Our Vision: Communities are well-informed about the harms of illicit drugs and empowered with anti-drug strategies
The Four Corners report earlier this week, ‘Dying to Dance’, is misleading and needs to be more accurately reported by responsible media. It called for governments to fund the testing of party pills at concert venues and states that the rising purity of ecstasy tablets is endangering the lives of ecstasy users because of more likely overdoses. The reality is that overdose deaths from ecstasy are rare, and most deaths are due to individual reactions to relatively small amounts of the drug.
Gary Christian, Secretary for Drug Free Australia said, “Concerns about ecstasy overdoses and varying purity represents a fundamental confusion between ecstasy and heroin. In fact, some ecstasy users can boast of having previously taken so much ecstasy that ecstasy blood levels were more than 70 times the lowest levels associated with ecstasy mortality, and at least 4 times greater than the higher levels more typically found in ecstasy deaths.”
Drug Free Australia has noted that the Four Corners program interviewed one ecstasy user who claimed celebrating his 22nd birthday by taking 22 ecstasy tablets that day, contradicting the thesis of the program. “Whether a tablet is 5% or 60% MDMA is not that important in terms of deaths – it is more likely to relate to what other drugs are being taken with it AND what physiological reaction an individual user will have to it. That is what is causing the deaths,” said Mr Christian.
“Our concern is not so much about more MDMA in an ecstasy tablet, but rather larger numbers of people initiating ecstasy use, which the current publicity could presently encourage. For example, allowing drug testing at concerts would send a message that taking illegal drugs is okay and even safe. We need to get the facts right and be asking pill-testing advocates, ‘Precisely what impurities killed all those ecstasy users over the last couple of years here in Australia?’ They won't have an answer.”
Excellent medical information particularly on ecstasy blood levels and mortality is at http://bja.oxfordjournals.org/content/96/6/678.full.
See also the website of a harm reduction organisation which provides testing of pills for users https://dancesafe.org/mdma-related-deaths-stop-calling-them-overdoses/
Contact: Gary Christian 0422 163 141 (02) 4306 3466
Cannabis Causes Cancer, Major Congenital Abnormalities and Inheritable Defects including Cancers in Babies and Children.
By showing that genetic mechanisms exist to account for previously observed elevated rates of cancers in people exposed to cannabis and major congenital abnormalities in their offspring, UWA researchers were able to show that the previously described statistical associations in many studies were in fact causal in nature. As long ago as 1965 scientists defined the criteria which would need to be met to imply that a particular statistical association would be causal in nature. With regard to cannabis the most difficult of these has been the identification of a molecular and genetic mechanism which would account for the surprising and diverse findings.
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Cannabis has been linked epidemiologically with ten cancers in adulthood including the mouth and throat, larynx, lung, leukaemia, brain, prostate, cervix, testes and bladder. Cancer development in cannabis-exposed people has often been reported to occur at younger ages, and to be very aggressive and rapidly lethal. Indeed similar observations are also true of addictions to other drugs including alcohol, tobacco, opioids and benzodiazepines. It apparently implied a diffuse action at the cellular level rather than any organ-specific toxicity.
Similarly a wide variety of congenital abnormalities has been described in many studies studying foetal abnormalities in babies born to cannabis-exposed mothers. These included cleft lip and palate, spina bifida and encephalocoele, absent and shrunken ears and eyes, microcephaly, major heart defects of many kinds, abnormalities of the fingers, major defects of the abdominal wall so that babies are born with their bowels hanging out, and shortened arms, known as phocomelia. The great diversity of tissues affected by these changes again implied toxic effects occurring at the cellular level rather than tissue-specific actions.
Perhaps worst of all very high rates of cancers have been reported in the first few years of life in children exposed in utero to cannabis through their mother's use. These include major childhood leukaemia, and nerve cell and muscle cell cancers. Such children experience inheritable teratogenicity and cancerogenicity.
Chromothripsis, or chromosomal shattering, was recently shown to occur when chromosomes fall off the cellular framework of cell division, known as the "mitotic spindle", become isolated in micronuclei, become shattered by the normal process of gene duplication and transcription, and then get re-joined in a haphazard or higgledy-piggledy way.
Epigenetics refers to the information encoded in the genome but not in the genetic code per se. This happens through the addition of one-carbon methyl groups to various DNA bases; by changes to the histone proteins around which the DNA helix is wound; and through various short and long non-protein coding information-only RNA strands which read information back to the DNA-proper and control the flow of information from the main gene sequence. Cannabis changes all three. Since cannabis and other drugs of addiction cause both chromothriptic and epigenetic changes, this implies that there are therefore not one but two genotoxic mechanisms to explain the previously confusing findings relating to cancer and congenital abnormalities, some of which are inheritable.
UWA researchers were therefore able to show that, together with previously published work, all the criteria for cannabis causing these major defects had been fulfilled.
This dramatic finding is of major importance with cannabis use increasing in many nations around the world, and Australia apparently set to follow a similar erroneous trajectory. This finding has major public health importance, and is also important to authorities internationally charged with regulating drug use and protecting vulnerable populations. It also carries major implications for cancer researchers, addiction medicine professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, educators, employers, child care workers and parents.
Reece A.S., Hulse G.K. "Chromothripsis and Epigenomics Complete Causality Criteria for Cannabis- and Addiction- Connected Carcinogenicity, Congenital Toxicity and Heritable Genotoxicity."
Australia already has lenient cannabis laws, where decriminalisation and cautions have been in place since the 80’s1. Australia also has one of the highest per capita cannabis usage rates in the world.2 Any further relaxation would exacerbate the situation and burden future generations with increased harm to mental and physical health.
There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder. In contrast, current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development.
Given the overwhelming evidence on the harms associated with cannabis, we conclude that governments and society should stand firmly against any change that would relax the law on the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Drug addiction is a complex condition that can damage many lives, especially those close to the addicted person – their families, their friends, their children, their workmates … Drug addiction is preventable. It is also treatable. Jo Baxter, Executive Officer of Drug Free Australia discussed this important topic during a presentation at the recent Fresh Start Conference held in Perth.
New drug prevention website launched: Go to www.dontdecriminalize.org
Dr Gregory K Pike, Director, Adelaide Centre for Bioethics and Culture has produced an important paper discussing the debate surrounding drug law reforms.
With more governments considering the legalization of cannabis, a deeper understanding of the effects of cannabis is required. The paper Chronic Toxicology of Cannabis provides insight to the acute and chronic effects of cannabis.
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