Substance Abuse Press Releases

Cannabis: Colorado state releases report

daggaThe committee’s work represents one of the first and most comprehensive reviews to assess the strength of credible scientific literature available today regarding marijuana use,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

DFL has in the constitutional court testified in 2002 about the negative effects of cannabis use and the legalization there of. If it was not for this testimony we might today have pilots flying planes, doctors performing surgery and emergency/rescue services all working under the influence of cannabis.

In 2001 Colorado State USA started a gradual legalization of cannabis beginning with medicinal use and ending with recreational use in January 2014. The ‘slippery slope’ effect this has had on the state of Colorado is nothing short of shocking. To mention a few key facts; Hospital visits for possible cannabis exposures in children 9 years and older increased by 86 %. Casualty visits went up by 69.4 %. Hospital visits for children 9 years and younger increased 5-fold (500%). Casualty visits increased by more than 3-fold (300%).

A Colorado state panel, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) set up to review the health effects of cannabis warned citizens about the dangers of using the drug during pregnancy, while driving and during adolescence and young adulthood. This report confirms what Doctors for Life International has already been stating regarding the wide spread effect this form of legalization can have on government as well as the different population groups of society as a whole. The report also found preliminary evidence to suggest that legalization in the state had resulted in increased hospitalizations, emergency room visits and poison centre calls possibly related to cannabis use.

This proves to demonstrate a principal which was well researched by the American Society of Addictive Medicine (ASAM): The so called money from taxation the USA would obtain from legalization of cannabis is dwarfed by the expenses incurred by the medical and criminal justice systems involved. These expenses come directly from the various related effects attributed to the use of cannabis as proved by ASAM and the CDPHE report.

For years, a lack of scientific research led to inconsistent ideas about the drug’s negative health effects among users. Today, scientific literature has advanced beyond such claims. Though it is far from complete scientists have repeatedly found short-term memory effects lasting up to a week after heavy cannabis use by the adult population. DFL would like to bring such information to the public in order to better educate the citizens of our country especially in light of South Africa’s current effort to legalize cannabis use.

For specific population groups the use of cannabis has clear negative impacts, the Retail Marijuana Public Advisory Committee found in the review of scientific literature, the rate of motor vehicle crashes in Colorado, for instance, doubled. They also found that maternal use during pregnancy was associated with negative effects on exposed offspring, “Including decreased academic ability, cognitive function and attention.” Some effects may not appear until adolescence.

”We found SUBSTANTIAL evidence that adolescent and young adult marijuana users are more likely than non-users to use and be addicted to illicit drugs in adulthood.”-CDPHE.

This statement applies to all races surveyed (Indian, Latin, Asian, African and White American).This further enforces DFL’s stance on cannabis being a gateway drug to harder substance abuse. Use by teens is also associated with decreased school performance and memory impairments that last as long as 28 days after use. There is also a demonstrated association between early and heavy use and the development of mental disorders like schizophrenia in adulthood among certain populations.

Adult use in Colorado is now higher than the rest of the USA, according to two surveys included in the report. This report released by the CDPHE shows the effects of legalization of cannabis over a prolonged period of time on the state/country and the people involved that are using cannabis for either medicinal or recreational use.

By using data available to us such as the CDPHE report which outlines the negative effects of the legalization of cannabis on society as a whole, we can stop the same statistics/effects being attributed to our children here in South Africa.

The CDPHE report is available to be viewed at-
Doctors for Life International represents more than 1400 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans.

Legalizing Cannabis Increases Black Market Sales (press release)

daggaRegardless of pro-pot activists’ claims in the USA that legalization of dagga (cannabis) will reduce the underground sale of the drug, it is actually increasing. In the state of Colorado, the black market cannabis, which many expected to disappear after the substance was legalized about a year ago, is now thriving.

According to the latest information from the U.S. Forest Service, cannabis is now grown on public land owned by the federal government in the state. Worse, it is controlled by Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO’s). According to the latest information cannabis production is booming.

Mr. Tom Gorman who heads a multi-state task force called the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said one of the arguments for legalizing cannabis in Colorado and Washington State was actually to reduce the black market. But the facts are alarming. By legalizing cannabis in Colorado, they have become the black market for about 40 other states that they can document. According to Mr Gorman instead of eliminating it, Colorado has now become it. They are also the black market for those people under twenty-one.

Yet, the “War on Drugs have failed” rhetoric echoes throughout the globe as celebrities and politicians jump on the band wagon. These activists, if you want to believe it, even claim legalization of drugs will actually reduce crime, drug deaths, the number of drug addicts and cut government costs, to name a few. Drug legalization/decriminalization is one of the ultimate goals of the controversial ‘harm reduction movement’, despite of its failures world wide.

In the 1970’s, the Netherlands allowed individuals to buy 5g of cannabis at a time. Cannabis use among 18 to 20 year olds consequently increased from 15% to 44%. In 2004 the Netherlands government therefore implemented an action plan to discourage cannabis use and in 2008 Amsterdam started to close 43 so-called ‘Coffee shops’.

According to a 2009 European Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), cannabis use among Dutch youth was more than double the European average. The proportion of school children that think regular cannabis usage involves big risks is the lowest in the Netherlands of all countries surveyed. The Netherlands thus moved to close ‘Coffee shops’ within a certain radius from schools and in May 2011 the Netherlands moved to fully ban all tourists from visiting “coffee shops” A Letter from Dutch Minister of Health and Justice stated: “This law will put an end to the nuisance of criminality associated with ‘Coffee shops’ and drug trafficking”

Back in the US the stats don’t look much different. A recent report showed that five months into legal pot sales in Colorado, crime went up in Denver. The total number of reported offenses had increased by more than 10 percent, from 17,450 in 2013 up to 19,234 in 2014. In Aurora, violent crime is up 10 percent so far this year after pot legalization, with sex assaults up 30 percent and aggravated assaults up 24 percent.  In Englewood, robberies have increased 11 percent since 2013, and burglaries are up more than 68 percent.

Another major impact that the legalization of cannabis had in Colorado was an increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents. In an August 2013 report, traffic fatalities in Colorado are shown to have decreased 16 percent, from 2006 to 2011, which is consistent with national trends.  But during the same six years in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers testing positive for just cannabis increased 114 percent. In 2006, drivers testing positive for cannabis were involved in 28 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving drugs.  By 2011 that number had increased to 56 percent.

Numerous other problems related to drug legalization are also sited by world renowned researchers. Whether Colorado’s legalization experiment will eventually somewhat decrease black market pot, remains to be seen. But studies indicate that, for example, while legalized gambling in the USA decreased illegal gambling – legalization increased the amount of gamblers.

Doctors For Life International finding it increasingly more difficult to see the ethical guidelines the SA government is following (press release)

Against the advice of numerous NGO’s and stakeholders, the SA cabinet recently approved the new controversial National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) that promotes the flawed philosophy of “harm reduction”. Various stakeholders sent numerous submissions that requested “harm reduction” to be removed from the new plan, all to no avail. Decisions like these serve to create the impression that the State is pushing the agenda of a small group of activists.

Even though the term “harm reduction” appears to be a vague, benign term, within the field of substance abuse and policies to combat it, it has a very specific meaning. “Harm reduction” promotes very specific, controversial ideas like needle/syringe exchange programs where the government provides clean needles and syringes to drug addicts, shooting galleries (safe injection sites) or drug substitution therapy like tax free funded drug hand outs, legalizing the use of dagga, and ultimately legalising all drugs of abuse. At the UNODC’s 52nd session of the Annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs (which still stands), major economies like Russia, the USA and China refused to sign the final resolution if the words “harm reduction” were not removed.

The new NDMP claims to promote a so-called “localized” or “South African version of harm reduction” (page 3 of the NDMP). The Plan boldly links two mutually exclusive strategies to fight substance abuse: “harm reduction” on the one hand and on the other hand, the more sensible way of Prevention, Awareness (Education), Supply reduction, Demand reduction and Rehabilitation (Diversion programs and Policing would fall under those mentioned). Although the new NDMP includes some of these strategies in combating substance abuse, its stubborn promotion of the controversial “harm reduction” principles is beyond logic. Whatever the version, the “harm reduction” philosophy remains the same in the NDMP as when used internationally.

In Sweden, harm reduction is still only practiced on an experimental level in about 3 out of approximately 3000 districts. Holland has been closing down their so called “coffee shops” where recreational dagga use was allowed because, as explained in a letter from the Dutch minister of Health and Justice: “..This law will put an end to the nuisance of criminality associated with ‘coffee shops’ and drugs trafficking”

In a recent report Scotland politicians reacted with fury after figures revealed the widespread use of the drug methadone on prescription in Scottish prisons. The methadone failure rate is 97% and now costs Scotland £30million a year. The number of addicts on Methadone increased 400% in a decade. More people are now dying from methadone than from heroin. Scottish Conservative Chief Whip John Lamont said: ”We have a major problem with methadone in Scotland and it needs to be addressed now. The SNP (Scottish National Party) has lazily parked people on the heroin substitute (methadone), giving them no hope of recovery, and now we are paying the price.” Labor justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “With a large proportion of deaths involving methadone, it would appear that the approach being taken to treatment isn’t working properly and fails to prevent addicts combining drugs into lethal cocktails”.

Unless the approved NDMP drastically changed from the final draft, under chapter 4, page 68, the NDMP explicitly states that the South African community has not agreed upon what this so-called SA version of “harm reduction” is. “It is premature to make ‘harm reduction’ one of the pillars of the new Plan, while the NDMP goes on and openly admits that it is controversial and needs more discussion first” said Dr Albu van Eeden, CEO of DFL.

The SA government cannot even handle offering rehabilitation to the existing number of drug addicts, while the NGO sector carries the bulk of the burden. Yet the government has now approved a strategy that can in effect take tax payer money to hand out free highly addictive drugs like methadone, as well as clean needles and syringes to drug addicts. Safe injection sites were also being considered and will cost the country even more.

DFL is disappointed that the SA government has taken the plunge into adopting a weakened and watered down approach of tackling a very real drug problem that has exploded in SA over the past few years. On the other hand, one wonders whether the Cabinet was fully aware of the devastating consequences of the new NDMP when they decided to approve it.

This is clearly no time to allow drug addicts to continue in the misery of their addiction by implementing programs that condone drug use. DFL would therefore like to caution government and the public as the outcome of the current direction in which it has decided to try and curb substance abuse could unintentionally rather prove to be harm production.

DFL represents more than 1400 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. DFL has played a leading role in combating substance abuse while chairing one of the 9 provincial substance abuse forums in SA for almost 6 years. For more information visit:

Oregon children as young as 7 getting “medical dagga” cards (press release)

Doctors For Life International is appalled by the pseudo science that seemingly makes it possible for even children to use dagga for medical conditions. More than 50 children in the state of Oregon alone, are “medical dagga (marijuana)” cardholders, according to a recent report by ‘The Oregonian’s’, Noelle Crombie. Yet one of the most condemning facts regarding the legalization of dagga is the relationship between schizophrenia and dagga use, which has become dominant in medical literature over the past few years. A recent expert meta-analysis survey of the evidence published by different scientists in different countries state that research “has consistently found that cannabis use is associated with schizophrenia outcomes later in life” (1).

One of the children with a “medical marijuana card” is Mykayla Comstock, a 7-year-old with leukaemia, whose mother and her boyfriend (both long time dagga smokers) feed Mykayla cannabis oil and food laced with dagga. Mykayla has consumed as much as 1.2 grams of cannabis oil in a day, the equivalent of smoking 10 joints. “She was stoned out of her mind,” said Mykayla’s biological father, Jesse Comstock, after visiting her in August. After noticing the strange behaviour in Mykayla, Comstock took her to get examined at a private lab where technicians detected THC levels as high as those of an adult daily user of cannabis. One wonders what her future will be like.

New Zealand study led by an international team found that those who started using cannabis before the age of 18 – during the development of their brains – suffered a significant drop in IQ. This effect could be irreversible and the more that people smoked, the greater the loss in IQ (2). In another study using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Australian scientists verified that persistent heavy marijuana use damages the brain’s memory and learning capacity. The earlier people abused cannabis, the greater the damage (3).

Apart from schizophrenia, the following other mental disorders are also known to be strongly associated with cannabis use in that use may cause the mental disorder, precipitate a latent mental illness, or severely exacerbate an existing illness/disorder: Delirium (acute confusional states), cannabis psychosis, other psychoses, anxiety disorders, depersonalization syndrome, depression, suicide and impulsive violent behavior.

It is therefore not surprising that the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) said in June 2012, that it is concerned about the negative impact of marijuana being decriminalised in some states for so-called medical reasons, on the youth. “Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the many adverse developmental, cognitive, medical, psychiatric, and addictive effects of marijuana”, the statement said. “Of particular concern to our field, adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adult users to develop marijuana dependence, and their heavy use is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders. Furthermore, marijuana’s deleterious effects on cognition and brain development during adolescence may have lasting implications. The “medicalisation” of smoked marijuana has distorted the perception of the known risks and purported benefits of this drug. Since certain states began permitting the dispensing of medical marijuana, adolescents’ perceptions of the harmful effects of marijuana have decreased and marijuana use has increased significantly.“ (4)

It is important to understand that legislative actions giving access to marijuana, seriously jeopardize consumer protection. Generally, processes or policies for bringing medicines to the public have been established so that science, not emotion, prevails. Medicine needs to come through the medicine control boards of countries to assure safety and efficacy. More importantly, the recent legislative initiatives in some countries to legalize cannabis tend to create medicine by popular vote. Cannabis is not a safe drug and is far from having been demonstrated to be effective. There is no advantage, and indeed there is a disadvantage, to smoking marijuana rather than other available medications. Allowing such legislation to become law is riding a wave of emotion and mob psychology that has been carefully crafted, financed, and driven by the cannabis lobby. They have declared that the medical excuse of cannabis is the battlefield to gain the overall legalization of pot, as seen in Colorado and Washington State. The advocates’ strategy remains the same; play to emotion, overstate the benefits of marijuana, use the medical excuse to get the camel’s nose under the tent and then push for more legal access to pot.

Cannabis advocates allege benefits of marijuana use with little or no clear scientific basis. Neither cannabis nor pure THC has ever been compared to the new anti-nausea medications which are extremely effective. Cannabis can actually enhance pain because of a very narrow therapeutic window. The progression of glaucoma is not slowed, and ophthalmologists do not consider it a reasonable treatment. Cannabinoids may reduce muscle spasm, but they damage gait in Multiple Sclerosis patients. While cannabinoids stimulate appetite, they appear to increase body fat rather than lean body mass. No credible evidence exists that marijuana is beneficial for depression, drug abuse, headaches, or menstrual cramps. Time and again we find that most frequent medical excuse users are young people manipulating the system by complaining of pain syndromes that are usually seen in much older patients

Supporting medical excuse cannabis either reflects serious ignorance of the medical literature, or a malignant misrepresentation of it. Medicine and policy makers must stop this circus of medicine by popular vote which is dangerous, and which plays into the pot of the legalization lobby.

Doctors for Life International, represents more than 1400 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. For more information visit:

(1) “Cannabis use in young people: the risk for schizophrenia” Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Aug;35(8):1779-87. Epub 2011 Apr 16. Casadio P, Fernandes C, Murray RM, Di Forti M.
(2) Puplished in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(3) MCRI, Melbourne University and Wollongong University. Lead researcher Dr. Marc Seal, from Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Published by
(4) AACAP Medical Marijuana Policy Statement, June 11, 2012

USA targets dagga dispensaries in major crackdown (press release)

Doctors For Life (DFL) has been warning for years that the decriminalisation of dagga, for whatever reason, will simply create a legal avenue for drug trafficking and organised crime. Ignoring such warnings have proved to be disastrous for countries like the USA.

In the eight states that passed “medical marijuana” laws in the USA since 2004, there was a higher prevalence of use and lower perceptions of risk compared to states that had not passed “medical marijuana” laws. A study in the September issue of the ‘Annals of Epidemiology’ found that among youths age 12 to 17, dagga usage rates were higher and perception of risks associated with smoking cannabis were lower in states that had decriminalised dagga (8.6%), compared with those without such laws (6.9%). A similar study of people age 18 and older published in the journal ‘Drug and Alcohol Dependence’, found that the odds of dagga abuse or dependence were almost twice as high in states with “medical marijuana” laws, compared to those without such laws.

It is therefore no surprise that California is finally acting upon what the shocking facts has been telling them. Los Angeles, where city officials have struggled to stop a blooming of dagga dispensaries, is one of their targets. “As today’s operations make clear, the sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said. California’s four U.S. attorneys pledged in October 2011 to curb pot collectives they said were running afoul of the law by raking in huge sums of money, as well as serving as fronts for drug traffickers.

Over the past several years USA authorities say, dagga growing has also been a factor in a number of home-invasion robberies. Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said, “Clearly, a lot of marijuana is being grown in the Central Valley … and it is destined for the mass market and nationwide distribution, not cancer patients.” If you need more evidence that growing marijuana is a criminal enterprise, look at what those arrested in connection with the plots are carrying; guns, knives and other weapons, and often other drugs. This isn’t what California voters had in mind when they approved the so-called Compassionate Use Act back in 1999.

Although cannabis (dagga) is illegal in the USA, California became the first state to decriminalize the use of dagga for so-called medical reasons back in 1996. But now about 175 California cities and 20 counties have already banned retail pot shops. In one of the most recent bans Los Angeles moved to close down about 900 dagga dispensaries, setting a major precedent. Many cities have struggled with medical marijuana ordinances but none has had a bigger problem than Los Angeles, where pot shops have proliferated.

California is not the only state that allows dagga as a medicine to have major problems. In Colorado a study by the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine, found that nearly three-quarters of teens in two metro-area substance abuse treatment programs, said they had used state approved “medical marijuana” bought at a dagga dispensary or grown for someone else. Only one of the 122 teens in the study who admitted to using dagga was an approved patient. Seventy-four percent of the teens said they had used other’s “medical marijuana”, with a median frequency of 50 times. The report was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).

Doctors For Life International would therefore like to urge the South African government to take the necessary measures to keep dagga illegal in South Africa, and not be swayed by individuals who abuse vocal platforms for their own selfish benefit.

Doctors for Life International, represents more than 1400 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. For more information visit:

Dagga: Forget the Buzz it’s the facts that count! (press release)

News 24 recently featured an article on the decriminalization of dagga (cannabis) by an activist who goes by the name of Buzz. Doctors for Life International is intrigued by the position taken this activist as the whole article seems to be based more on Buzz’ impressions than real facts.

Buzz claims that decriminalizing dagga will:

not lead to a rise in it’s use
will make it possible to control it’s sales
make it less attractive
take it out of the hands of organized crime
To justify his argument he quotes the Dutch government’s liberal policies of quite some time ago on Cannabis and its use.

The opinion negates numerous studies amongst which is the massive, “General Lifestyle Survey of the Office of National Statistics of the British Government 2009”. This study demonstrated for the umpteenth time, a much higher use of legal drugs compared to that of illicit drugs.

The Dutch government started changing their liberal policy on dagga in 2010 by closing down coffee shops (about 43 in Amsterdam alone), forbidding foreigners to go to coffee shops, closing down coffee shops a certain distance from schools etc. The Dutch minister of Health and Justice justified the new trend when he admitted that they had been unable to root out the criminal element in the dagga trade when he stated: “…This law will put an end to the nuisance of criminality associated with “coffee shops” and “drugs trafficking”.

The argument that legalizing dagga will lead to a glut of people growing it for profit, which Buzz rejects, is exactly one of the reasons why the city of Los Angeles in California decided earlier this year to close down all (approximately 900 of them) pharmacies that sold dagga.

The whole idea that we should legalize harmful social practices that we have failed to get rid of while illegal is absurd, to say the least. Throughout the ages virtually no human vices have been completely prevented by making them illegal. But that does not mean we are considering legalizing theft or fraud, or the abuse of women, or even murder for that matter.

One of the most condemning facts against the legalization of dagga is the relationship between schizophrenia and dagga use, which has become dominant in medical literature over the past few years. There is no such association with tobacco smoke and psychosis associated with alcohol abuse only develops after long periods of alcohol addiction.

Dope smokers have been found to inhale deeper than cigarette smokers and hold smoke in the lungs for longer before they exhale. Ammonia levels were 20 times higher in marijuana smoke than in tobacco smoke. Hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels 3-5 times higher in marijuana smoke. Cannabis smoke contains seven times more tar and carbon monoxide than cigarette smoke.

One is forced to conclude that Buzz’ view represents one of those extreme views that is not based on scientific data, but is rather one of the view points of a small subgroup of society using thumb sucked statistics that suit them.

Doctors for Life International, represents more than 1400 medical doctors and specialists, three-quarters of whom practice in South Africa. Since 1991 DFL has been actively promoting sound science in the medical profession and health care that is safe and efficient for all South Africans. For more information visit:

Letter to the Editor of the Natal Witness on the Legalisation of Cannabis (press release)

The Editor, It is with interest that Doctors for Life noticed your article on the legalization on cannabis (dagga). It would appear that this article quotes a web post by Dale T. McKinley. Even though I respect Mr McKinley for

Harm Reduction: More than just side effects! (press release)

The recent stance from the managing editor of the South African Medical Journal in favor of the extremely controversial practice of decriminalizing drugs of abuse (Harm Reduction) is both surprising and disconcerting. It shows a mixture of “arm chair medicine”,

Twitter Feed