Cannabis does not cause schizophrenia or psychosis, despite some of the symptoms from consuming it being the same as these mental disorders.
These were conclusions drawn by British psychiatrist and neuropsycho-pharmacologist Professor David Nutt at the High Court in Pretoria yesterday, the fifth day of the dagga trial.
The matter was brought by Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, known as the “dagga couple”, who are requesting the court to legalise marijuana.
This after they were arrested in 2010 for dealing and possession. Defence expert witness Nutt, who specialises in the effects of drugs on the brain, challenged the belief that cannabis led to schizophrenia.
He said consuming the plant developed symptoms such as disorganisation, confusion, paranoia and illusion, similar to the mental disorder.
A UK study in 2005 and 2006 showed there was an increase in cannabis users but results showed a zero rise in schizophrenia or psychosis.
“In fact, in those years, those mental disorders went down. Our belief … is that cannabis cannot cause schizophrenia or psychosis. It can mimic psychosis but it does not cause it.”
Analysing mortality caused by drugs, Nutt said tobacco use was in the lead, causing 80 000 deaths in the UK annually.
This was followed by alcohol at 8 000 and cannabis at five.
“This is from accumulative use and not from one consumption of the drug. It is unheard of that people die or are being killed by consuming and smoking cannabis. More people die per week from alcohol poisoning.”
Organiser of the Traditional Healers’ Organisation Sphiwe Monana told The Citizen he used dagga to treat his patients.
“We mix it with other traditional medicines to cure cancer, mostly breast and skin cancer, and other diseases … In my 30 years as a traditional healer, I have been using marijuana to heal my clients. It is better than drugs that are given in hospitals. It does not kill or cause mental illness.”
The trial continues on Monday. – firstname.lastname@example.org