“Did you do any drugs back when you were younger?”
“I used to smoke cannabis quite a lot, Doc, but I’ve not touched it for 20 years now.”
“You realise that’s possibly the root cause of your recurring depression and lousy sleep patterns.”
“Er, no… I mean, I know cannabis isn’t as harmless as I was told by my mates when I started smoking it. I know it’s up to 5 times more carcinogenic than smoking tobacco, and can trigger psychosis and schizophrenia in some vulnerable people.”
“It also screws up receptors in your brain, which affect your mood and your sleep patterns.”
“But that was half my life ago, Doc.”
“Unfortunately, Mr Ayres, that’s when the damage was done. It’s a bit like having a key put in a lock, then salt water poured in and it’s left to rust. After a while it’s jammed and doesn’t function. We don’t know whether it works as a trigger in certain people with vulnerable brain types, so to speak, or whether it affects everyone to one degree or another. But as doctors, we see and have to deal with the long term results of cannabis use all the time.”
No one ever told me this when I was 17.
Oh, I knew of medical arguments against other drugs. Heroin was a big baddy, so we didn’t touch that. Speed would fry your brain if you took too much, so it should only be an occasional hit – acid should be no more than twice a year if you didn’t want to start suffering flashbacks.
All these things I was carefully told by my fellow 17 year olds, who were in the know.
But cannabis? It was no more harmful than a cigarette or a pint of beer. The only arguments against it were moral ones, not medical. The authorities just didn’t like the idea of us enjoying ourselves, man.
So I was told by my fellow 17 years olds, who seemed to know about all these things.
No one said to me, there’s a risk it might plug up brain receptors so you could end up suffering bouts of depression for the rest of your life.
No one said to me you could end up with a brain wired so feelings of utter despair would be so easy to access that you could drop into them at any time, with no effort and no warning.
No one said to me you could end up with a brain wired so joyful moments would be rare, hard fought for and fleeting.
My caring, compassionate, new 17 year old friends didn’t know.