New NHS clinic treating cannabis psychosis

A new clinic has opened in response to increasing evidence of the harms caused by new super-powered skunk. The NHS clinic is now overwhelmed by demand. Total Health is grateful to toxicology consultant, Helen Vangikar for bringing this to our attention.

The clinic based at London's Maudsley Hospital, part of King's College Hospital is the first dedicated to treating psychosis caused by smoking cannabis, and is already unable to cope with the sheer number of referral requests.

Research shows that over the past 50 years street cannabis across the world has become substantially stronger carrying an increased risk of harm. A team from the University of Bath, synthesised data from over 80,000 cannabis samples tested in the past 50 years from street samples collected in the USA, UK, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Italy and New Zealand.

The researchers investigated how concentrations of active 'high' ingredient (THC) had changed over time in different types of cannabis. In herbal cannabis, they found that THC concentrations increased by 14% from 1970 to 2017. This was primarily due to a rising market share of stronger varieties such as sinsemilla relative to traditional herbal cannabis which contains seeds and less THC. 

The team have previously found consistent evidence that frequent use of cannabis with higher levels of THC carries an increased risk of problems such as addiction and psychotic disorders.

It's just a herb!

Some addiction counsellors when asked, "what is the single most difficult addiction to treat?", will answer "cannabis". When asked why they will explain that the level of denial seems to be far more entrenched, with the patient adamant that there is nothing harmful about the herb. This level of defence of the drug is less common with other substances such as heroin where patients are aware of the associated harms.

Harmful symptoms

Symptoms of harm include severe, long-term psychological effects such as hearing voices and paranoia. Some patients attempt suicide and many are admitted to an acute psychiatric wards multiple times.

Dr Marta Di Forti, a member of the team from King’s College London which oversees the clinic, told The Times there is a “clear” and “evidenced link” between cannabis and psychosis.

She said: “Young adults with psychosis who continue to use high-potency cannabis report more severe psychotic symptoms, they are more likely to relapse and more likely to be readmitted to hospital — and for longer.”

Dr Di Forti added: “It has never happened to date that one of the people in the clinic has said, ‘Now I’ve stopped using cannabis, I still don’t think it had anything to do with my psychosis.’

“In the end, they realise the connection.”

As the strength of cannabis has risen, consumers are faced with limited information to help them monitor their intake and guide decisions about relative benefits and risks.

Helen Vangikar has been President of the European Workplace Drug Testing Society (EWDTS) and is a past committee member of the LTG, formally the London Toxicology Group. 

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