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Shifting Image of Cannabis

Shifting Image of Cannabis
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By: Dr. Ratnarakshit Ingole

In recent times, our society has witnessed a perceptible shift in attitudes towards cannabis, a plant deeply rooted in cultural history. Traditionally, cannabis, often referred to as ganja or bhang, has held a complex position, being both celebrated in certain cultural and religious contexts and prohibited under the law. However, as perceptions evolve, concerns arise about the potential negative consequences of increased acceptance, particularly the risk of cannabis use leading to addiction.

The Cultural History of Cannabis

Cannabis has been a part of our cultural and religious tapestry for centuries. From the ceremonial use of bhang during Holi to associations with Lord Shiva, cannabis has held a nuanced place in various traditions. However, this intricate cultural relationship stands in contrast to the legal restrictions placed on cannabis consumption in the country.

Changing Attitudes and Legal Landscape

In recent years, there has been a discernible shift in societal attitudes towards cannabis, mirroring global trends. The debate around the medicinal properties of cannabis, combined with changing perceptions of recreational use, has prompted discussions about revaluating its legal status. Some states have taken steps towards decriminalization, allowing for limited medicinal or industrial use, while others maintain stringent prohibitions.

Concerns of Increased Acceptance:

While the evolving acceptance of cannabis may align with a more progressive approach to drug policies, it also raises concerns about potential negative consequences, particularly the risk of addiction.

  1. Normalization and Perceived Harmlessness – As societal norms around cannabis become more lenient, there is a risk of normalization, with individuals perceiving cannabis use as harmless or even socially acceptable. This perception can contribute to increased experimentation, especially among younger demographics.
  2. Vulnerable Demographics – Younger individuals may be more susceptible to the changing societal attitude towards cannabis. The developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable, and early exposure to cannabis is associated with an increased risk of dependency. The acceptance of cannabis in society may inadvertently expose more individuals to these risks.

 3        Addiction Risks – While not everyone who uses cannabis becomes addicted, there is a subset of individuals who are more susceptible to developing dependency. The relaxing of societal norms around cannabis may contribute to increased usage among those prone to addiction, leading to dependence and potential negative health outcomes.

Erosion of Taboos

Traditionally regarded as taboo in Indian society, cannabis is now infiltrating the upper echelons, eroding legal boundaries. The normalization of cannabis within affluent families not only defies historical norms but also raises serious concerns about the consequences of this shift in attitude.

Drug-Induced Psychosis

One of the most alarming consequences of cannabis dependence among the youth is the heightened risk of drug-induced psychosis. Cannabis, with its psychoactive properties, can induce hallucinations, delusions, and impaired cognitive function in susceptible individuals. The blurred line between recreational use and dependency intensifies the potential for psychosis, unravelling the very fabric of mental well-being.

The journey from youth attraction to cannabis, rooted in its cultural significance, demands a careful examination of the associated risks. As recreational use blurs into dependency, and the spectre of drug-induced psychosis looms, a collective effort is needed to foster awareness, dispel misconceptions, and provide targeted support. By navigating this complex intersection with sensitivity and informed action, society can guide its youth towards choices that safeguard mental well-being, recognizing the shadow that lurks beneath the allure of cannabis.

(The author is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Tulasi Healthcare)

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