Cannabis is frequently featured in the media with a rapidly changing focus from harms to benefits at differing times and in response to multiple scientific, political and emotional debates and pressures. This leaves a divided or bewildered community not knowing what to believe.
As a scientist who has worked on cannabis for more than 25 years, Professor Nadia Solowij is often caught up in this maelstrom. Recreational or medicinal use of cannabis is increasingly being legalised in many parts of the world and Australia is at a critical time right now with an opportunity to get it right. Intriguingly, cannabis does possess both harmful and therapeutic properties but much further work needs to be done across the spectrum of basic through clinical research to understand how cannabis products may best treat differing symptoms and disorders, including the conduct of proper clinical trials. Her goal is to bring a balanced scientific evidence base into the fold to ensure that we minimise harms and optimise efficacy in bringing safe and effective forms of medication to the community. This would ultimately alleviate the suffering of many different kinds of patients, as well as reduce harms from illicit cannabis use in the wider community.
Nadia Solowij, PhD, is a Professor in the School of Psychology, University of Wollongong. She has been researching the effects of long-term cannabis use for more than 25 years using neuropsychological, psychophysiological and brain imaging techniques in adult and adolescent cannabis users and people with schizophrenia and comorbid cannabis use. She has over 100 scientific publications including her book Cannabis and Cognitive Functioning (Cambridge University Press) and is the most published researcher in the world on the topic of cannabis and the brain. Her recent research has focused on therapeutic or harmful effects of different cannabinoids.