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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 August 4; 335(7613): 262.
PMCID: PMC1939742
From the Frontline

Pass It On?

Des Spence, general practitioner, Glasgow

It was 3 am and the six of us had been playing Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game. We were nerds, one and all. She passed the joint. I inhaled and passed it on. We laughed and munched on packets of crisps.

I smoked cannabis about a dozen times at university. I am not the home secretary but I am a responsible professional. Is it inappropriate for a doctor to admit to having smoked cannabis or can this be seen as tacit acceptance and normalising of drug use? My rationale, however, is honesty, without which there is only hypocrisy and the stifling of any meaningful debate. Drug use by the young is, perhaps, the widest schism between the generations.

Age comes at a cost but it has a great gift—experience. My young life was a conveyor belt of predictable and clichéd mistakes—I was 18, so of course I knew best. But many of these wrong choices were my most important ones. Scalded and scarred by our mistakes we limp into middle age, weary but a lot wiser. Seeking to spare our young some pain we proffer them some unsolicited advice but omit the story behind the lecturing. Every single generation of the young happily jump onto the old conveyor belt full of bold and contemptuous certainty, smiling and waving at a despairing family, heading for the check out marked “Ten stupid things you must do before you grow up and admit that your parents were right and then apologise.” So what should be done about the young and cannabis?

Despite my use of cannabis as a young man I question the logic of liberalising the law. Health worries to one side, the real issue is that looser laws would surely lead to increased consumption and availability. Our communities are already saturated with mind altering drugs, be they illegal, prescribed, or cheap vodka. Our society is greatly undermined by drug use; we simply do not need any more.

I have never denied my cannabis use to my patients, and rather than undermining my position I feel that honesty has made my advice more credible. Perhaps it is time that we are a little more honest as a profession and come out of that bulging and over crowded closet marked “medical drug use.” Who knows, some of the young might even jump from the conveyor belt and be spared some pain.

Articles from The BMJ are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group