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serious side-effects Cannabis is fuelling child mental health crisis - expert

Psychiatrists want to counter claims that the drug is harmless, and they fear people damaged by it will lead to mental health services being overrun.

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Using potent forms of cannabis can greatly increase the risk of mental illness. Photo: Stock.

Using potent forms of cannabis can greatly increase the risk of mental illness. Photo: Stock.

Using potent forms of cannabis can greatly increase the risk of mental illness. Photo: Stock.

CANNABIS use is fuelling a sharp rise in young people being hospitalised with serious side-effects.

Psychiatrists want to counter claims that the drug is harmless, and they fear people damaged by it will lead to mental health services being overrun.

The College of Psychiatrists in Ireland, which has launched a new awareness campaign, said that in a growing number of cases the pandemic and high-strength cannabis are also driving a wave of mental health problems in users.

Dr Gerry McCarney, who treats teenagers aged under 18 in north Dublin, said the youngest user he saw this year was 11 years old.

"We have been concerned for some time about the discussion around relaxing its legal status. We want to say, 'Hold on a second, this is not a harmless substance'," he said.

The doctor said the number of young people whose mental health has deteriorated due to abusing the drug has trebled between 2005 and 2017.

One in three young people is at risk of becoming addicted if they use it weekly or more often.

The THC levels - the psychoactive substance that triggers the high - in the drug avail-able here are up to 16pc.

An analysis of herbal cannabis in 2000 found it was at 6pc on average.

Dr McCarney said: "When you consider how potent the drug has become in recent years, it is obvious we are facing a perfect storm which has the potential to overrun our psychiatric services.

"We cannot overstate the danger that this increasingly potent drug poses to young people's mental health.

"Adolescents are at particular risk from mind-altering substances as their brains have not fully developed.

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"Cannabis can be hugely damaging to young people, affecting their ability to learn social and problem-solv- ing skills, while potentially stunting cognitive ability and general emotional intelligence.

Urgent

"We are calling on the Government to conduct an urgent review of cannabis use in Ireland and its related harms.

"We are seeing effects this year in particular on the mood of people.

"There is a lot of anxiety. People can lose it more easily and get angry and irritable.

"There can be aggressive behaviour and violence in the home. We are seeing an increase in self-harm.

"There is a smaller group for whom the use of cannabis is associated with paranoia and that is often a risk.

"Stronger strains are associated with it.

"Some people have become very unwell with extreme paranoia, hallucinations and thought disorder and they need hospitalisations."

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