27 April 2016

Cannabis Use and Inhalant Addiction Should Not Be Ignored

The Liberal Democrat Party took up the idea of legalisation of cannabis during their 2016 Spring Conference. Although not alone in their desire to liberalise drug laws, they are spearheading the effort in the political sense. The party is firmly convinced that legalising cannabis would be a good idea because it would raise tax revenue and reduce the cost of dealing with enforcement efforts. However, we would disagree. Through our direct and extensive experience of dealing with cannabis use and inhalant addiction, we can only see bad things resulting from the liberalisation of drug laws.

You might be wondering why we mentioned inhalant addiction in the same context as cannabis use. Fair enough. For the answer, we turn to Mexico and a recently released study from the National Council Against Addictions. Their research indicates a shocking 2.38 million young people in Mexico are currently in need of some sort of rehabilitative treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these young people start down the road of drug addiction using cannabis. Many of them also drink copious amounts of alcohol as well. The data shows that Mexican children are beginning to take drugs as early as ten years old. To the surprise of Mexican officials, that is two years younger than previously thought.

The rest of us could look at Mexico as an example of what happens when children get a hold of drugs. Legalising cannabis here in the UK would produce similar results by giving more people more access to an addictive substance.

A Very Predictable Process

Mexico’s research shows a very predictable process that young people go through on the journey to addiction. The vast majority of them start with alcohol and cannabis, then move on to inhalants and eventually to cocaine. This link between cannabis and inhalants is one that should not be ignored.

Cannabis, although mildly addictive when compared to other drugs, is addictive nonetheless. Still, its stimulating effects are limited. Young people who get their fill of cannabis decide they want something more but are justifiably afraid of cocaine and heroin. So they turn to inhalants based on the assumption that these are less harmful. As an added incentive, inhalants are relatively inexpensive when compared to hard drugs.

Here’s the problem: some inhalants are even more dangerous and more addictive than heroin and cocaine. Once a young person starts using them, he or she can become hooked so quickly that he/she has no idea what’s happening to him/her. Then it’s just a short step to the hard drugs we are all familiar with.

Inhalant Addiction Is Real

Until recently, our culture did not give much attention to inhalant use or addiction. It was just not something that was part of our national psyche, given that most of our efforts to counter addiction were related to alcohol and hard drugs. But rest assured that inhalant addiction is very real. It is as real as alcoholism and addictions to crack, amphetamine, and prescription drugs.

The reality of drug addiction is that any psychoactive substance has the potential of being addictive. That is the nature of such substances. Take petrol, for example. The fumes put off by petrol enter the lungs and race to the brain incredibly quickly. Most people who inhale petrol fumes begin feeling its intoxicating effects within a minute; it only takes about 5 minutes to become completely intoxicated.

Petrol intoxication is the result of certain chemicals being triggered within the brain. Inhalation results in feelings of euphoria combined with muscle relaxation, numbness, a feeling of lightness, and a sense of disassociation with one’s environment. All of these things are very appealing to someone looking to escape from life’s problems. And once a person has inhaled petrol fumes once, it becomes easier to do it a second time and then a third.

Inhalant addiction is no different from any other kind of addiction in that people do not start using substances with a plan to become addicted. Addiction is a progressive condition that develops over time. The only difference with inhalants is that sometimes addiction occurs more quickly than with other drugs.

We Are Making Good Progress

The good news here in the UK is that we have seen a reduction in alcohol consumption and inhalant addiction among young people over the last several years. Through educational efforts and targeted treatments, fewer young people are using these substances; fewer young people are finding themselves dealing with alcohol, cannabis and inhalant addictions.

With the positive progress we have been making, why would we want to turn back the clock by legalising cannabis? Rest assured that liberalising drug laws is not going to reduce the overall cost of drugs on our society. It may temporarily reduce law enforcement costs and increase tax revenue, but it will increase both medical and enforcement spending as the number of addicts rises.

We are finally beginning to get cannabis and inhalant addictions under control. Let us not retreat and give up all the ground that we have gained. It’s just not worth it.


  1. Independent
  2. Mexico News Daily

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