March 8th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

ASIA: Taiwan: opposition parties combine for next poll

BOOKS: The Aquariums Of Pyongyang: Ten Years In The North Korean Gulag

BOOKS: Charles Dickens, by Jane Smiley

BOOKS: The Great Escape, by Anton Gill

COVER STORY: Iraq: make haste slowly

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Howard shifts focus to domestic issues

AGRICULTURE: Sugar industry reports: 'social science fiction' - Ted Kolsen

FARM INCOME: Rising dollar exposes parlous state of agriculture

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Middle life crisis / Damaged goods? / The green carnations

DRUGS: Quit Marijuana an effective program in New South Wales

DRUGS - DOCUMENTATION: New cannabis studies confirm danger to users

DRUGS: 'Fifth columnist' Mike Trace resigns UN drug post

Sugar levy (letter)

Financial planning (letter)

COMMENT: Christians and Muslims in Europe: how can they co-exist?

EMPLOYMENT: Casualisation a conjuring trick

ECONOMICS: 'Efficiency' blinds policy makers' judgment

Farmers' water rights at stake

ASIA: Is reunification possible for the two Koreas?

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Quit Marijuana an effective program in New South Wales

by Jill Pearman

News Weekly, March 8, 2003
The use of marijuana in Australia rates amongst the highest in the world. This should be particularly concerning as the links of marijuana use with depression and mental illness becomes clearer. The commonly held myth, particularly with young people, that this drug is harmless is now being exposed.

In direct response to this escalating marijuana crisis, Dr John Anderson pioneered an effective Quit Marijuana program designed to assist people in coming off this drug. During his life, John worked tirelessely to alert people to the effects of marijuana on the brain and behaviour, particularly on mental health. His clinic continues to operate the Quit Marijuana program in helping individuals come off this drug.


The Quit Marijuana program that operates at Westmead Sydney confirms that there is an increase in clients who attend the clinic reporting depression, anxiety and associated mental health problems. In a majority of people accessing the program, depression and anxiety is a major issue. The clinic receives numerous calls daily from distraught parents whose children are out of control on this drug.

The New South Wales State Government has long known about the harms of this drug. The Carr Government is on record as saying that the percentage of cannabis dependent patients suffering from drug induced psychosis rose from 15 per cent in 1993 to 26 per cent in 1997.

The evidence regarding cannabis and mental illness has been supported by the Australian Medical Association, who, in their press release of October 13, 2000 stated: "The AMA has warned that people who regularly smoke marijuana are at greater risk of triggering a psychosis such as schizophrenia."

This research is further supported by studies published in the British Medical Journal in November 2002. One of the key conclusions of the research is that people who start smoking cannabis as adolescents are at greatest risk of developing mental health problems.

Some of this research was conducted by Dr George Patton at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne. Patton's team followed over 1600 Australian school pupil's aged 14 to 15 for seven years. Daily cannabis use was associated with a five-fold increased risk of depression at the age of 20. Weekly use was linked to a two-fold increase. The regular users were no more likely to have suffered from depression or anxiety at the start of the study.

In separate research, a team at the University of Cardiff, UK, evaluated data on over 50,000 men who had been Swedish military conscripts in 1969 and 1970. This group represents 97 per cent of men aged 18 to 20 in the population at that time. The new analysis revealed a dose-dependant relationship between the frequency of cannabis use and schizophrenia.

Further research by King's College London, UK, analysed comprehensive data on over 1000 people born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972 and 1973. They found that people who used cannabis by age 15 were four times as likely to have a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder (a milder version of schizophrenia) at age 26 than non-users.

Research has revealed that marijuana use is also associated with reduced levels of motivation and performance; cognitive impairment; physical and social side effects; long term increasing stress levels, anxiety and mood disorders and increased aggression.

The National Drug Household Survey 2001 shows that over one-third (34.3 per cent) of 14- 19 year olds have used marijuana. The figure for 20-29 year olds is nearly 60 per cent.

The Quit Marijuana program has long known the alarming link of marijuana use with depression as it is a common problem with individuals who attend the clinic. The important challenge for Australians is how do we more successfully get the scientific research out into the minds of our young Australians.

There has been a sad lack of action in this important area. There appears to have been little political will to action appropriate prevention programs for our youth. It is imperative that our governments show leadership in the area of marijuana prevention and intervention.

The Quit Marijuana Program offers a 6-8 week course to assist people in quitting this drug. The program has a good success rate.

As a community we must take swift, effective and measurable action to reduce current marijuana use and prevent further use of this drug in our young population.

The successful Quit Marijuana program, that was started by Dr John Anderson, is one such successful program helping people come off this dangerous drug. For more information about the Quit Program contact Jill Pearman 02 9633 4077

  • Jill Pearman is Director of the Quit Marijuana Program at Westmead Sydney which was started by Dr John Anderson. Dr Anderson spent his life devoted to assisting individuals affected by marijuana and other challenging behaviours. He sadly passed away in July last year and the great work he started still continues in the Quit Marijuana Program.

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