From: WebBooks http://www.paston.co.uk/users/webbooks/webhome.html
Source: The Independent, UK
Pub Date: Friday, 20 October 2000
ART: Cannabis less harmful than aspirin, says scientist
Author: Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
Cannabis less harmful than aspirin, says scientist
Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without
serious side effects, says a book by a leading Oxford scientist.
The Science of Marijuana, by Dr Leslie Iversen of Oxford University's
department of pharmacology, found many "myths" surrounding marijuana use,
such as extreme addictiveness, or links with mental
illness or infertility are not supported by science.
He also found cannabis is an inherently "safe drug" which does not lead to
cancer, infertility, brain damage or mental illness. Legalisation of the
drug for medical conditions should be considered, he says.
Dr Iversen's findings will increase pressure on the Government to reopen
the debate about the decriminalisation of marijuana.
The author, a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, found cannabis was
far less toxic than other drugs and had "an impressive record" compared
with heroin, cocaine or tobacco and alcohol.
His study showed that the active element of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), which made users high, had a lot of potential as a safe drug to
treat Aids patients and people suffering severe pain.
He also found "stoned" drivers were less dangerous and able to co-ordinate
than people who were drunk. "By any standards, THC must be considered a
very safe drug both acutely and on long-term
exposure," he writes. "The available animal data are more than adequate to
justify its approval as a human medicine, and indeed it has been approved
by the FDA [American drug authority] for certain limited therapeutic
The book says "alarming claims about the harmful effects of long-term
exposure to cannabis" should be "put to rest", and there "is no evidence
the drug causes any impairment in fertility or sexual function in men or
women". He says people who stop using cannabis do not suffer long-term
"Cannabis does not cause structural damage to the brains of animals as some
reports had claimed, nor is there evidence of long-term damage to the human
brain or other than slight residual impairments in cognitive function after
drug use is stopped." The author says many adverse effects of cannabis are
related to smoking the drug.
But cannabis itself did not appear to cause cancer. Compared with alcohol
and cigarettes, which led to more than 100,000 deaths a year, cannabis had
a far better record.
"Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug," he said. "Despite the
widespread illicit use of cannabis here are very few if any instances of
people dying from an overdose. Even such apparently innocuous medicines as
aspirin and related steroidal anti-inflammatory compounds are not safe.
"Thousands of people die every year because of the tendency of these drugs
to cause catastrophic gastric bleeding."
Keith Hellawell, the drug tsar, also agrees cannabis use does not lead to