The Independent 17 April 2014
Henry Cockburn was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 at the age of 20. Before that he was a heavy cannabis user.
His father, Patrick Cockburn, The Independent’s award-winning foreign correspondent, has long wondered whether the two were linked and spent months speaking to the world’s leading experts in the field. In a four-part series prompted by his son’s condition, he will examine the medical evidence linking sustained cannabis use with schizophrenia, before going on to look at the way the mentally ill have been let down by the health service and stigmatised by public opinion, and concluding on Thursday with his manifesto for a more humane and effective system – accompanied each day by Henry’s account of his journey from pyschosis to a normal life.
For cannabis it is the “tobacco moment”. The long-suspected link between consuming cannabis and developing schizophrenia has been repeatedly confirmed by recent studies. Observers say that for cannabis the present moment is similar to that half a century ago when scientific proof of a connection between smoking tobacco and cancer became so strong that no serious doctor or scientist could deny it.
Popular perception of the risks involved for the 2.3 million people taking cannabis in Britain over the last year has lagged behind evidence of its toxicity as shown in a mounting number of scientific studies. One recent expert survey of the evidence published by different scientists in different countries says that research “has consistently found that cannabis use is associated with schizophrenia outcomes later in life”.