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Mental problems soar among children using cannabis September 18, 2005 - timesonline.co.uk
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.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is meeting next weekend to decide whether there should be a full review of the working of the cannabis law. It was set up by Charles Clarke, the home secretary, after research released earlier this year suggested cannabis may cause mental illness.
A New Zealand research project involving 1,000 people born in 1977 found that cannabis could double the risk of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. A Dutch study by Professor Jim van Os also discovered that frequent cannabis use during adolescence increased the risk of psychotic symptoms later in life, especially among those genetically vulnerable to mental illness.
A member of the committee said this weekend, however, that the panel was unlikely to recommend any revision of the law because there was still insufficient evidence to show any increased risk. One option it is considering is upgrading skunk but leaving "ordinary" cannabis as a class C drug.
Jonathan McDonnell, project manager for the Buckinghamshire branch of Young Addaction, said that last year 250 cannabis users under 19 were referred to his unit for treatment; 85% of those were skunk users.
He said that the higher street price of skunk - ?20 for an eighth of an ounce rather than ?12 for normal cannabis - meant that many users were now involved in "junkie crimes" such as burglary and robbery, traditionally the preserve of hard-drug users.
so? all those numbers say is that more people in general are smoking cannabis. more children that would normally have been found to have mental disorders are going to be found to also have a history of pot use respectively.
Sunday Times Wrong On Mental Health And Cannabis September 21, 2005 - scoop.co.nz
Sunday Times report on mental health and cannabis a "distortion and factually wrong"
The UK's Sunday Times recently published an article headed "Mental problems soar among children using cannabis" which had claimed "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 [Addaction]."
In fact, as the press release from Addaction (below) makes clear, this is a "distortion and factually wrong".
Furthermore, official figures from the UK Government have confirmed that teenage use of cannabis has DECREASED in the year following the reclassification of cannabis there. (http://www.norml.org.nz/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=570)
For more information, please contact NORML NZ or Addaction at the contact details below.
Sunday Times report on mental health and cannabis was a "distortion and factually wrong", says Addaction. Release date: September 19th 2005
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."