Did Your Doctor Inhale?

Cannabis red light - adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/aforero/434623972/

A survey of medical students in Brazil found that more than 80% use alcohol, while cannabis use is limited to about one in four, a quarter use solvents and just over 25% use tobacco. In contrast, less than three quarters of female medical students use alcohol, just under 15% use tobacco, about 10 percent use solvents, and tranquillizer use accounts for 7.5%.

The survey carried out using World Health Organisation criteria questioned 456 medical students across the grades. Details will appear in the March issue of the journal Addict Behav (2008, 33(3), pp 490-495) reported by the team of Dartiu Xavier Da Silveira in the Addiction Unit at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the researchers found that it is usually only female medical students make the switch from illegal to legal drugs of abuse, whereas male students tend to alternate cannabis and solvents throughout college years, the researchers report.

“Interventions aiming to influence patterns of drug consumption among medical students must consider both gender differences and evolving patterns of substance use throughout a medical course,” the researchers conclude. In an earlier study (Addict Behav, 2007, 32(8), pp 1740-1744), they reported that “Living with parents or a companion appeared as a protective factor for the use of cannabis”. But, they also found that being male and taking part in sporting activities was often associated with both cannabis and solvent abuse.

In related research (Addict Behav, 2008, 33(3), pp 397-411), researchers at the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland College Park, investigated the prevalence of cannabis use disorders among more than 1200 first-year college students, aged 17 to 20. They found that a significant proportion of cannabis-using college students could be diagnosed as suffering from some kind of cannabis-related disorder. However, they add that even if there is no obvious disorder, many of the users are at serious risk of problems, including physical injuries, and commonly miss class.

In the light of such statistics, you really have to question those pleas of “I never inhaled, m’lud”, especially if it’s your doctor making them, and puts a different light on those “green” prescriptions GPs hand out advising us to live a healthier lifestyle, eat better, and get more exercise.