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Effects of ganja on the nerves

Dear Readers,

M.G. from Kingston 13 smoked ganja regularly for years without any "bad effect". In fact, he attests to several beneficial effects of ganja, including how it helps him to "relax his nerves". He was really "shaken up" recently when a young relative of his went "wild and crazy" in the family home, shouting bad words, breaking up some furniture and had to be taken to the hospital.

The doctor told his family that it was smoking ganja which had caused the young man to have a "nervous breakdown". M.G wonders how ganja can be so "good for the nerves" in one person, yet "bad for the nerves" in another person.

Ganja, known also as marijuana, cannabis or "the weed" is very well known as a recreational drug in Jamaica. The "rightness" or "evils" of cannabis use and whether or not ganja use should be legalized is an issue of significant debate at this time.

Ganja has some well documented medical uses at this time, notably in the treatment of eye diseases including glaucoma, in the treatment of asthma and in the treatment of cancer.

It has been scientifically documented that smoking a marijuana (ganja) cigarette (spliff) helps significantly to prevent nausea and vomiting in cancer patients who are on chemotherapy. These people experience better nutritional states and have a sense of "well being" with soothing of anxieties. Because of this several countries have legalized restricted use of "ganja" cigarettes for this purpose only.

Ganja is deposited in the fat stores of the body and can be detected in fat for weeks to months after the drug was last used. Ganja, however, clears rapidly from blood within a few days. It moves from the blood to the body fat. A low blood level of ganja does not therefore mean low fat or brain levels of ganja.

The most commonly described effects of ganja use are on the emotions. Ganja use can reduce anxiety levels and induce a measure of calmness. Some people can even experience depression when using ganja.

The drug also affects psychomotor skills and time perception. This might be a positive experience when listening to and appreciating music but could be deadly in people who drive cars or use dangerous machinery. This is because the alteration in time perception and psychomotor performance can lead to some deterioration in actual job performance and render the job hazardous while using marijuana. Flashbacks can also occur in some people after using ganja. These can occur at any time resulting in dangerous situations for the person involved and for others.

M.G. is concerned about the incident when his relative "went wild". At this time ganja is not thought to cause permanent psychotic states. However, ganja intoxication can occur resulting in a psychotic episode which lasts until the ganja is mostly cleared from the person's body.

Of greater concern is the fact that ganja can unmask serious chronic psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia in persons who are already susceptible to them. This now becomes a lifetime battle with a chronic disabling mental disorder. Ganja use does calm many people, some are calmed to the point of demotivation, the so called "Amotivational Syn-drome" where there is a loss of drive and ambition to succeed. In other words the person "tun wutless".

There are also documented physical illnesses contributed to by the use of marijuana such as bronchitis and emphysema and there is also an increased risk of lung cancer.

Ganja can also significantly reduce fertility in some men by causing a reduction in testosterone (male hormone) levels and causing sperm abnormalities. This does not happen with all male users but there may well be several men in Jamaica having problems with fathering children due to this cause.

There are many intelligent view points in support of or against the unrestricted use of ganja. One certain fact is that much more research needs to be done before marijuana can be made safe for any widescale use.

By Dr. A.J. MORGAN

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