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Cannabis: A short review

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – 2012

A discussion paper on cannabis (marijuana). Provides an overview of its use, functions, and prevalence. Describes the impact of cannabis and its active ingredient THC on the brain and body. Notes the negative effect of cannabis use on driving. Discusses cannabis dependence and addiction, noting that young people are particularly susceptible. Describes the rise of high-potency cannabis. Notes the impact of cannabis on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Presents an overview of the latest research on the impact of cannabis use during pregnancy. Notes evidence pointing to developmental delays and cognitive deficits in infants and children exposed to cannabis in utero. Discusses how cannabis causes cognitive problems in young users, as well as its negative impact on mental health, particularly when use begins at a young age. Also notes how it negatively impacts learning and academic performance among young users. Discusses best practices in prevention and treatment. Cites data showing that cannabis is a gateway drug. Describes risk and protective factors for cannabis use. Risk factors include peer pressure, substance abuse among parents or other family members, and exposure to environmental stressors such as community violence. Describes the importance of addressing high-risk youth in prevention efforts. Also notes the impact of media on young people and how it affects their perceptions of risk. Outlines key elements of successful prevention and treatment programs. Discusses international cannabis control and policy measures, noting mixed results of non-enforcement and decriminalization of use and possession. Also discusses the growth of medical marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.