Cannabis use by young significantly increases mental health risks

By September 19, 2019 Recent News

The Irish Times 16 September 2019
Family First Comment: Mary Cannon is a consultant psychiatrist and professor of psychiatric epidemiology and youth mental health at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland…
“There is now a strange paradox in society. Our politicians, media and celebrity influencers are increasingly conscious of mental health, particularly among the youth, and that it is a priority area. However, those very same people are likely to view cannabis as harmless or beneficial, despite the growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary… The public and legislators need to hear the other side of the story, free from the influence of cannabis industry lobbyists. We cannot sell our young people’s mental health for a quick buck.”

About one in five Irish todo15-16-year-olds report using cannabis. That means one in five adolescents are using a drug that can have a multitude of demonstrably negative effects on their short- and long-term mental health at a time when their brains are at the peak of their development.

Until relatively recently, cannabis use among Irish adolescents was in decline. In 2003, 17 per cent of 16-year-olds said they had used the drug in the past month; that number dropped to 7 per cent in 2011. The reverse began soon after. While there’s no single reason for this, one possible explanation is that the percentage of teenagers who view cannabis as “low risk” increased from 10 per cent in 2011 to almost 20 per cent in 2015.

As a society, we have come to view cannabis through rose-tinted glasses. Contrary to increasingly common belief, cannabis is not a harmless panacea, and it can be addictive. An estimated one in six who start smoking or ingesting cannabis before the age of 18 become dependent.

While the effects of alcohol and tobacco on physical health are well known, the public do not seem to be aware that cannabis can be toxic to young people’s developing brains. Over the past couple of decades, numerous scientific studies have shown that cannabis use in young people significantly increases the risk of developing mental health problems.

There is strong evidence that cannabis use increases the risk of depression and anxiety in young people. The risk of youth suicide increases three-fold. There are a large number of studies now showing that cannabis use causes psychosis.The risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia is particularly high in people who start using high potency cannabis during adolescence; it is estimated that 50 per cent of all new cases of first-episode psychosis in Amsterdam are due to cannabis.

signup-rollKeep up with family issues in NZ.
Receive our weekly emails direct to your Inbox.