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article imageCannabis really does cause paranoia, study finds

By Sam Miranda     Jul 16, 2014 in Health
A new study conducted in association with The University of Oxford and King’s College London has found a definitive link between cannabis use and feelings of paranoia in vulnerable individuals.
The social and political struggle over the legal classification of marijuana seemed to swing in the direction of liberalisation after Colorado and Washington legalised the drug in 2012.
However, new research from the United Kingdom could prove a boon to prohibitionists as it finally provides hard evidence of the long-suspected causal link between cannabis and paranoia.
No longer a harmless vice
Professors Daniel and Jason Freeman have today published their findings in Schizophrenia Bulletin, following research conducted on 121 volunteers, all of whom had experienced marijuana at least once before.
The study focused on the effects of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): cannabis’ main psychoactive component. 70 percent of the volunteers were given a small intravenous dose of THC (the equivalent of a strong joint), while the remaining 30 percent made up a placebo group, receiving a shot of saline.
Commenting on their findings in the Guardian, the professors reported that half of those given THC experienced paranoia.
“That is, one in five [of the total number of respondents] had an increase in paranoia that was directly attributable to the THC,” they said.
Why does cannabis cause paranoia?
In addition to paranoia, it was found that THC caused anxiety, worry, the impairment of short-term memory and negative thoughts about the self.
The researchers named the latter effect as primarily responsible for feelings of paranoia. They explained:
“Negative emotions leave us feeling down and vulnerable. Worry leads us to the worst conclusions.
“So when we try to make sense of the anomalous experiences – when we try, in other words, to understand what’s happening to us – the world can appear a weird, frightening and hostile place. Hence the paranoia.”
- Professors Daniel and Jason Freeman
However, the professors acknowledged that these effects were limited to a minority of their respondents and acknowledged the positive effects of cannabis usage, including the alleviation of chronic pain.
“Clearly cannabis doesn’t cause these problems for everyone, and the suspiciousness wore off as the drug left the bloodstream,” they said. The study also indicated that THC is not addictive.
An open-shut case for prohibition?
While the new data is clearly significant, it is doubtful to provide the killer blow cannabis prohibitionists had hoped for.
It is arguable that the direct injection of THC might not accurately simulate the effects of consuming cannabis, in which other factors contribute to the overall effect, including THC concentration, the presence of essential aromatic oils, method and frequency of use.
Whether these findings will motivate a renewed discussion of cannabis’ legal status in the UK remains to be seen, but a recently published infographic estimated that a legalised marijuana industry in Britain would reduce the government deficit by £1.2 billion.
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