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Cannabis can mess with your mind


16 February, 2009  

A new hard-hitting TV, radio and online FRANK advertising campaign that shows how cannabis can mess with your mind, was unveiled today by the Department of Health.

The campaign shows that cannabis can quickly flip from being a talkative and relaxed experience to turning nasty and users becoming paranoid, having panic attacks and being sick.

The false perception still exists amongst some young people that cannabis is a safe drug despite the fact that it can produce both immediate and longer-term harms to mental and physical health.

Cannabis is:

  • the most frequently used illegal drug by 11 – 15 year olds
  • used by almost 18 per cent of 16 – 24 year olds
  • more than 7 per cent of 16 – 59 year olds also use cannabis

Stronger cannabis – “skunk” – now dominates the cannabis market, making up 80 per cent of the cannabis available on our streets compared to 30 per cent in 2002.

In the short term, cannabis use can lead to panic attacks and paranoia. In some, its regular use may lead to later development of psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. For people with schizophrenia it can worsen the symptoms and lead to relapse. Cannabis use can also damage people’s lungs and affect their reproductive system. There is concern that the recent shift to use of stronger forms such as skunk will increase these problems.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: “Cannabis is a destructive drug. What can start as a few giggles and being part of the crowd can have serious and long-term health problems.

“Young people need to know cannabis isn’t a soft drug. They need to be aware of the risks they’re taking and know there is support for them to get the full facts through FRANK.”

National Director for Mental Health Services Louis Appleby said: “Cannabis is a harmful drug that can damage your mental health. We have known for years that it can be part of a pattern of relapse and risk in people with severe illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“Now the evidence is pointing to cannabis as the cause of psychosis in some people, particularly people who are heavy users.

“A strong public health message, as the FRANK campaign provides, is a vital step.”

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “We are extremely concerned about the use of stronger cannabis – “skunk” – and the harm it can cause to mental health. Fewer people are taking the drug than ever before, but it poses a real risk to the health of those who do use it.

“It is crucial that we communicate with young people through the FRANK drug awareness campaign to warn them about the consequences.”

Children and Young People’s Minister Delyth Morgan said:
“Young people underestimate the harm that cannabis can cause. In the Children’s Plan we are committed to helping young people to reach their potential and campaigns like these help to inform and support young people to avoid taking risks and improve their chances of succeeding.”

Department of Health