Skunk 'poses bigger psychosis risk than cannabis'

By Coconut · Dec 1, 2009 · ·
  1. Coconut
    Skunk 'poses bigger psychosis risk than cannabis'

    Cannabis is an illegal drug in most countries

    People who smoke potent skunk are more at risk of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia than those who simply use cannabis, scientists suspect.

    According to new research, regular users double their risk of psychosis but heavy skunk users increase theirs seven-fold.
    UK experts have a theory it is down to skunk's composition - it contains more of the chemical that gets users stoned.
    The work is published in British Journal of Psychiatry.
    The findings come only weeks after the UK's chief drugs adviser was sacked after he criticised the government's decision to reclassify cannabis up to Class B from C.

    The authors of the latest research from the Institute of Psychiatry were quick to stress that their work is merely to inform.
    And they point out that drug use only accounts for the minority of cases of psychotic illnesses - somewhere between 10% and 15%. Other risk factors, such as family history of mental health problems, play a far bigger part.
    But they say cannabis drugs, and particularly stronger skunk, should be considered a potential health hazard in a similar way to alcohol.

    Lifestyle choices

    Just as downing a bottle of whiskey a day is riskier than drinking half a glass of wine each evening with your dinner, smoking strong skunk every day poses a greater threat than smoking some cannabis every now and then, they say.

    When Dr Marta Di Forti and colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry screened 280 patients admitted to their hospital with psychotic symptoms for the first time, they found most - nearly 80% - were heavy skunk users.

    They also questioned healthy controls of a similar age and social background, who they recruited through newspaper ads and the internet, about their personal drug use.
    They found no real difference between the two groups in whether they had ever used cannabis or their age at first use.
    But the patients with psychosis were twice as likely to have used cannabis for longer than five years, and over six times more likely to use it every day.

    Moreover, among those who had used cannabis, patients with psychosis were seven times more likely to use skunk than controls.
    The experts believe skunk is particularly damaging because it contains more THC than hash.


    This is the main psychoactive ingredient and has been shown to produce psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions in experiments.

    Unlike skunk, hash contains substantial quantities of another chemical called cannabidiol or CBD and research suggests this may act as an antidote to the THC, counteracting its psychotic side effects.
    Dr Di Forte said their findings were concerning, particularly as skunk has come to dominate the UK cannabis market in recent years.

    "Public education about the risks of heavy use of high-potency cannabis is vital."

    She said more far work was needed to assess the exact risks of smoking different types and quantities of cannabis.
    Experts do know that the risks go up with both duration and amount of use.

    Zero tolerance

    A spokesman from The Legalise Cannabis Alliance UK said: "We don't need to worry about the health harms of people smoking cannabis per se, whether it is skunk or not.

    "What is a concern is that as a result of prohibition some dealers put other stuff into the cannabis they sell that may be damaging. I've heard of lead and glass being put in it."

    Chris Hudson, addictions expert at the charity Frank, said: "You never truly know what you're getting and stronger cannabis, such as skunk, can increase the chance of suffering a nasty reaction."

    a Home Office spokesman said: "The reclassification of cannabis as a Class B drug was partly in response to emerging concerns about the growing use of stronger strains of cannabis, such as skunk, and the harm they may cause to users' mental health.

    "We remain determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to health and society as a whole."

    BBC News
    1st December 2009

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  1. chillinwill
    Skunk cannabis smokers seven times more likely to suffer from psychosis

    Ultra-potent skunk cannabis is seven times more likely to trigger psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia than traditional hash, a study has warned.

    The research, by the highly-respected Institute of Psychiatry in London, will deepen concerns over the safety of cannabis amid political controversy over its criminal status.

    Dr Marta Di Forti, who led the research, said: 'Our study is the first to demonstrate the risk of psychosis is much greater among frequent cannabis users, especially among those using skunk, rather than among occasional users of traditional hash.

    'Psychosis was associated with more frequent and longer use of cannabis. Our most striking finding is that patients with a first episode of psychosis preferentially used high-potency cannabis preparations of the skunk variety.'

    Skunk contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, which can trigger psychotic symptoms.

    In South-East London, where the study was carried out, the THC content of hash is less than 4 per cent but in skunk it is 18 per cent.

    In the past two years skunk has come to dominate the cannabis market, with its price dropping to under £5 a gram.

    Some experts believe skunk is so potent it should be treated differently from other types of cannabis and put on a par with Class A drugs such as cocaine and Ecstasy.

    Last month Professor David Nutt was forced to step down as chairman of the Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after criticising the decision to push cannabis back into the more serious Class B after a period of downgrading.

    Its downgrading from B to C had been increasingly controversial as concern grew over its effects.

    The sacking of Professor Nutt, who claimed the drug was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, caused a revolt among members of the advisory council with several resigning.

    The number of under-25s smoking cannabis was almost one in five last year, even though use has been falling since 2001.

    This latest study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved 280 patients aged 18 to 65 attending a South London hospital with a first episode of psychosis, compared with 174 healthy people.

    Those with psychosis were twice as likely to have used cannabis for longer than five years, and more than six times likely to take it every day.

    Significantly cannabis users who smoked skunk were 6.8 times more at risk of being treated for a psychosis than those who took hash.

    Other studies show hash users are at double the risk of suffering psychosis compared with those who never use the drug.

    Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: 'Those of us on the front line, including psychiatrists, police and families, know that skunk cannabis can be particularly dangerous for the significant minority of people vulnerable to mental illness.

    'We need to give out an uncompromising warning about the specific links between skunk and mental illness.'

    Drug charity Turning Point welcomed the findings. Spokesman Harry Walker said: 'We now have confirmation of what many suspected and it is important that we act on these findings.'

    Jenny Hope
    December 1, 2009
    Daily Mail
  2. enquirewithin
    "The findings come only weeks after the UK's chief drugs adviser was sacked after he criticised the government's decision to reclassify cannabis up to Class B from C."

    Now isn't that a coincidence!

    "Those with psychosis were twice as likely to have used cannabis for longer than five years, and more than six times likely to take it every day."

    This is the same old argument rehashed. People with 'psychosis" (which is not defined) tend to smoke hash-- self medicate. Do they drink alcohol as well? There is no causality.

    This comes from a government who assured us that Saddam Hussein had WMD. That was a total fabrication, suppotered by the same 'idiot press" (Scott Ritter's words), who led the UK into an illegal "war" (occupation) of another country. Brown bankrolled that war and is willing to resort to any lies to keep doing his job, however badly he does it. is an very definite causal effect between war and psychosis but this gets little publicity.
  3. mysteryperson
    Working in a psychiatric hospital and dealing with mental illness and substance misuse i have a direct opinion to this matter. There is nothing concrete that can link cannabis to Schizophrenia and other schizo-type illnesses. It is more of a trigger that can set Schizophrenia off, just like an event linked to a lot of stress can. Most people suffer Schizo-type symptoms in late teens, however, they can go years until they start to present with these symptoms; this basically means you are born with a gene that will cause Schizophrenia providing there is something to set it off. That's where triggers come in to place.
  4. Finn Mac Cool
    It is true that cannabis is a trigger, it's also true that with Schizophrenia, almost everyone shows signs in their late teens early twenties. I know a fella who claims he is Schizophrenic, he reckons he got it in his earlier thirties lol, the doctors laugh at him, I laugh at him, though he still gets full rate DLA..........

    There's a lot of forum members who rubbish these claims but having smoked skunk myself, I would say it could easily cause psychosis.
  5. Electric Wizard
    If that's true, how come I only ever hear about this shit from the government and their followers? I know plenty of pot heads, none of them have ever complained of psychosis.
  6. Synchronium
    This bit pissed me off the most. This suggests that we'd only smoke a small amount of shit weed (the glass of wine) or a large amount of skunk. People smoke less good weed to get the effects, which is probably healthier.

    To correct their simile, if drinking half a glass of wine was equivalent to smoking some shit weed, then the alternative would be having a much smaller glass of whiskey each evening with dinner.

    I wrote an essay on the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia, which I might post elsewhere on these forums. Hopefully it will raise awareness that schizophrenia isn't caused by cannabis, but rather, it might be triggered (or even used as a coping mechanism by those with early schizophrenic "wiring defects" that haven't been diagnosed. As their illness progresses, it then looks like cannabis has caused it if they smoked any cannabis at all.)

    EDIT: Here it is.
  7. enquirewithin
    Psychedelics, which could include stronger cannabis, are known to be able to trigger latent psychological problems, but this 'debate' (or one-sided rant, more like) is about politics not mental health.

    The whiskey/ wine analogy is clearly wrong. If it was correct that would mean, by the same logic, that, as drinking a bottle of whiskey a day is bad for you, ALL alcohol should be made illegal. (As if that would stop people-- prohibition leads to stronger forms of drugs becoming popular for financial reasons.) Most people who have access to stronger forms of cannabis (and 'skunk' is not the only one) do smoke less of it.
  8. Finn Mac Cool
    I don't think anyone has said it happens to all pot heads, only a minority are at risk.
  9. rawbeer
    It is a case of reasoning backwards - from what I've heard a disproportionally high number of psychotics/schizos smoke tobacco, because it is calming to them (I can't remember where I read this but I seem to recall that some doctors think nicotine should be administered as an I wish I could remember the source).
    This does not mean that cigarettes make you crazy.
    High grade weed is SAFER! You smoke less!
  10. Electric Wizard
    It must be a very small number of users then. I bet more people become psychotic from life in the military (for example), won't see a warning against joining any time soon though.

    Also, that's a crap comparison, the average quality of hash in this country is terrible.
    SWIM doesn't believe in 'skunk'. He smokes either high quality weed, low quality weed, or somewhere between. It's all the same plant.
  11. mysteryperson
    I can vouch for this, a lot of service users frequently say this to me; they describe it as 'dampening' the voices.
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