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Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: a brief review

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Heather Ashton


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Background Increasing prevalence of recreational cannabis use among the young population has stimulated debate on the possible effects of acute and longterm use. Aims To highlight recent knowledge of mechanisms of action, effects on psychomotor and cognitive performance, and health risks associated with cannabis consumption. Method A brief review of recent literature on the prevalence of recreational cannabis use, the potency of modern cannabis preparations and the pharmacological actions of cannabis. Results Cannabinoids derived from herbal cannabis interact with endogenous cannabinoid systems in the body. Actions on specific brain receptors cause dose-related impairments of psychomotor performance with implications for car and train driving, aeroplane piloting and academic performance. Other constituents of cannabis smoke carry respiratory and cardiovascular health risks similar to those of tobacco smoke. Conclusions Cannabis is not, as widely perceived, a harmless drug but poses risks to the individual and to society.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ashton CH

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Psychiatry

Year: 2001

Volume: 178

Issue: 2

Pages: 101-106

ISSN (print): 0007-1250

ISSN (electronic): 1472-1465


DOI: 10.1192/bjp.178.2.101