Archive | February, 2012

Cannabis Vs. Alcohol

20 Feb

Cannabis is a widespread and commonly used drug. It is mostly smoked but can also be consumed.  According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2011), two million people in the UK smoke it regularly, and half of all 16 to 29 year olds have tried it.  The legal status of this drug is a controversial topic, with many people claiming that alcohol causes more damage to society and individuals than cannabis does. In January 2009 Cannabis was made a class B drug, meaning that five years in prison, maximum, could be given for possession of the drug; and 14 years in prison if caught dealing.

The active ingredient in Canabis is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it acts by changing the activity of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This leads to the most commonly associated side effect of cannabis; the affect on mental health. A tenth of individuals who started using cannabis by the age of 15, where found to have schizophreniform disorder by the age of 26 (Arseneault et al, 2002).  Cannabis users can also struggle to fund their ‘hobby’. The average user of cannabis goes through 10 grams a week (CLEAR UK, 2011). With the street price being ten pounds a gram, this equals one hundred pounds spent on the drug, on average, per week.  There are also links between cannabis use and an increased risk of heart attacks, development of head and neck cancers and an increased risk of lung infection (Macnair, 2010).

Alcohol can have immediate negative affects on the body; known as alcohol poisoning. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 30,000 people went to hospital with this (Prior, 2012). In extreme cases it can cause heart attack or death. Individuals under the influence of alcohol are more likely to take risks; which could potentially cause them and other injuries and possibly death. Long-term health risks of drinking alcohol are liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of a large number of cancers and heart attack. Women, who are classed as high-risk drinkers, are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer (NHS, 2010). There are also mental health problems associated with drinking alcohol; it reduces the number of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can cause anxiety and depression. It also destroys the brains memory (Prior, 2012). There is also the risk of becoming alcohol dependent (Mental Health Foundation, 2008). These affects of alcohol use seem to be much more severe than that of cannabis use.

Unlike alcohol, Cannabis has actually been found to have positive affects. It helps to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatment. There are also claims it can help with migraines, headaches, asthma, strokes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, alcoholism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, insomnia and vision disorders (Szulakowska & Milnerowicz, 2007).  Medical Cannabis has been legal in California since 1996, and is now legal in 12 other U.S. states.  Cannabis is less addictive than alcohol. In 2001, there were 331 alcohol overdose deaths and 0 marijuana overdose deaths (U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 2004), which shows that Cannabis is less toxic that alcohol. People who are intoxicated with Alcohol account for a lot more crimes than those intoxicated with Cannabis. The figure below states the comparison between Alcohol and Cannabis, and clearly shows the severity of drinking alcohol.

[Image above retrieved from:


Overall Cannabis is a safer for the user and better for society. The question remains as to why Cannabis is illegal when Alcohol is legal.

This link has more information on the debate:




Arseneault, L., Cannon, M., Poulton, R., Murray, R., Caspi, A., & Moffit, T. E. (2002) Cannabis use in adolescence and risk for adult psychosis: longitudinal prospective study. British Medical Journal, 325, 1212-1213. doi: 10.1136/bmj.325.7374.1212

Buddy, T. (2011). The Health Effects of Marijuana; Negative Health Effects Are Numerous. Medical Review Board. The New York Times Company. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2004). Alcohol-Attributable Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost — United States, 2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 53(37), 866-870. Retrieved from:

CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform. (2012). Retrieved from

Iversen, L. (2003). Cannabis and The Brain. Brain, A Journal of Neurology. 126(6), 1252-1270. doi: 10.1093/brain/awg143

Macnair, T. (2010). What is Cannabis. BBC: England. Retrieved from

Mental Health Foundation. (2008). Alcohol and Mental Health. Leaflet retrieved from

National Health Service. (2010). The Risks of Drinking too much.

Prior, K. (2012).

Szulakowska, A., & Milnerowicz, H. (2007) Cannabis sativa in the Light of Scientific Research. Adv Clin Exp Med, 16(6), 807–815. Retrieved from

Timms, P. (2009). Cannabis and Mental Health. The Royal College of Psychiatrists. Public Education Editorial Board: London.


The Costs of Controlled Crying

5 Feb

‘Controlled Crying’ is a method, which is advised by most Health Visitors, to get a baby to sleep through the night. It involves leaving the baby to cry in their cot for a certain amount of time, before going to comfort them, without touching them, and then leaving again. This continues until the baby has cried their self to sleep, and throughout the night until they sleeps through. Needless to say this causes a lot of distress to both the baby and parents. It is a very controversial topic. Some mothers and health advisors swear by it, whilst others argue that it is a quick fix to help a tired mum, who is unaware of the Psychological consequences this could potentially cause their child.

Controlled Crying is essentially a form of Learned Helplessness, and whilst it works to stop a child from crying, it teaches the child not to cry when they are distressed (The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, 2002). Learned helplessness, in turn, is linked to depression (Seligman, 1967), which surprisingly affects 1 in 40 babies (Shatkin, 2006). Leaving a baby to cry also prevents him or her from forming proper attachments (AAIMHI, 2002) leading to various psychological and behavioral problems (Evergreen Psychotherapy Center, 2004). Research also shows that children who were left to cry as babies are 10 times more likely to have ADHD (Wolke, 2002). There is now recent research suggests that controlled crying not only harms the baby Psychologically, but also affects their brain development. Babies who have been left to cry have been found to have higher Cortisol levels, which if extreme, could cause a reduction in the number of synapses and the death of neurons (Schore, 2001).

Other studies have reported that Sleep Training causes no detrimental effects to Infants (France, 1992). A good night routine is in fact healthy for children, and research suggests that children who have one do better in school (The Princes Trust, 2012). A parent who has had sufficient sleep will also be able to care for their baby better through the day. Where as, a lack of sleep may make parents tired and grumpy, leading to marital tension and possibly divorce. Therefore, for some families, Controlled Crying may be the best option for the baby to have a happy childhood. It is also not clear whether some of the research linked to Controlled Crying actually reflects on the sleep training in particular, or to excessive crying due to other reasons. If so, the correlation between ADHD and Controlled Crying, for example, would not be valid. It could be that a baby born with ADHD, would cry more than a usual baby. There is not much valid research done on the effects of Controlled Crying due to ethics, and the fact the studies need to be longitudinal.

The question remains as to whether it is ethical to leave a baby, who is clearly in distress to cry by them selves. Separation anxiety often affects babies, causing them to want to be with their mothers. It would not be right to leave a hyperactive adult in a cage to teach them to sit still, so what really is the difference? Although research is not reliable at the moment, it is not worth the risk to the wellbeing of the baby.

“Many parents argue that they tried “Ferberizing” their baby and enjoyed great success with the technique. Indeed, the infant may stop crying and learn to go to sleep on his own, but this is a short-term pay off for parents. The baby has not suddenly discovered quiet content. He simply is exhausted from his futile efforts to be nurtured. Fifteen years later, the same parents shrug their shoulders and wonder why their kids are shutting them out.”  (Coburn, 1998)

A Couple of interesting links are: (really good leaflet)


 Australian Association for Infant Mental Health. (2002). Controlled Crying: AAIMHI Position Paper. Retrieved from

Coburn, J. (1998) In Commons, M. L. (1998). Emotional Learning in Infants: A Cross-Cultural Examination. Retrieved from

Commons, M. L. (1998). Emotional Learning in Infants: A Cross-Cultural Examination. Retrieved from

France, K. G. (1992). Behavior Characteristics and Security in Sleep-Disturbed Infants Treated with Extinction. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 17(4), 467-475.

Gunnar, M. R., Brodersen, L.,Nachmias, M., Buss, K., & Rigatuso, J. (1996). Stress reactivity and attachment security. Developmental Psychobiology, 29(3), 191-204. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2302(199604)29:3<191::AID-DEV1>3.0.CO;2-M

Orlans, M., & Levy, T. (2004). Evergreen Psychotherapy Center; Attachment Treatment & Training Institute. Suite, America: Comfort Technical Assistance, LLC. Retrieved from

Schore, A. N. (2001). The effects of early relational trauma on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 22(1-2), 201-269. DOI: 10.1002/1097-0355(200101/04)22:1<201::AID-IMHJ8>3.0.CO;2-9

The Princes Trust. (2012). Retrieved from

Wolke, D. (2002). Persistent Infant Crying and Hyperactivity Problems in Middle Childhood. Pediatrics, 109, 1054-1060.