Pubdate: Wed, 10 Aug 2005
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2005, Archant Regional
Author: Sarah Brealey
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Children as young as 12 are suffering personality changes as a result
of cannabis use, according to GPs.

As experts warn that super-strength cannabis is causing problems for
increasing numbers of young people across the region, family doctors
are seeing the effects on teenagers' mental health.

The problems are not confined to towns and cities, but have even
surfaced in the village of Feltwell in south-west Norfolk.

Feltwell GP Ian Nisbet believes the situation is similar in nearby
communities such as Hockwold, Northwold, Methwold, Weeting and Brandon.

Writing in the Hockwold village magazine, he said: "I have seen an
increasing number of children brought to me by parents who are
concerned about their child's personality change and are seeking
psychiatric intervention."

He describes personality changes, aggression and secretiveness caused
by cannabis use in children. He urges parents to ask themselves
whether their child could be smoking cannabis "and take action
accordingly before serious damage takes place to the child's body and

Other doctors tell a similar tale.

Martin Belsham, a GP in Thetford, said cannabis use had increased. "I
see quite a lot of children aged 15 to 18 who present with personality
changes, paranoia, that sort of stuff, which I think can be attributed
to it."

Gordon Manson-Bahr, a GP at Long Stratton in South Norfolk, said that
the problem, while not common at his surgery, was most frequent among
14-26-year-olds. "There is definitely an increase in cannabis use.

"It can take quite a while for the cannabis use to come to light as
they see it as part of their every day life. They tend to come in
saying they are a bit out and a bit depressed, but you find that they
have undergone huge personality changes. If you suggest they would
feel better if they stopped they can be quite resistant to that, as
they don't see cannabis as problem."

Chip Somers, project manager of the Focus drug counselling service in
Suffolk, warned that the problem was not confined to south-west Norfolk.

"There is an alarming increase in the number of young people
developing mental health problems as a result of excessive use of
cannabis," he said. "In the last 25 years the strength of cannabis has
changed considerably and has become almost psychedelic, and as a
result people who are using it regularly are developing mental health

He added that cannabis use is widespread across the region, with
teenagers in rural areas possibly more likely to experiment.

"I think the fact that people live in rural areas and there are fewer
leisure pursuits will make them more likely to find other
distractions, such as drugs."

Dr Nisbet describes how groups of children as young as 12 are smoking
cannabis in Feltwell churchyard and recreation ground.

The rector, the Rev David Kightley, said drug use in the churchyard
was a continuing issue.

"The drug taking seems very secluded and hidden away. You think they
are on drugs, but it is not obvious. We haven't found syringes, but
over a period of time there have been two bottles that they put the
drug in to smoke it."

He added that children gathering in the churchyard were getting
younger, including some of primary school age.

Xany Oliver, strategy manager at Norfolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team,
said its survey of young people showed cannabis was "widely available".

"If parents are concerned about young people using cannabis, then to
go to a GP is appropriate," she said.

Last month, two Methwold High School pupils were expelled after
selling drugs on school premises. Other pupils were suspended.

T2 is a Norfolk-wide service for young people with drug and alcohol
problems. Telephone 01603 877498.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake