The Times of London. Wednesday’s newspaper – January 07, 2004
By Steve Boggan
ONE of Britain’s foremost authorities on psychosis has said that cannabis use is now the leading problem facing the country’s mental health services — just three weeks before the Government downgrades the drug to Class C. Robin Murray, head of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, told The Times that inner-city psychiatric services were nearing a crisis point, with up to 80 per cent of all new psychotic cases reporting a history of cannabis use.
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, announced in 2002 that he intended to re-classify the drug after a lengthy examination of drugs policy by the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs. However, Professor Murray said that new evidence had since come to light proving that people who used cannabis in their teens were up to seven times more likely to develop psychosis, delusional episodes or manic depression.
“Unfortunately, there were no experts in psychosis on the committees that advised the Government,” he said. “That’s not a criticism; at the time, no one thought there should have been. Since then, there have been at least four studies that show the use of cannabis, particularly in young people, can significantly increase the likelihood of the onset of psychosis.
“There is a terrible drain on resources. The drug also drastically reduces recovery — people who improve go out on the street, meet their dealer, use the drug again and relapse.”
It will still be an offence, from January 29, to possess, cultivate or supply cannabis but the maximum sentence for possession will fall from five years to two.
The Home Office said it was aware of the new research but felt it was important to differentiate between cannabis and more serious drugs such as crack, heroin and Ecstasy.