So last week a swiss study was published saying teens who use only cannabis appear to function better than those who also use tobacco, and are more socially driven and have no more psychosocial problems than those who abstain from both substances.
And all the potheads in the world said, "Booyah! See? Pass the cookies." What can we glean from this? That occasional tokers are smarter, more motivated, sportier and more sociable than non-tokers? Could be.
But don't go wild.
Sure, you might be just as smart when you spark up, but researchers seem to agree you're going be processing info more slowly than non-stoners. Bottom line? Don't toke and drive.
Finally, will pot really make you nicer? Recent research from the Centre for Addictions Research of BC suggests, as we've all suspected for quite some time, that it sure won't make you nasty.
What the experts say
"When you give a joint to relatively heavy pot smokers with a history of smoking, you see limited effects on cognitive performance. Their cognitive performance slows down, but they are just as accurate. So if they're engaging in a task that requires quick reaction time, like driving an automobile, they might put themselves in danger. With light smokers, you can see a lot more disruptions in accuracy and reaction time. It's the same thing with alcohol. It's difficult for investigators to get funding to study these drugs."
CARL HART , associate professor, department of psychiatry and psychology, Columbia University, New York City
"The sample is representative of 16- to 20-year-olds in Switzerland. However, we can't assume causality. Our findings suggest there is a group of mainly occasional cannabis users who do relatively well, and much better than those who use both cannabis and cigarettes. And they seem to be more socially driven than abstainers. One possible explanation is that cannabis, at least in Switzerland, is becoming a way to socialize, the way alcohol or cigarettes were. We have a picture of these youth, not a movie, so we do not know what happens later: do they stop using cannabis? Do they escalate in their use? These questions remain to be answered."
JOAN-CARLES SURIS , research group on adolescent medicine, University of Lausanne
"If you feed your cannabinoid receptors, you will never get Alzheimer's. Nobody who smokes pot regularly in Canada has ever been found to have Alzheimer's. People generally get both long- and short-term memory preservation if they smoke lots of pot. If you don't feed the receptor, it withers away by your late 50s or early 60s and cannot be restored. Also, cannabis does one really important thing: it arouses curiosity, which is an important part of intelligence. In our experience, people who don't smoke marijuana tend to have more myopic views and are more closed-minded. They're less tolerant and less open to new experiences. If you smoke marijuana, you tend to become more curious and broad-minded. And that contributes to intelligence."
MARC EMERY , publisher, Cannabis Culture Magazine, Vancouver
"The problem I see with the Swiss study is that we have no idea what the subjects were like beforehand and if their family relationships were good. I wouldn't be surprised if they were even better before they started smoking up. Those in the Swiss study were infrequent users. We found in adolescent heavy users -- I want to stress heavy users -- that marijuana affected IQ negatively. Not by a lot. If someone was on the margin of being mentally challenged, it might make a difference. IQ includes memory and visual processing speed, and these are adversely affected, in our work, among heavy users. Smoking could affect driving and aspects of school performance. These effects, however, disappeared after three months of non-use. No drug has only a positive impact. You'll hear people claim they smoke up regularly and are still doing well, but maybe they'd be doing even better if they didn't smoke. This is where the personal decision arises: feeling good versus possible negative consequences."
PETER FRIED , professor emeritus, department of psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa
"If you look in treatment populations, people who've had problems with marijuana abuse generally have higher violence rates than the general population. They also tend to have more aggressive personalities. But marijuana itself does not lead to violence. There is little evidence that the pharmacological effects of cannabis increase the likelihood of violence; in fact probably just the opposite. It's more likely to make people fearful than fearless."
SCOTT MACDONALD , assistant director, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria