I’ve said it on this site before, and I will say it again. Parents who let their teenage children dabble with cannabis are playing a game of Russian roulette with their mental health. I reported here on research from King’s College Institute of Psychiatry which found not only that cannabis use triples psychosis risk but that use of high-potency strains is responsible for 24 per cent of new cases of psychotic mental illness.
Now the findings of a study by a team from the Academy of Finland, which included researchers from the University of Cambridge, has more than reiterated what numerous previous such investigations have found.
Its findings are pretty startling. Smoking cannabis just five times as a teenager can triple the risk of psychosis in later life. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, was based on a sample of more than 6,500 teenagers aged 15 and 16 who were questioned about their cannabis use and monitored until the age of 30. They were asked if they experienced symptoms of psychosis such as feeling as if they were being followed or struggling to control their thoughts. Those who took the drug at a young age were, this longitudinal study found, more likely to develop schizophrenia and major depression with psychotic symptoms.
More specific were results which showed that teenagers who had tried cannabis five or more times in their youth were three times as likely to develop psychosis. This was the case even taking into account other substance use and the history of mental health problems in their parents.
The lead author of the research, Antti Mustonen, said: ‘Our findings are in line with current views of heavy cannabis use, particularly when begun at an early age, being linked to an increased risk of psychosis.’
I never cease to wonder how much research has to be published before parents, Government or the BBC (ever keen to discuss the virtues of legalisation) listen. My question for Government (who have wasted billions of taxpayers’ money) is why in all this spending they have never seen fit to run a low-cost public health education campaign on the risks and indeed the huge social costs of cannabis use that might save money and anguish.
It could start with a film from inside a secure psychiatric ward and end with an interview with one of many parents whose lives, along with their child’s, have been blighted. Then maybe the message might get across.