The Psychological Society was very fortunate in being able to host Dr Will Lawn who gave his expert opinion on the harms of cannabis and how both experimental and observational research contributes to our understanding of these harms. Dr Lawn currently works at one of the world’s leading addiction research units at UCL. His past research has included nicotine dependency, Methoxetamine, and other areas of addiction. He is currently a researcher in the CannTeen Project which aims to find out more about the effects of cannabis on teenagers (email me for more information.)

Dr Lawn gave a fascinating talk about the teenage brain and its development, the science that tells us about the effects of cannabis, and how cannabis could affect us personally. He informed us that a staggering 19% of teenagers in the UK (15-16) have tried cannabis. Not only this, but it is the most common cause for teenagers to start drug treatment! Dr Lawn suggested that the reason for the overrepresentation of teenagers is because they are “more sensitive to rewards,” “less able to inhibit responses,” and “more sensitive to the presence of peers.”

No one knows the long-term effects of cannabis use on the adolescent brain, but we do know that their brains are changed more easily, therefore they are also more susceptible to damage from these “mind-altering drugs” which is why it is such a bad idea to take them. It is also generally accepted in the literature that the cognitive control system develops last and it is responsible for making sensible decisions, controlling our impulses, and planning. This system can be affected negatively by cannabis use.

Dr Lawn also busted some myths about cannabis. He informed us that, contrary to popular belief, cannabis is very addictive and can cause anxiety and psychotic-like symptoms. As well as this, cannabis has also been linked to increased risk of schizophrenia. Only one strain of cannabis, CBD, is non-intoxicating and might help with anxiety. We also learn that this problem is exacerbated by the increased availability of ‘skunk’ (higher potency cannabis) in the UK. It has been suggested that the higher potency strains cause an even greater risk of addiction. Dr Lawn concluded the meeting with some advice as to how to seek treatment and from whom.

This was the first meeting of the new Psychological Society. We aim to present to you speakers from the most innovative fields of psychology and those who are conducting revolutionary research. We hope we can show you some lesser known practical applications of psychology, from banking to magic. All of which we do in the hope that we will be able to inspire a deeper curiosity for the science of psychology and inform you with the latest research. The Society aims to meet once a fortnight.

Eric Li