Long term health





The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda':
"…cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies".

The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda':
"there are good reasons for saying that [cannabis] would be unlikely to seriously rival the public health risks of alcohol and tobacco even if as many people used cannabis as now drink alcohol or smoke tobacco".

World Health Organisation:
"Looking at the percentage of total years of life lost due to these substances, it has been estimated that tobacco accounts for 2.1% of the total years of life lost, alcohol for 6% and illicit drugs for 0.3%".

Home Affairs Select Committee report 'Government Drugs Policy: Is it Working?':
"9. Legal drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, are responsible for far greater damage both to individual health and to the social fabric in general than illegal ones".

The UK Police Foundation’s 'Runciman Commission':
"When cannabis is systematically compared with other drugs against the main criteria of harm (mortality, morbidity, toxicity, addictiveness and relationship with crime), it is less harmful to the individual and society than any of the other major illicit drugs or than alcohol and tobacco."

Department of Health's 'A Parent's Guide to Drugs and Alcohol':
"Studies show that more young people experience problems caused by drinking too much alcohol than from drug use."
www.doh.gov.uk/drugs/pdfs/thepg.pdf or phone 08701 555 455 to order a copy


New Scientist:
"A woman's risk of breast cancer increases by seven per cent for each alcoholic drink consumed on a daily basis. The researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for four per cent of breast cancers in the developed world, and around 2000 cases in the UK each year".

The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda':
"In large doses alcohol can cause death by asphyxiation, alcohol poisoning, cardiomyopathy and cardiac infarct. …there is good evidence that chronic heavy alcohol use can indirectly cause brain injury - the Wernicke-Korsakov syndrome - with symptoms of severe memory defect and an impaired ability to plan and organise. With continued heavy drinking, and in the absence of vitamin supplementation, this injury may produce severe irreversible cognitive impairment."

Department of Health's 'A Parent's Guide to Drugs and Alcohol':
"....as much alcohol in a 330ml bottle of 'alco-pop' as a generous shot of whisky. 1000 young people under the age of 15 are admitted to hospital each year with alcohol poisoning. All need emergency treatment. After drinking alcohol young people are far more likely to have an accident, and some are more likely to become involved in a fight. Long-term heavy use of alcohol can lead to many problems including liver, heart and stomach conditions."
www.doh.gov.uk/drugs/pdfs/thepg.pdf or phone 08701 555 455 to order a copy

Alcohol Concern statistics:
"1 in 4 acute male [hospital] admissions are alcohol related.
Over 28,000 hospital admissions are due to alcohol dependence or toxic effects.
Over 5,000 deaths are directly attributable to alcohol and alcohol is implicated in 33,000 deaths per year in England and Wales.
One in 6 people attending accident and emergency departments for treatment have alcohol-related injuries or problems, rising to 8 out of 10 at peak times.
Around half of seriously injured patients admitted via casualty and needing to stay in hospital have an alcohol-related injury.
15% (1 in 7) of acute hospital admissions are misusing alcohol.
There were 72,500 hospital admissions in a 12 month period with a diagnosis of mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol, including 31,300 admissions for alcohol dependence syndrome.
In 11% of cases, alcohol consumption is the main cause of men's high blood pressure.
Alcohol is a factor in 20% to 30% of all accidents.
Heavy drinking is associated with 15% of drownings (ROSPA 1998) and is involved in 39% of deaths in fires.
In 1998, one in 7 traffic deaths was alcohol-related - 550 people died in drink-drive accidents, and 2,940 people were seriously injured.
36% of pedestrians killed on the roads have drunk over the legal limit for drink-driving."

Alcohol Concern's 'Britain's Ruin' report:
"The report, entitled Britain's Ruin, also highlights a 50% increase in the numbers of women drinking above medically recommended sensible levels - up from 10% to 15% between 1988 and 1998 - and a worrying number of young people binge drinking. 37% of men and 23% of women aged 16 to 24 regularly drink twice the recommended daily limits. Other figures associate alcohol with 65% of suicide attempts, 76,000 facial injuries each year and 23% of child neglect calls to a national helpline. Marriages where one or both partners have a drink problem are twice as likely to end in divorce as those not affected by alcohol."


Eric Appleby, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern:
‘Recent events have shown us that many parents are more worried about their children experimenting with cannabis rather than drinking heavily or even binge drinking, despite this being on the increase. All the research evidence shows that the dangers of alcohol far outweigh those of occasional cannabis use.’


Report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health 1998:
"1.31 A large number of fatal and life-threatening diseases are caused largely or entirely by smoking. They include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, vascular diseases at various critical sites and several forms of cancer.
1.38 Smoking is a major cause of illness and death from chronic respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancers of the lung and other sites.
1.40 The avoidance of smoking would eliminate one third of the cancer deaths in Britain and one sixth of the deaths from other causes.
1.42 A person who smokes regularly more than doubles his or her risk of dying before the age of 65.
1.46 The enormous damage to health and life arising from smoking should no longer be accepted; the Government should take effective action to limit this preventable epidemic."

Report of Scientific Committee on Tobacco & Health 2001:
"7.1 Smoking rates are particularly high amongst those suffering from diagnosed mental illnesses. The OPCS psychiatric morbidity survey 1996, reported smoking prevalence rates in patients in institutions: 74% of sufferers from schizophrenia and delusional states, 70% in those with affective psychoses and 74% in those with neurotic disorders."

Home Affairs Select Committee report 'Government Drugs Policy: Is it Working?':
"12. The Royal College of Physicians has described cigarette smoking as "the single largest avoidable cause of premature death and disability in Britain" and "the greatest challenge and opportunity for all involved in improving the public health".

World Health Organisation's 'Global Burden of Disease':
"By 2020, it is expected that the burden of disease attributable to tobacco will outweigh that caused by any single disease."

World Health Organisation's Fact Sheet 222:
"No amount of tobacco use is safe."

"Described by King James I as a custom "loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and, in the black stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless", smoking was banned in the House of Commons in 1693."

ASH - anti-tobacco charity:
"Legalisation of cannabis would help in promoting rational drugs policy across the board. We support the legalisation of cannabis into a robust regulatory framework with good public health education expenditure replacing money wasted on law enforcement."


"Research into the health effects of long term use of caffeine is inconclusive. However, some reports have suggested that it can lead to a higher incidence of asthma, peptic ulcers, kidney, bladder and heart disease and blood pressure problems.
There have also been concerns about the amount of caffeine consumed by young children particularly in soft drinks and chocolate. Some commentators have suggested that children who consume a lot of caffeine may become hyperactive."

"As early as 1542 coffee was banned in the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, where coffee had been introduced from Ethiopia and Yemen, and coffee drinkers were persecuted by the authorities much like modern day drug users. Later the ban was revoked because it could not be enforced and coffee became a source of taxes."
"When used in high doses caffeine can cause heart problems and, given very high doses, even lead to death. There are cases of people having died from taking too many caffeine pills (which are used for treating migraine headaches or to stay awake). The lethal dose of caffeine is a fairly safe 75mg per kg of body weight. By comparison the lethal dose of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana) is about 13 times higher, around 1000mg per kg of body weight.
Besides caffeine roasted coffee beans also contain about 800 other chemical substances, some of them only in very small quantities of course. Of 21 of these substances that have been tested on laboratory animals 16 have been shown to cause cancer."


The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda':
"There is good reason for concluding that chronic cannabis use does not produce cognitive impairment of comparable severity [to alcohol use]."

The World Health Organisation's report 'Cannabis: a health perspective and research agenda' states:
"The weight of the available evidence suggests that even the long-term heavy use of cannabis does not produce any severe or grossly debilitating impairment of cognitive function. If it did research to date should have detected it".

Home Affairs Select Committee report 'Government Drugs Policy: Is it Working?':
"20. While around four million people use illicit drugs each year, most of those people do not appear to experience harm from their drug use, nor do they cause harm to others as a result of their habit."

Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report 'The classification of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971':
"4.3.3 The cardiovascular actions of cannabis are similar to the effects of exercise, and probably do not constitute a significant risk in healthy adolescents and young adults.
4.3.5 Unlike sedative intoxicants such as alcohol, cannabis does not cause respiratory depression or suppress the gag reflex even when extremely intoxicated.
4.3.6 Cannabis differs from alcohol, however, in one major respect: it seems not to increase risk-taking behaviour. This may explain why it appears to play a smaller role than alcohol in road traffic accidents. Cannabis intoxication tends to produce relaxation and social withdrawal rather than the aggressive and disinhibited behaviour commonly found under the influence of alcohol. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.
4.4.1 In general cannabis users smoke fewer cigarettes per day than tobacco smokers and most give up in their 30s, so limiting the long-term exposure that we now know is the critical factor in cigarette-induced lung cancer.
4.4.2 Preliminary studies of lung function in regular cannabis smokers have not found a major cause for concern in the majority.
4.4.5 It is possible to rank the risks of dependence of abused drugs with heroin and crack cocaine the worst and cannabis generally at, or near, the bottom (and well below nicotine and alcohol).
4.4.6 The other main concern about the chronic use of cannabis is whether it can lead to mental illness (especially schizophrenia). ... no clear causal link has been demonstrated. The onset of schizophrenia often occurs in the late teens, when cannabis use is most common, so that an association is inevitable. This does not, though, necessarily mean that the relationship to cannabis is causal.
4.4.8 There is no evidence that cannabis causes structural brain damage in man. Neither radiological studies nor post mortem examinations have revealed atrophy or other causes for concern.
5.1 The high use of cannabis is not associated with major health problems for the individual or society."

Select Committee on Science and Technology's report 'Medical use of cannabis':
"8.19 ....cannabis is neither poisonous (paragraph 4.3), nor highly addictive, and we do not believe that it can cause schizophrenia in a previously well user with no predisposition to develop the disease."

Select Committee on Science and Technology's report 'Medical use of cannabis', Appendix 3:
"8.  D. Tashkin (University of California Los Angeles) surveyed the effects on the lung of long-term marijuana use. He conducted large scale studies in the 1980s in heavy marijuana smokers and compared them with subjects who smoked tobacco. Marijuana smokers showed some bronchial symptoms (cough, wheeze and bronchitis), but there was no evidence for any significant reduction in overall respiratory function. When data were collected annually for a further 8 years, the marijuana smokers did not show the age-related decline in respiratory function seen in tobacco smokers. ...there was no evidence for increases in lung cancers in marijuana smokers".

The Lancet, vol 352, number 9140, November 14, 1998:
"We.. say that on the medical evidence available, moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill-effect on health, and that decisions to ban or legalise cannabis should be based on other considerations."

The USA Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy 1987:
"Cannabis can be used on an episodic but continual basis without evidence of social or psychic dysfunction. In many users the term dependence with its obvious connotations, probably is mis-applied... The chief opposition to the drug rests on a moral and political, and not toxicologic, foundation".

GW Pharmaceuticals, licensed to test medicinal cannabis:
"Hundreds of years of cannabis use provide for compelling evidence of safety. There is no reported death from cannabis use. Indeed, the therapeutic index for cannabis (the ratio between a normal and lethal dose) is estimated to be 40,000 to 1. The equivalent ratio for Aspirin is 23 to 1 and for Morphine is 50 to 1. The medical literature contains significant amounts of evidence pertaining to the potential therapeutic benefit of cannabis."