Skunk cannabis has once again hit the headlines. Today I’ve appeared on the BBC Sussex breakfast show and am about to go on BBC TV Souh East news talking about the link between skunk cannabis and psychosis.
Here are some simple facts.
The British Journal of Psychiatry reported that regular of users of ‘ordinary’ cannabis double their risk of psychosis while users of skunk cannabis increase theirs at least seven fold.
The Institute of Psychiatry research into the link between cannabis and psychosis examined 187 cannabis users, 112 who had developed a psychosis and 75 who had not. Those who had developed a psychosis were twice as likely to have smoked for longer, three times as likely to have smoked cannabis daily, and eighteen times more likely to have smoked skunk.
A quarter of all cases of schizophrenia are now linked to the use of cannabis, and there are more than 500 hospital admissions weekly due to cannabis use.
Cannabis use causes impairment of the brain functioning leading to changes in personality, cognitive problems, memory loss, addiction, and psychosis, not to mention damage to the cardiac, immune, reproductive and respiritory systems, and increase in mouth cancers. The consequences of use, if not necessarily life-threatening, can result in lasting damage to health, relationships, education and employment prospects.
On a pharmacological perspective (and here I am cribbing as I know little or anything about pharmacology), skunk cannabis contains higher levels of the active ingredient THC associated with the onset of psychosis and lower levels of CBD, an anti-psychotic substance that moderate the effects of THC on users’ minds.
I fear that there is complacency about health risks associated with skunk cannabis. There is no harm minimisation approach other than not to smoke, yet the debate tends to evolve around decriminalisation. This is a complete red herring and I would go as far as saying that it is irresponsible to say that the harm comes from its criminalisation. Decriminalisation would give the green light for wider use, particularly amongst the mid-teens since they are, contrary to popular myth, a law abiding group.
There are between 5 to 6 million cannabis users in UK. The long term consequences for health and social care cannot be estimated. I am not sure how society will cope with this emerging epidemic.