Cannabis addiction: A Colossal Mental Health Problem in the Community
Posted on April 10th, 2010

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.

“I will not be a slave of any appetite.”   Lord Byron

 Cannabis is an illicit and also a dangerous drug.  According to Police reports cannabis usage in Sri Lanka is increasing. A large number of people use cannabis day today basis in rural and urban areas. Many consider cannabis is a harmless also an Aurvedic preparation which cause no harm to the human body. This is totally a misconception. The empirical findings indicate that cannabis abuse can cause severe psychological as well as sociological ill effects despite this misconception. Drug awareness as well as health education is needed to eradicate such misconceptions in the society.

 Serious adverse effects of Cannabis have been reported. Among the adverse effects dependence on Cannabis, adolescent developmental problems, permanent cognitive impairment as well as   development of psychosis are evident. Prolonged use of cannabis can lead to depression, lack of volition and a history of gradually deteriorating social ability and contact with others.  People who are addicted to cannabis suffer from very poor memory and concentration.

 Cannabis usage is drastically increasing among the youth. The most pathetic scenario is even school children indulge with this dangers substance without knowing the consequences. Cannabis related subculture is forming in our country. In order to popularize and de-stigmatize the usage various funny names are used to indicate cannabis smoking. Often its called    “ cone”  “joint” Mala (flower) or rocket. This subculture attracts more and more young people to the inner circle.

 Beetle chewing is no long a traditional habit among the elderly. Nowadays even young people chew beetle gum with some preparations which contain cannabis. The law and enforcement is not powerful enough to tackle this type of illicit trade. Therefore venders continue their business near schools and public places.

 Madana Modaka is an Aurvedic preparation which contains cannabis. Young people are attracted to these preparations in order to achieve higher sexual function, increase body mass etc. But medical experts clearly specify there is no such action in these preparations but the mental and physical damage.

 Cannabis usage is widely spreading in our community as a result of low awareness, peer pressure, and sometimes as a negative stress coping method.  Very often tobacco smokers are attracted to cannabis. Therefore tobacco addiction can be considered as a risk factor.

 Cannabis addiction can lead to various mental health problems.

The Psychiatrists point out a number of dysfunctions associated with cannabis abuse. These are “¦

 (1) Apathy and sedation

(2) Disinhibition

(3) Psychomotor retardation

(4) Impaired attention

(5) Impaired judgment

(6) Poor self care

 Cannabis use may increase the risk of psychotic disorders and result in a poor prognosis for those with an established vulnerability to psychosis. In addition prevalence of cannabis use is higher among people with psychosis in our country. This is one of the hidden and acute problems in the community. There is a growing   significant link between cannabis use and vulnerability to psychosis. This condition is known as cannabis induced psychosis.

Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for mental states in which the components of rational thought and perception are severely impaired. Persons experiencing a psychosis may experience hallucinations, hold paranoid or delusional beliefs, demonstrate personality changes and exhibit disorganized thinking.  Cannabis use may also precipitate a latent psychosis. Cannabis use can trigger psychotic episodes in a person who already has a mental illness. The Government has to spend a huge amount of money to treat people with mental health problemse caused by cannabis abuse. This is a huge finacial burden to a country like Sri Lanka.

How to deal with this acute social problem? The health workersas as well as law and inforcement offices need to work actively. The community awareness about the ill effects of cannabis abuse play a vital role. Educating public about this dangerus substance is a key issue. In the mean time we need to address the useres and help them to quitt. Counseling and psycho social support is essential in this aspect. We have to advance the treatment measures and do wider screening in the coomunity.

Empowering the legal framework is another important measure. Those who sell cannabis and the preperations which contain cannabis should be punished dispite their social status or political backings.

It is essential to understand the demage caused by cannabis abuse in our society. The problems will agravate more if we do not address these issues. After all prospective futere of this country will depend on better mental health.

One Response to “Cannabis addiction: A Colossal Mental Health Problem in the Community”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    We thank Ruwan for posting Articles of Concern for Lanka.

    * Growing of Cannabis should be banned except for medicinal purposes. This may prove to be very difficult in a tropical country like Sri Lanka where plants grow abundantly.
    * Cannabis should be banned from food items.
    * Laws should be passed for all food carry a label showing the ingredients used. Again, difficult with so many street vendors. Still, a street vendor could display the list of ingredients as a notice pasted on the cart or box.
    * All schools & workplaces should display notices on the injurious effects of Cannabis.


    Re Cannabis, it is interesting to note that this plant is used in Homeopathy as a medicine. Homeopathy medicines use the tincture of a natural substance in minute doses & then potentised in solution using a solvent such as water. In Homeopathy
    the motto is “Similars Cure”, e.g. a person having a cold with sneezing & watery discharge will find relief in using Allium cepa (red onion) in Homeopathic doses – we all know that when we handle onions, our eyes & nose waters. In the Homeopathic medicine lies the cure for such a symptom. The proving of Cannabis taken in large doses shows that it can affect a persons judgment and actions adversely, and is therefore dangerous in large doses. Taken in small amounts occasionally, it can be medicinal.

    In the west, people use it to alleviate pain from various diseases, and fought govts here for the right to grow Cannabis for medicinal purposes.

    Just for the sake of interest, here is a posting showing the Homeopathy view of Cannabis :


    Cannabis Ind.


    Cannabis sativa

    First mentioned in a Chinese herbal dating to 2700 BCE, marijuanahas long been an important medicine in the herbal repertories of many cultures. By the 19th century, marijuana had become a standard painkiller in Europe. More recently, it has been prescribed as a conventional medicine in some countries to relieve nauseacaused by chemotherapy and spasms due to multiple sclerosis. The plant is also an illegal recreational drug, and its prohibition extends to medicinal uses in many countries. The homeopathic remedy Cannabis ind. was proved by the American Provers’ Union in 1839 and introduced by Dr. Trinks in 1841.

    The behavior of those who benefit most from Cannabis ind. alternates between sweet and gentle, and desperate or even paranoid. Typical physical symptoms include a marked increase in appetite and thirst, especially for sweet foods and cold drinks.

    Cannabis ind. is prescribed primarily to treat abnormal psychological states, such as confusion, disorientation, loss of memory, overexcitement, unwarranted fears, or paranoia. The remedy is also given for physical conditions such asheadaches, urinary-tract infections, and pain in the legs.


    Disordered mental states – marked swings in thought and mood between a gentle state and paranoia. The gentle state is marked by mild euphoria, an overactive brain, and headstrong views, particularly about esoteric subjects such as astrology and UFOs. Wonderful and enlightening ideas occur in rapid succession, but they are equally quickly forgotten. The slightest thing may trigger hysterical giggling. Prophetic dreams, out-of-body experiences, or an apparent ability to predict the future may also be experienced. In the paranoid state, there is generally fear and anxiety, particularly a fear of losing control and becoming insane. There may be disorientation, memory loss, and confusion, even when in well-known environments. Travel or relocation may cause distress. Hallucinations that distort time, space, and distance are not uncommon.

    Headaches – an opening and closing sensation at the top of the head, as if shock waves are passing through the brain. The head may shake involuntarily and feel as if it is separate from the body. A stooping posture may be adopted due to a sensation of heavy pressure on the brain or to a migraine.

    Urinary-tract infections – a dull, burning, aching, or stitch-like pain in the right kidney. Urine may be profuse and colorless, with erratic flow due to obstructed urination. There may be urethritis (inflammation of the urethra) with mucus discharge and burning, stinging pain.

    Pain or paralysis in the legs – shooting pains that rise up the legs when walking. Exhaustion may follow even a very short walk. Alternatively, there may be a sensation of paralysis in the lower limbs. These symptoms are frequently accompanied by a backache.

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