Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jan 2005
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2005 Reuters Limited
Contact: London, UK
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


LONDON (Reuters) - A British health charity has called for an investigation 
into evidence that smoking cannabis may cause psychosis in people at risk 
of mental illness.

Rethink, which campaigns on behalf of schizophrenia sufferers, said the 
mental health risks of using cannabis were not widely understood.

"There is strong evidence from a wide range of sources that long term and 
short-term use of cannabis can 'trigger' a psychotic episode of 
schizophrenia in people who are at high risk of developing schizophrenia 
- --- for instance, people who have close family members who have 
schizophrenia," it said in a statement on Saturday.

The organisation pointed out that it was a year since the government 
reclassified cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug, adding that a 
government awareness campaign that followed ignored the mental health 
dangers of using the drug.

"There is a general consensus that long-term, and in some cases short-term, 
use of cannabis by someone who has schizophrenia worsens the psychotic 
symptoms of the illness -- paranoia, hallucinations and delusions," it said.

The charity added that it believed many young people viewed cannabis as a 
risk-free drug.

"A long-term, well-funded, innovative campaign aimed at publicising the 
real mental health risks associated with cannabis needs to be in place as 
soon as possible to counter the 'risk-free' message," the statement said.

"Rethink is asking MPs and Peers to support further research into the links 
between cannabis and severe mental illness that focuses on its widespread 
use amongst young people, the increasing strength of cannabis on sale on 
the streets and its short and long-term effects on mental health."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager