German Research Group Plans Huge Study on Cannabis and Mental Health

by Abbie Llewelyn

A German research group is hoping to recruit 25,000 cannabis consumers for a study on the long-term psychological effects of cannabis use. A Berlin-based group the Research Initiative on Cannabis Consumption are currently applying for government approval for the study, as reported by The Local.

The application was first submitted to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices in November last year, but an updated application was handed over on 19th April. Research Director, Professor Thomas Schnell, said:

“Cannabis as a drug has been largely neglected by research, with the exception of specific subgroups that are conspicuous in the health system, either by being dependent on cannabis or by a severe mental disorder. But these subgroups are a small proportion of the total population of cannabis users. Most consumers do not seem to develop either a dependency or a clinically related mental disorder, so the extent to which cannabis use affects health consumers should be explored more intensively.”

Germany legalised medical cannabis at the beginning of the year, allowing doctors to prescribe their seriously ill patients the drug if they believe it will bring about positive results. This also allows the government to conduct research on the therapeutic effects of cannabis. However, these researchers want to analyse all the consequences of recreational cannabis use for psychologically healthy adult consumers, especially after several years.

Marko Dörre, lawyer and chief executive of the project, said: “In Germany, several million people regularly get high on cannabis. It is time that science becomes more engaged with recreational use.” This is particularly poignant as Germany actually has a higher teen use of cannabis (7.3%) than adult use (6.1%).

So far 2,000 cannabis users have signed up in the first ten weeks of searching for participants. The recruitment process will rule out minors, first time pot smokers and anyone with potential addition of psychiatric problems. If the study obtains approval, these participants will be allowed to pick up 30 grams of cannabis normally reserved for medical patients each month from a pharmacy.

This type of research is exactly what is needed in this field, which so far has lacked comprehensive research into how mental health relates to cannabis use. This data is needed if we are ever to be able to make an evidence-based judgement on the safety profile and mental health risk associated with cannabis. This in turn is important in terms of education for current and potential consumers, for informing cannabis policy and to aid mental health and treatment services in their work.

If the goal of 25,000 participants is reached, the data gathered could be both statistically and politically powerful.

Words by Abbie Llewelyn. Tweets @Abbiemunch.

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