Cannabis use in Sri Lanka

The mostly abused illicit drugs in Sri Lanka are Cannabis, Heroin and Opium. When considering Cannabis, it is the only drug that grows in Sri Lanka. It is mostly grown in the dry zones of the country in the Eastern and Southern provinces. The estimated land area under cannabis cultivation is 500 hectares.

In Sri Lanka, because of the large-scale production of cannabis, it is exported illegally to Australia and countries in Europe. Cannabis abuse has continued in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, the number of cannabis abusers has been estimated to be 200,000 in 1996.

Cannabis is an illicit and dangerous drug. According to Police reports cannabis usage in Sri Lanka is increasing. A large number of people use cannabis on a day today basis in rural and urban areas. Many consider cannabis as a harmless Aurvedic preparation which causes no harm to the human body.

This is a total misconception. The empirical findings indicate that cannabis abuse (smoking and chewing) can cause severe psychological as well as sociological ill effects. Drug awareness as well as health education is needed to eradicate such misconceptions in the society.

The recent media reports of the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine moving to legalise limited cultivation of cannabis for the usage of Ayurvedic practitioners were of considerable interest to those in the practice. And, to the public - who had been aware that cannabis is categorised as a "dangerous drug" in Sri Lanka and that its cultivation, production, possession, sale and trafficking amounted to a criminal offence.

How much do we know about cannabis? or, Kansa, as it is locally known. Or, ganja, the narcotic made from this plant. Or, Cannabis sativa, the name by which the researchers recognise it. Cannabis had been known to have narcotic and also medicinal and pain-relieving properties in ancient Hindu literature and in the local Ayurvedic practice.
Such products like Madana Modaka gulis (globlets), sold in "petti kades' (vendor huts) near schools, are known to be purchased by school boys for "kicks." On the other hand, Madana Modaka is a legitimate medicinal preparation in Ayurvedic practice and is sold by the Ayurvedic Corporation and other reputable Ayurvedic practitioners, while its preparation method is clearly stated in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of Sri Lanka - its ingredients being cannabis leaves and seeds fried in ghee, among other local herbs such as thipal, kottan, corriander, asamodagam and namal renu. Madana Modaka is usually recommended as a sexual stimulant and for flatulence and loss of appetite, among other things.

Cannabis use is associated with apathy, sedation, disinhibition. cognitive dysfunction and poor self care.
Cannabis use may also increase the risk of psychotic disorders and result in a poor prognosis for those with an established vulnerability to psychosis. In addition prevalence of cannabis use is higher among people with psychosis in our country. There is a growing significant link between cannabis use and vulnerability to psychosis. This condition is known as cannabis induced psychosis.

Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for mental states in which the components of rational thought and perception are severely impaired. Persons suffering from psychosis may experience hallucinations, hold paranoid or delusional beliefs, demonstrate personality changes and exhibit disorganized thinking. Cannabis use may also precipitate a latent psychosis. Cannabis use can trigger psychotic episodes in a person who already has a mental illness.