14866196912 f418cbed27 z Academically successful children smoke more cannabis as teenagers: is it time to rethink drug education programmes?

Academically successful children are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke cannabis in their teenage years than their less academic peers. That’s according to a study of over 6000 young people in England published recently in BMJ Open by researchers at UCL. While the results may sound surprising, they shouldn’t be. The finding is in fact consistent with earlier research that showed a relationship between higher childhood IQ and the use in adolescence of a wide range of illegal drugs.

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sativa vs indica Sativa Vs. Indica: Fact or Fiction?

According to cannabis folklore, there are two separate strains of cannabis with wildly different effects. Dispensaries and stoners alike will tell you that “sativas” give a heady, cerebral, stimulating rush, while “indicas” have more sedative properties, leaving users with more of a “body high” that sometimes puts them in a state of “couch-lock….

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Untitled 1 Before you hit the bottle this holiday season,  lend Prof. Nutt your ears for 9 minutesProfessor David Nutt who was recently awarded the Nature/Sense About Science prize for standing up for science, this month gave a short talk at Bristol TEDx which might make you see alcohol under a new light. Beyond the fact below cited by Prof. Nutt I’m not going to give any spoilers so this post …

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Oliver Sacks Oliver Sacks on DrugsThe highly regarded neurologist, psychologist and author Oliver Sacks has released a podcast with the New Yorker and a video on his blog (embedded below), describing some of his experiences with cannabis, amphetamines and LSD. In the podcast Sacks describes the inspiration and insights he gained from using the drugs, including the effect on his writing and the increase in his ability to be empathic with patients, but in the video Sacks issues a stark warning in which he describes amphetamines as “the most dangerous drugs physiologically” due to the powerful impact on the reward pathway and the cardiovascular system.

The media coverage comes in the run up to the release of Sacks’ new book “Hallucinations” (due for release in November), which if his previous writings are anything to go by should prove to be a truly fascinating read. If Sacks’ work inspires you to want to know more on the topic, Henry Lester a professor of neuroscience at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is coincidentally unveiling an introductory course on “Drugs and the Brain” this November which is completely free and available right from your home computer.

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Alcohol is the fourth most dangerous drug after heroin, crack and crystal meth and the second most damaging to society, according to a study published today in the British Medical Journal (PDF). It is the largest ever study of its kind. This follows Prof. Nutt’s controversial lancet paper which in 2010 rated alcohol as the most dangerous drug to society.

BMJ Drug harms 20121 The largest ever study in to drug harms places alcohol in the top four

This latest study is a pretty weighty verdict, the study used responses from 292 individuals sourced from responders from the membership list of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland as well as a range of addiction professionals. The parameters used were:

(a) physical harm caused by acute, chronic and parenteral use.

(b) psychological harm; physical harm and intensity of pleasure linked to dependence.

(c) social harm from intoxication; other social harms and associated healthcare costs.

It’s worth noting that the study only assessed the drugs listed and doesn’t address research chemicals that are increasingly moving from the grey market to the black market as a result of recent government bans. The authors make a damning  indictment of the recent bans of research chemicals, citing evidence that the mephedrone ban has done nothing to affect use and “may only act to drive up the price”. The authors do not mention that a ban has a range of knock on effects inherent to black market supply such as effects on purity, the “gateway” effect of having to visit an illegal dealer and the societal implications of criminalising the user. Only today, London police have issued a blanket drug warning after one person has died and two remain hospitalised after taking a white powder that still has not been identified. The authors state that drug use should be treated as a medical issue and “should be separated from the criminal justices system and associated penalties”.
Taylor M, Mackay K, Murphy J, McIntosh A, McIntosh C, Anderson S, & Welch K (2012). Quantifying the RR of harm to self and others from substance misuse: results from a survey of clinical experts across Scotland. BMJ open, 2 (4) PMID: 22833648(PDF)

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