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Long-term heavy cannabis use: implications for health education

Coggans, Niall and Dalgarno, Phil and Johnson, Lindsay and Shewan, David (2004) Long-term heavy cannabis use: implications for health education. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 11 (4). pp. 299-313. ISSN 0968-7637

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Abstract

There is growing evidence that cannabis can have negative effects on health. While the ongoing debate about the nature and duration of these effects recognizes mild cognitive impairment, the evidence for irreversibility of cognitive impairment and causal links with psychiatric illness is not conclusive. There is undoubtedly potential for impairment of respiratory functioning, but that will depend on lifetime load and in most cases is confounded with tobacco smoking. There is a lack of data that addresses the long-term cannabis user's perspective. How do long-term cannabis users perceive the impact of their cannabis use on their own lives and what are the policy implications of their experience and perceptions of cannabis use? A recent study of long-term cannabis users explored a number of issues that have relevance for policy in relation to health education interventions. Quantitative data gathered from 405 long-term cannabis users provide insights into the impact of different levels of cannabis use over ten or more years on a range of issues: health; dependence; cannabis-related beliefs and attitudes; and preferred sources of cannabis-related information. Implications and the need for innovative approaches to cannabis-related health education are discussed.