September 19, 2005

Marijuana - Childhood Psych Problems Soar in UK

The London Times reported today that the rate of reported children with psychiatric problems has soared 400% since the relaxation of marijuana/canabis laws in the UK last year.

"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."

Source: The London Times

UPDATE Several Days Later: Sunday Times report on mental health and cannabis was a “distortion and factually wrong”, says Addaction.

Addaction, the national drug and alcohol treatment charity today issued the following statement:

The Sunday Times published a story on September 18th under the heading “Mental Health Problems Soar Among Children Using Cannabis” by Will Iredale and Holly Watt that bore little relation to any information supplied by Addaction, and was, in our view, entirely misleading.

The story has been so structured as to make a case about cannabis-related psychosis based on information the paper claims came from Addaction, but which did not come from the charity.

In 2004-5 Addaction which collects data on numbers of young people seen in its youngaddaction services, saw 1,575 young people who came to Addaction for treatment for drug misuse. Addaction collected data on cannabis use. But Addaction is not a mental health charity and is not qualified to treat psychosis.

Rosie Brocklehurst, Director of Communications at Addaction said: “The subject of cannabis-related psychosis is a very serious subject and the report in the Sunday Times made serious claims, based on no evidence supplied by us. We suspect the story was influenced by the Sunday Times wish to write a piece before the imminent deliberations by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The ACMD will be reviewing the scientific evidence on cannabis use and misuse and will be making recommendations to the Government in the light of those deliberations.

“If Addaction had such evidence we would have been sure to let the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs know about it, “ said Rosie Brocklehurst. “If we had such evidence as the paper claims, it would have made the front pages of every national newspaper in the country. But we do not have such evidence,” she added. “This report on Page 7 of the paper was a distortion and factually wrong. We have therefore written a letter of complaint to the Sunday Times asking for clarification as to how this story came to appear in the form in which it was published, and to ensure that the truth is given in a correction of the original story.

“Because the story tackled a subject of concern to many, it needed to be sound and properly substantiated,” she added. “The very objective of the report which may have been to raise awareness of the issues that lie behind the ACMD review into re-classification, is devalued because it is predicated on a failure to understand drugs treatment, and a conflation of information laced with misinterpretations and untruths about the work we do, and the nature of the problems we treat.”

“In those few cases where a worker may suspect a client has any form of mental health problem, including the serious problem of psychosis, we would always refer these clients to the appropriate services.

“Many of the1,575 young people we have seen who used cannabis also used other substances such as alcohol,” she added. “It is also the case that young people who do have mental health problems may have them for reasons unrelated to cannabis use.

“The paper also infers that our statistical data within Addaction is comprehensive national data. It is not.

“We collect good data on the numbers of people seen in Addaction’s services for drug misuse and dependency and what drugs and alcohol they use. These are our figures only, collected as one charity among several. The Government collects its own data on the prevalence of cannabis use and misuse among the UK population.

“We look to the ACMD to make their recommendations on reclassification based on their evidence. We possess no substantial or new scientific evidence ourselves that will inform the expert views of the ACMD in their forthcoming deliberations.”


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