The UK needs to be prepared for a steep rise in severe lung disease cases in young people due to regular cannabis and tobacco smoking, specialists have warned.
Dr Damian McKeon, a consultant in respiratory medicine at a North Wales hospital, said: “We urgently need a detailed study across the UK which analyses the national picture of cannabis-use and lung disease.”
He warned that young people who smoke cannabis regularly are “putting their health and futures in grave danger”.
“We are seeing young people on the wards with the lungs of 80 year olds after less than a decade of smoking cannabis and tobacco”, he commented.
Researchers at the hospital in North Wales conducted a two-year analysis of eight patients with emphysema – a debilitating lung condition – who all smoked five or more cannabis joints a day for at least ten years.
They believe that high use of cannabis with tobacco was the major cause of the aggressive and advanced form of the disease.
Dr McKeon said they think that these cases are the “tip of the iceberg” and warned that cannabis is “far stronger these days”.
The research was presented at the winter meeting of the British Thoracic Society this week.
Dr Bernard Higgins, Chairman of the Society’s Executive Committee, and consultant lung specialist at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, said: “This study is yet another small but persuasive piece of a jigsaw pointing to a real danger of regularly smoking joints.
“The Government should monitor this emerging evidence carefully and take it into account when considering future drugs and smoking policy”, he added.
In October, Downing Street said in response to a new report on drugs that a radical change in drugs policy would “send an incredibly dangerous message to young people”.
Considering other countries’ attitudes to drugs, the report stated that “levels of drug use are influenced by factors more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone”.
Earlier this year, Nick Clegg’s calls for a “different strategy” to tackle drugs were dismissed by David Cameron. A spokesman from No 10 said: “The prime minister’s views are well known.”
“He thinks we have the right approach. The government has a good record in this area with drug usage at its lowest level since records began.”