Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Coalition looking for a new high

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I recently spoke to a lady who works as a counsellor at an alcohol and drug addiction centre in Auckland. She told me something I guess we all knew; the scourge of methamphetamine usage is reaching epidemic proportions.

She said that the gangs are skilfully marketing the product. A “hit” costs about a $100 a time and most of the addicted require at least one daily dose. Naturally I wanted to know how anyone could afford a $700 a week habit. She suggested robbing or defrauding fellow citizens was one option though many addicts are being recruited by their supplier to become dealers themselves.

It reminded me of the Amway vendors of old. Amway put out a glossy catalogue full of desirable products, but any Amway seller I encountered seemed more interested in me becoming sub-agent rather than actually wanting to sell me something out of the brochure.

So enrolling new peddlers is the answer to all product marketing, but with a devastating effect on society when the merchandise is as additive and harmful as methamphetamine.

She also allowed that she was aghast that the Green party had convinced its coalition partners to have a referendum on legalising cannabis. She said she has never ever counselled a meth addict who hadn’t initially started out as a marijuana user, sometimes as young as ten or twelve years old.

So I asked a keen Green supporter to counter this argument. His response was plausible. The gangs, he opined were pretending not to have cannabis available because they knew it wasn’t addictive. Instead they would rather sell you “P” as this meant you would constantly come back for more. “By making cannabis legal, with the government raking in the tax,” he said, “you kill off the gang’s sources of income.”

Marijuana has been legalised for those over the age of 21 in Colorado. This was the first American state to do so and the rest of the US has been watching with much interest. Colorado has a population that is not too dissimilar to ours and reports show that their retail pot-shops are raking in more than a million dollars a day.

It’s not just cannabis itself that is for sale, but pot-infused chocolates, biscuits, creams, lozenges and tinctures.

Recent reports I have read show that in Colorado fatal road accidents involving drugged drivers and presentations at hospital emergency departments have increased markedly.

Meanwhile we are being softened-up for the referendum with regular reports of the magical medicinal properties of cannabis.

The CEO of the Waitemata District Health Board, Dr. Dale Bramley, says his DHB is responsible for running drug and alcohol addiction therapy services for the Auckland region and the staff see the clinical and social impacts of cannabis use on a daily basis.

He said the link between chronic cannabis use and mental health issues is well-proven. “A substantial number of individuals presenting at the hospital’s mental health services have their presenting problem complicated or worsened because of the use of cannabis.

“Smokers of cannabis are about 2.6 times more likely to have a psychotic episode than non-smokers. High doses of marijuana can produce a temporary psychotic reaction and in some users can worsen the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia.

“Numerous studies following users over time and through the experience of the DHB’s own drug and alcohol services show a link between marijuana use and later development of psychosis – those who start young and smoke heavily are at an increased risk for later problems,” he wrote in the New Zealand Herald.

Marijuana use has been linked to other mental health problems, particularly among the young, who can suffer from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and personality disturbances, including lack of motivation to engage in activities they would usually find rewarding.

Dr Bramley said we should not be conveying to our impressionable teenagers that cannabis use is harmless. It’s not and it never has been. Any initiative that potentially makes cannabis more freely available will only further increase the burden of medical, psychological and social problems that cannabis use already has on our financially struggling health boards and our communities.

So, varying opinions; you’ll have to work it out for yourself.

“Kids are no sooner off the pot than they are back on again.” - Stuart Francis


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