SMOKING cannabis increases the risk of serious mental illness up to five-fold, says a major study.
Taking any version of the class B drug daily tripled the chances of developing psychosis — but dangers are even worse if it has high levels of active ingredient THC.
Researchers estimate a third of new cases of psychosis in London are now linked to this highly potent “skunk”, which accounts for 94 per cent of cannabis sold on the streets in the capital.
Study leader Dr Marta Di Forti said that with talk of changing the legal status of cannabis “it is of vital public health importance we also consider the potential adverse effects associated with daily cannabis use, especially high potency varieties”.
She added the findings “indicate for the first time how cannabis use affects the incidence of psychotic disorder at a population level”.
Scientists from King’s College London carried out the study at 11 sites in five countries across Europe, as well as one in Brazil.
They looked at the drug history of 901 patients experiencing a first psychotic episode and 1,237 healthy individuals.
The link with psychosis was strongest in London and Amsterdam, where high- potency cannabis is commonly available. In total, 29.5 per cent of those patients had a daily cannabis habit compared with 6.8 per cent of the “controls” untroubled by serious mental problems.
Psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia can have devastating effects, including paranoid delusions and hallucinations.
Dr Adrian James, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This is a good quality study and the results need to be taken seriously. Cannabis carries severe health risks.” The findings are published in journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
Trials of medical cannabis should be paid for by private companies as they are the ones who stand to make profits, according to England’s chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies.
She told MPs yesterday such trials were needed to speed up the licensing of cannabis medicines.
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