Smoking pot speeds mental illness

A new study has found a casual link between cannabis use and schizophrenia.
A new study has found a casual link between cannabis use and schizophrenia.

CANNABIS can speed up the appearance of psychotic illness, a ground-breaking Australian study has found .

Dr Matthew Large, a staff specialist in mental health from the University of New South Wales and the Prince of Wales Hospital, said the risks are especially high for younger people, whose brains are still developing.

“What our research has found is that cannabis smoking brings schizophrenia on early by an average of 2.7 years,” he said.

For young people who smoke cannabis regularly, instead of having about a 1% chance of developing schizophrenia during their lifetime, they would end up with something like a 5% chance of developing schizophrenia, said Dr Large.

His research, that pulled together data on 20,000 patients and drew on more than 80 international studies, is published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

The study has again prompted drug experts to call for regulation, not prohibition, of marijuana.

With about 33% of the Australian population and 18% of secondary school students using the drug, in a few years there would be more Australians smoking cannabis than smoking tobacco, said Dr Alex Wodak, the director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital and head of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.

“Having a black market of that size is not good for anybody,” he said.

“An unregulated cannabis market is about profits, not ethics. We have a responsibility to reduce the harm associated with cannabis use.”

He recently said he believed the time was right for a trial of a hash coffee shop in the community of Nimbin.

David Halliwell, a Fellow of the Chapter of Addictive Medicine Unit at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and a long-term Northern Rivers resident said: “At the moment, the cannabis industry is just kept in the dark and prohibited.

“The laws have failed.

“We have an illegal market run by criminals. Regulating supply would be a much better way (of controlling cannabis use).”


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