Anyone who has experienced the changes in a family member or loved one after they began smoking dagga knows that, not only is the mental capacity and memory of the individual affected, but their personality, behaviour and habits as well. They cease to be the person they once were.
Despite far-fetched claims that dagga is not only safe but is in fact good for one’s health, research has again proven the complete opposite to be true.
Substantial evidence from animal research and a growing number of studies in humans indicates that the use of dagga during development can cause long-term or possibly permanent adverse changes in the brain. Rats exposed to THC (the chemical in dagga which makes a person “high”) before birth, soon after birth, or during adolescence show notable problems with specific learning and memory tasks later in life.19–21
Cognitive impairments in adult rats exposed to THC during adolescence are associated with structural and functional changes in the hippocampus.22–24
Studies in rats also show that adolescent exposure to THC is associated with an altered reward system, increasing the likelihood that an animal will self-administer other drugs (e.g. heroin) when given an opportunity. In simpler terms, dagga is a gateway drug which leads to the abuse of other substances!
Imaging studies in human adolescents show that regular dagga users display impaired neural connectivity in specific brain regions involved in a broad range of executive functions like memory, learning, and impulse control compared to non-users.25
As people age, they lose neurons in the hippocampus, which decreases their ability to learn new information. Chronic THC exposure may hasten age related loss of hippocampal neurons. In one study, rats exposed to THC every day for 8 months (approximately 30 percent of their life-span) showed a level of nerve cell loss (at 11 to 12 months of age) that equaled that of unexposed animals twice their age.
In the case of minors who begin to use dagga, a decrease in academic performance is evident almost immediately, as our nations teachers, parents and others who work with young people know all too well. We need no evidence in addition to that which we witness first-hand on a daily basis!
However, further resources available on the website of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (http://www.drugabuse.gov/) do reveal the following as a result of a large longitudinal study conducted in New Zealand:
- That frequent and persistent dagga use starting in adolescence was associated with a loss of an average of 8 IQ points measured in midadulthood.26
- Significantly, in that study, those who used dagga heavily as teenagers and quit using as adults did not recover the lost IQ points.
- Dagga has its strongest long-term impact on young users whose brains are still busy building new connections and maturing in other ways.
Dagga’s negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off, depending on the user’s history with the drug.33
Consequently, someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time! A review of 48 relevant studies found marijuana use to be associated with reduced educational attainment (i.e. reduced chances of finishing high school).34
From the above findings it is clear to see that it is the youth of our nation that would be the hardest hit should this mind altering drug be legalized.
No substance has ever been controlled after legalization and we refuse to believe that dagga would be either. Take alcohol (allegedly a controlled substance and unavailable to those under 18) as an example. It will be easier for minors in South Africa to get their hands on dagga than ever before should it be made legal.
Minority groups still proceed with their agenda of having dagga legalized, even if they have to trample over the minds, potential and futures of South Africa’s young people in the process, all so that they can continue to use their drug of choice without being reprimanded for doing so.
CYPSA works daily with the victims of this ‘safe and harmless’ drug. Those who have failed to complete their education, who have progressed to using harder drugs and whose lives have been destroyed by dagga.
We continue to stand firmly against the legalization of dagga (a narcotic who’s dangers are now well documented) in South Africa, and against those who would undermine the future leaders and professionals of our nation, our greatest asset, our youth.