Cannabis addiction fuels dramatic rise in Scots seeking psychiatric help

Drug-related hospital stays as a result of cannabis use reached an all-time high in Scotland last year.

According to statistics released by Public Health Scotland, cannabis-related admissions to psychiatric units have increased by 74 per cent since the Class B drug was effectively decriminalised in Scotland six years ago.

The number of people being treated in hospital for psychiatric disorders connected to the drug increased from 1,191 in 2015-16 to 2,067 in 2020-21.

‘Pernicious effect’

Psychiatrist Professor Jonathan Chick, Medical Director of a rehabilitation centre in the Borders, told The Sunday Post: “The eye has been taken off the ball with cannabis.

“We do need to worry about the numbers of young people presenting with psychosis and schizophrenia because of it.”

Professor Chick added that the private clinic was seeing an increasing number of people suffering from the “pernicious effect of cannabis use”, some of whom had suffered ‘permanent damage’ as a consequence.


The Sunday Post also reported the harrowing story of ‘Alexander’, a boy who required psychiatric care within two years of first smoking cannabis at 12.

His Mum explained to the newspaper: “Alexander was so disturbed and psychotic at times he would think the dog was speaking to him. It all got too much when he wakened me one night threatening me with a glass.”

He is so damaged by cannabis

He was eventually sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spent nearly two years in a psychiatric unit undergoing treatment for his cannabis-induced psychosis. Alexander is now 19 years old, but unable to manage on his own.

His Mum said: “He is so damaged by cannabis that he will not likely hold down a job, get married, drive a car or live independently and will miss out on all the lovely life events most of us will take for granted.”

Results were foreseen

Former head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency Graeme Pearson said: “The uncomfortable truth is that we’ve known for a long time about the damage that cannabis can cause.”

He added: “Back in 2007, the Scottish Crime And Drug Enforcement Agency held a conference at which we heard the warnings from those treating patients with mental illness brought on by this drug. The psychoses and violence, it was all forecast and it has now delivered.”

Pearson, who was also Labour Party Spokesperson on Justice between 2015-16, said “few senior politicians, police officers or chief executives” have concerned themselves with drugs.

He concluded: “It’s not their in-tray and it’s not their kids.”


But in November, the co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, which is in coalition with the SNP, claimed that “using drugs is not inherently dangerous”.

Lorna Slater’s remarks were labelled “astoundingly reckless” by the Scottish Conservatives Shadow Minister for Public Health, who pointed out that “Scotland has the highest drug-death figures in Europe”.

Over 1,300 people died of drug misuse in Scotland in 2020, figures that are more than three-and-a-half times those in England and Wales.

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