Addiction figures doubled under slack cannabis law

The number of cannabis addicts receiving NHS treatment doubled in the three years after the law was relaxed, it has emerged.

The drug was restored to the stricter ‘B’ category of illegal drugs last year after being controversially downgraded to Class C in 2004.

The reclassification followed the joint efforts of police chiefs, doctors and campaigners who blamed the weakening of the law for sending a misleading message about the effects of cannabis.

Now Government records have been released showing that while cannabis was in Class C, the number of adults being treated for addiction to the drug rose from 13,408 in 2004/05 to 26,287 in 2007/08.

Treatment figures for under-18s also soared by a third from 9,043 in 2005/06 – the earliest recorded number – to 12,021 in 2007/08.

The figures were obtained through a Written Parliamentary Question.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Thanks to record investment, specialist substance misuse services have expanded greatly and now if a young person needs support, they are now much more likely to get it.”

However, Mary Brett of campaign group Europe Against Drugs said the figures were “dreadful, but sadly not surprising”.

“When you relax penal policy against a drug like this, levels of use increase. It’s not complicated.”

She added: “Restoring cannabis to Class B is not enough. The Home Office’s drug advice website Frank still plays down the dangers of cannabis use to mental health. The reality is this drug interferes with brain function.”