Smoking cannabis and tobacco can be “relaxing” and make people “feel more at ease”, a Scottish health agency is telling young people.
The remarks come in Fags ‘n’ Hash, a booklet which has been criticised for being likely to encourage use of cannabis.
The booklet says the best way to reduce harms with tobacco is to completely quit, but with cannabis they should just ‘smoke less’.
The guide, which has been updated for 2011, has been published by health improvement agency NHS Health Scotland.
The document does note some of the risks of smoking cannabis and gives information about penalties for possession and supply.
But Prof Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Drug Misuse at Glasgow University, said the leaflet “conveys an entirely misplaced comfort around the whole issue of cannabis and smoking and, to my mind, is more likely to stimulate interest in the drug than discourage use”.
In his comments, to The Sunday Post, he said the Scottish Government should not be putting its name to the leaflet.
And he added: “Telling young people that cannabis can make them more sociable is perverse and carries a real risk of actually encouraging use of the drug. It also potentially undermines the efforts of those seeking to avoid it.
“Similarly while there is passing reference to mental health issues, this is covered so fleetingly that most young people would not pick up on these risks.”
John Lamont, the Scottish Conservatives’ justice spokesman, criticised the leaflet and warned that a lot of drug addicts who use heroin start on cannabis.
A spokeswoman for NHS Health Scotland said the guide was aimed at helping young people already experimenting with cannabis, and that its content was “informed by advisors working in drugs misuse education”.
In March this year a major study showed that cannabis use in teenage years can double the risk of mental illness in the next decade.
The study, carried out by a range of European scientists, followed the lives of nearly 2,000 young Germans over a ten-year period.
The research team focussed on volunteers aged 14 to 24 none of whom had any history of psychotic symptoms.