT1 gene, COMT gene, legalization of cannabis, Nigeria.
Cannabis – Selecting Who to Harm – Nigeria. What are some of the negative mental health effects of taking cannabis? Are there good effects of cannabis use? Why does taking cannabis harm some people but not everyone? Is it time to legalize cannabis in Nigeria?
Cannabis Sativa, is a plant with different varieties. The varieties contain two major active cannabinoid ingredients, delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or▲9THC and cannabidiol or CBD. There are other ingredients in the plant that are not so active.
Each variety of cannabis sativa has different amounts of the two most active ingredients. One variety has a lot of tetrahydrocannabinol, which gives people the ‘high’ feeling, with a little of the cannabidiol. This is the type found in street cannabis.
The other variety has more of the CBD with little of the ▲9THC, which does not give the ‘high; feeling. This is because CBD does not cause intoxication or ‘high.’
That someone is dependent on cannabis is a risk factor to having mental health issues. These mental health issues may not be caused by the use of cannabis alone.
So as someone uses cannabis, it will not necessarily mean that he/she will develop mental illness.
Certain people will take cannabis for years and will not have any mental health issues. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for everyone. Thus the need for the topic, Cannabis – Selecting Who to Harm – Nigeria.
What are some of the negative mental health effects of taking cannabis?
It is known that the active ingredients in cannabis can affect the brain in many different ways.
Tetrahydrocannabinol found in street cannabis, can cause destruction of brain cells. It reduces the cells connectivity with each other so that communication among the brain cells is reduced. And there is imbalance in the neurotransmitters. These are all predisposing factors to the development of mental illness.
Many studies have documented that cannabis use increases risk to having psychiatric disorders. And some of these psychiatric disorders include schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. Dependence on cannabis is a gateway to taking other substances of abuse.
Smoking high-potency cannabis containing▲9THC regularly or every day does increase the possibility of developing psychosis. This is according to research. And the risk is as high as five times compared to people who have never used cannabis.
Are there good effects of cannabis use?
The less potent non street form of cannabis sativa plant contains the CBD. And most often, the CBD and the ▲9THC work in opposition to each other.
For example, research has proved that CBD can prevent or change the psychotic symptoms brought about by▲9-THC. So CBD has antipsychotic properties.
In medicine, cannabis sativa is being used as treatment for certain physical illnesses. And majority of these medicines contain CBD.
There are drugs made from cannabinoids that are used in treating certain physical illnesses such as rare forms of epilepsy. These medications are also used in treating nausea and vomiting in cancer patients on cancer medications.
Patients living with HIV/AIDS who suffer loss of appetite and weight are also treated with medications containing cannabinoids. Also people suffering from chronic painand multiple sclerosis do have benefits from these medications.
The medical use of cannabis, requires the supervision of a medical personnel. This is because CBD has its own negative risks or side effects.
Why does taking cannabis harm some people but not everyone?
In this case, the street cannabis form is being referred to. It has been written above that most street cannabis contain the tetrahydrocannabinol ▲9-THC. This is the easily available cannabis sold on the streets. It is used because of the ‘high’ or elevation of mood that it can cause to those who use it.
Some people have taken these substances for years and never developed mental health issues. But some other people do develop mental health issues after taking the substance. And some people will develop acute transient psychosis even after taking the substance just once.
In Nigeria, people who develop mental illness after taking cannabis are referred to as having light brain. So is their brain light? There is no such thing in medical term as light brain.
A. Cannabis and mental illness.
What are the reasons behind some people breaking down with mental illness with the use or abuse of cannabis? That is cannabis – selecting who to harm in Nigeria.
The AKT1 gene –
There is a gene in the body called AKT1 which makes an enzyme called AKT1 kinase. This AKT1 kinase is important for the normal development and function of the nervous system. And it affects the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Some people are born with a deformed type of AKT1 gene. People born with mutated or variant of the AKT1 gene, are at risk of psychosis if they take cannabis regularly.
Research has it that the risk is as high as 7 times compared to those who do not use cannabis. And since this affects the neurotransmitter dopamine, there is the high possibility of the user developing the mental illness schizophrenia.
COMT gene –
There is a gene responsible for the production of the enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT). This enzyme is responsible for the destruction or degradation of some neurotransmitters after they have finished their function. These neurotransmitters include dopamine and nerepinephrine.
Unfortunately, some people are born with a deformed gene for this enzyme. This means that not enough COMT will be produced. So dopamine and norepinephrine will be high in the brain, which can cause psychosis.
Mental illness in the family –
People that have mental illness in their families are at risk of developing mental illness from cannabis use. This is because they have inherited the genes that cause mental illness from their parents. So when these genes react with cannabis, the person will come down with the illness earlier.
Age one started using cannabis:
The age someone starts to use or abuse cannabis is a risk factor to developing mental illness from cannabis. The risk is high for those who start abusing the substance at the adolescent age.
For example, adolescents who start the use before or at age 15 years are at high risk of developing psychosis. But then this risk is more if the adolescent has mental illness in his/her family. It is also more likely if the adolescent has the abnormal AKT1 gene.
It should be noted that the adolescent age is a critical period of brain development. So the use of cannabis at this critical period, acts as a toxic agent to the brain cells.
Those who take very high dose or quantity of cannabis are more likely to break down with mental illness. So people taking cannabis on daily basis, or frequently, are equally at risk of breaking down with mental illness.
This means that the more the person is exposed to cannabis, the higher the risk of having mental illness.
People living urban areas taking cannabis, are more likely to have psychosis, compared to people living in the rural areas. This could be because of the stressors encountered in urban environments.
People, who suffered abuse or neglect in childhood, are at a high risk of developing mental illness from cannabis use. These childhood trauma include physical abuse or neglect, emotional abuse or neglect and sexual abuse. Other forms of childhood trauma include death of a parent, divorce or separation parent that abuse substance like alcohol, etc.
Not everyone who use cannabis breaks down with mental illness. So what are the factors that protect these people?
These include people with good self esteem and who have good problem solving skills. This also includes intellectual skills.
Social competence is the ability to relate well with others. And this includes, interacting positively with others, express feelings in a positive way and able to regulate behavior.
This means that the family is well structured and together. This is where love and emotional bond exists and the parenting method is good.
Good social resource:
This means having good social support from family, friends and work colleagues. This means having people to help when the person is in need.
This is an environment that is organized with good housing, electricity, etc.
Is it time to legalize cannabis in Nigeria?
Legalizing cannabis means removing all legal prohibitions against it so cannabis would then be available to the adults at will.
With the present Nigeria of today and from the write up of this article, the simple answer is no. Nigeria is not yet ready for the legalization of cannabis, alias weed.
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