Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cannabis abuse may be a factor behind the high crime rate in The Bahamas

Cannabis abuse 'may be a factor behind high crime rate'
Tribune Staff Reporter

CANNABIS abuse could be one of the factors behind the high rate of crime in The Bahamas, according to a local psychiatrist.

Dr Kirk Christie, of the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, said taking into account the disinhibiting effects of cannabis and the fact that its use is widespread, the drug could be fuelling deviant behaviour.

In a meeting with Social Service Hotline councillors yesterday, Dr Christie stressed the dangers of substance abuse, and in particular cannabis abuse.

He said the fact that cannabis is culturally and socially accepted, cheap and readily available in The Bahamas, encourages the false perception it is not a dangerous drug.

However, Dr Christie said despite the "general overvalued idea that there are no effects of cannabis use," like any other form of substance abuse, it is "a health nightmare."

He said studies have shown that abuse of the drug can have very serious consequences.

Physiological effects of cannabis use include: hypertension (high blood pressure), shortness of breath, decreased co-ordination and reaction times, ataxia, impaired memory and perception, sensory distortion such as hallucinations, paranoid disorders, mood alteration, and depersonalisation.

In men, it can also cause a decrease in libido (sex drive), lower testosterone and sperm counts, and shrinking of the scrotum.

One study, performed in the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre among 120 patients in the substance abuse treatment programme, found the median age for the onset of cannabis disorders was 21, and usually ranged between 17 and 26.

Dr Christie added that a new study completed in Europe found marijuana use makes a person seven times more likely to lose touch with reality.

The treatment programme for substance abuse normally lasts about two years and includes detoxification, rehabilitation, relapse prevention and maintenance.

Dr Christie stressed the importance of education and relaying of correct information.

"The aim of education is to provide students, teachers and families with accurate information about drug abuse and addiction and the association with high-risk sexual behaviour," said Dr Christie.

"Those under the influence take more irresponsible risks."

While not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted, for many what starts as casual use leads to drug addiction, he added.

January 29, 2011