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Better research needed to assess psychological and social effects of cannabis

Authors of a study in this week's issue of THE LANCET conclude that more evidence is required to determine the nature and extent of the association between cannabis use and negative psychosocial outcomes.

The use of cannabis and other illicit drugs by young people is linked to psychosocial harm including psychological health problems, the use of other illegal drugs, reduced educational attainment, and antisocial behaviour. However, whether these associations are causal (ie, cannabis use is a direct cause of psychological illness and antisocial behaviour) remains unclear.

John Macleod from the University of Birmingham, UK, and colleagues reviewed general population longitudinal studies reporting associations between illicit drug use by young people and psychosocial harm. They identified 48 relevant studies, of which the most reliable evidence came from 16 studies.

In general, consistent associations were identified between cannabis use and both lower educational attainment and increased reported use of other illicit drugs. Less consistent associations were found between cannabis use and psychological health problems and problematic behaviour.

Dr Macleod comments: "Despite widespread concern, we have found no strong evidence that use of cannabis in itself has important consequences for psychological or social health. This finding is not equivalent to the conclusion that use of cannabis is harmless in psychosocial terms; problems with the available evidence render it equally unable to support this proposition. Better evidence is needed in relation to cannabis, which is widely used, and in relation to other drugs that, although less widely used, might have important effects".

In an accompanying Commentary (p 1568) Franjo Grotenhermen from the Nova-Institut GmbH, Germany, states: "There is some reason to believe that cannabis contributes to psychosocial problems in adolescents and young adults, and no responsible adult would wa
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Contact: Joe Santangelo
j.santangelo@elsevier.com
212-633-3810
Lancet
13-May-2004


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