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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Cumbrian drug experts warn about dangers of cannabis

Experts are warning of the dangers of cannabis after a number of recent cases involving the drug.

Paul Brown photo
Paul Brown

Last week an inquest heard how 22-year-old John Robson, of Whitehaven, died when his car crashed at 120mph.

Tests showed he had been smoking cannabis, which coroner David Roberts said may have played a part.

A few days earlier, Carlisle man Lee Maddison admitted in court that he had been smoking the drug since he was just eight – resulting in a habit costing him £100 a day.

A judge told the 27-year-old, who now suffers from mental health problems, that his cannabis dependency was probably to blame for his psychological issues.

Now local drug experts have issued a warning about the dangers of cannabis – which they say is often wrongly portrayed as a ‘safe’ drug.

Paul Brown, of the Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS), said he was particularly concerned to hear that someone as young as eight was using cannabis.

“Research shows that if you start smoking cannabis at an early age it can cause mental health problems,” he said. “It’s the same with alcohol. The brain is still developing.

“We have to ask what’s going on when an eight-year-old is smoking cannabis – what’s happening in society. It’s worrying.”

Dave Smith, founder of drugs charity the Rising Sun Trust, said it is not the first case he has seen involving someone so young.

“We have come across eight and nine-year-olds who smoke cannabis. Quite often it’s because someone in their family does – an older brother or even mum or dad,” he said.

He said the trouble is that when it was declassified from class B to C a few years ago, many now have a perception that it’s harmless – even though that move has since been reversed.

Steve Simmons, assistant director of alcohol and drug services in the county, explained that cannabis is unpredictable and affects people in different ways.

He said: “No drug can be considered completely safe and drugs which are relatively safe for one may be harmful to another with particular susceptibilities.”

Mr Brown added that the type and strength of the cannabis is also an issue.

He said: “With alcohol, you know the difference between a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses of wine. With cannabis you don’t know how strong it is.

“Because it’s illegal there’s no label on it. Young people just tend to take what they can get and smoke it.”

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