Britain could set off a schizophrenia timebomb if it ignores the dangers of super-strength ‘skunk’ cannabis, one of the UK’s most eminent psychiatrists warns today.
Strong evidence now shows that smoking potent forms of the Class B drug increases the chance of psychosis, paranoid delusions and schizophrenia.
But too many people – from teenagers to top officials – have little idea of the terrible toll it can take on the mind, says Professor Sir Robin Murray.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party all back legalisation of cannabis in some form. But Prof Murray said the dangers were not being recognised – and legalising skunk would amount to ‘a major pharmaceutical experiment’ with the brains of young people.
Prof Murray, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: ‘I don’t think any serious researcher or psychiatrist would now dispute that cannabis consumption is a component cause of psychosis.’
He warned that:
MRI scans show long-term use of skunk can shrink a vital part of the brain;
The substance – now dominant on Britain’s streets – is four times stronger on average than cannabis smoked in the past;
A clear majority of studies show those who regularly smoke cannabis are at ‘significant increased risk’ of developing psychosis or schizophrenia-like illness;
Heavy users of skunk are up to four times more likely than non-users to develop psychotic symptoms.