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Sunday 13 October 2019

Senior doctors warn about 'increasingly relaxed attitude' towards cannabis

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Markus Krug

A group of 20 senior doctors from across the medical community have warned about the increasingly relaxed attitude towards cannabis.

Recent studies had shown that the acceptance of cannabis in Ireland was on the rise, with the number of people viewing it as "harmless" increasing from 10.1pc in 2011 to 19.5pc in 2015.

The Cannabis Risk Alliance stressed that new research has proven that cannabis is now the most common drug involved in drug-related admissions to psychiatric hospitals.

Dr Bobby Smyth of Trinity College Dublin said: "Cannabis is increasingly perceived to be a harmless drug, whereas in reality it is the main drug causing new addiction-related and psychiatric cases presenting in Ireland today.

"The Government is sleepwalking into supporting the use of so-called ‘medicinal’ cannabis while ignoring the extensive evidence of its harms."

He further said that their group was worried about the Government "ploughing ahead without objectively considering the full effects of cannabis".

His colleague, Dr Ray Walley, a GP and former President of the Irish Medical Organisation, stressed the statistical increase in cannabis-related issues.

"The number has shot up in recent years. This is destroying families, and the Government needs to properly investigate the harm this drug can cause before blindly introducing legislation."

He also stated that the modern form of the drug is much stronger than cannabis had been in the past.

Other members of the Cannabis Risk Alliance focused on the psychological impact the drug can have, that they feel is forgotten throughout the public.

"Cannabis use is associated with an increased risk for psychosis, suicidal behaviours, and other mental disorders. These risks have been consistently shown in large international studies," said Professor Mary Cannon of the Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

She added that "the evidence for the harms associated with cannabis use is much, much stronger than any evidence for its use as a ‘medicine’” and that young cannabis users were especially at risk".

The group urged the government and the media to reconsider their approach towards the drug and possible changes in legislation that were discussed in the past.

"We have seen from countries abroad that medicinal legislation has been an effective ‘Trojan horse’ for full legalisation and commercialisation," said Dr Smyth.

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