Pubdate: Wed, 24 Oct 2007
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2007 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: Lindsay McIntosh
Referenced: The Impact of Heavy Cannabis Use on Young People
Alert: Please Refute Reefer Mania
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (psychosis)


DEPRIVED youngsters who become involved in heavy cannabis use are 
less likely than their peers to be able to pull themselves out of the 
downward spiral the drug causes, a new study has found.

The report, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also warns that drugs 
workers may not be treating cannabis users' concerns about their 
behaviour seriously enough.

Researchers from the University of Bedfordshire discovered heavy 
cannabis abuse among vulnerable young people could worsen their 
existing social problems, such as low educational achievement, 
homelessness and unemployment.

Professor Neil McKeganey, of the University of Glasgow, who oversaw 
the project, said not enough studies had examined the lives of heavy users.

He said: "It is clear that at a high level of consumption, cannabis 
can cause major problems and exacerbate problems that are already 
there, particularly in the transition to adulthood - doing well at 
school, getting into employment, forming relationships. Cannabis can 
overtake the more normal aspects of their lives.

"When the individual has very few alternative positive activities, 
the cannabis can acquire a momentum of its own and become 
increasingly important for that individual, causing them to disengage 
from more public activities.

"For young people with more positive life choices, it's easier for 
them to recognise their cannabis consumption can impact their life 
choices and they start to consume less."

David Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum, said the issue 
should be looked at "the other way around" - with social problems 
being factors in development of problematic drug use.

He said: "There are strong links between poverty, deprivation and 
lack of aspiration and the onset of serious drug problems. What we 
need to do is to intervene earlier in the lives of our most 
vulnerable young people."

The report also suggests youth workers see cannabis use as a less 
serious problem than cocaine or heroin abuse.

The researchers say this may be because of their differing experience 
of cannabis, which was not available at such a high strength in 
previous decades.

Dr McKeganey said: "It's really quite worrying. It suggests service 
providers need to be much more attuned to what young people are 
saying about their cannabis consumption, and if they are saying they 
are having difficulties then the service provider shouldn't be 
thinking that's probably OK because they are not using heroin."

The Growing Evidence

THE Joseph Rowntree Foundation research is the latest in a long line 
exposing the detrimental effects of cannabis.

New Zealand researchers found young users risked later substance use, 
juvenile offending, severe truancy, school dropout, anxiety, 
depression and suicidal thoughts. Andrew Johns, of London, found 
short-lived adverse effects included psychotic states and regular 
users risked dependence.

And a Department of Health study this summer warned smoking a single 
joint raised the risk of schizophrenia by more than 40 per cent.
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