Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Reefer madness?

In the London Times:
The number of children treated for mental disorders caused by smoking cannabis has quadrupled since the government downgraded the legal status of the drug, according to a leading drug charity.

Since April last year, three months after police stopped arresting anyone found in possession of small amounts of the drug, the overall number of users treated for such conditions rose 42%, according to data from Addaction.

But it is the figure for children that will cause the greatest alarm. Addaction treated 1,575 cannabis users for psychotic problems between April 2004 and April 2005, of whom 181 were aged 15 or below — a rise of 136 on the previous year.

Many experts blame the relaxation of the law and the wider use of skunk, a high-strength variant of cannabis.

“A minority of people who take it repeatedly and over a long period, particularly people who take it as adolescents, will suffer psychotic episodes. They may ultimately suffer schizophrenia,” said Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at King’s College London.

Addaction’s findings are backed up by recent government figures that reveal a 22% leap in hospital admissions attributed directly to cannabis. They show that 710 people were sent to hospital with mental illness caused by cannabis in the 12 months to April 2004, up from 580 in the two previous years.


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