Columnist: Smoking cannabis danger to mental health

Young cannabis users are playing “Russian roulette” with their mental health, according to a columnist for The Times newspaper.

Libby Purves, who is also a Radio 4 presenter, called for a “culture of healthy social contempt” for the drug, particularly as her son committed suicide after suffering from a mental illness.

She referred in her column to various studies showing the dangerous effects that smoking cannabis can have.


She said, “hospital admissions for mental disorders linked to cannabis use have risen by 50 per cent in three years” and “a study of young Germans over a ten-year period found that those who started in their teens were nearly twice as likely to develop psychotic symptoms”.

Libby Purves also pointed out research from 40 years ago which showed that even limited use of the drug can cause lasting hallucinations and paranoid thinking in people who otherwise had no mental health problems.

She also highlighted court cases which have linked cannabis-related delusions to violence, including infanticide.


The columnist warned against a casual attitude towards the drug among adults and celebrities.

She said, “I despise adults who turn a blind eye or skin-up alongside their young at festivals, and fashionable role models who giggle irresponsibly about it in self-regarding articles and interviews”.

She also said: “Those who do suffer, suffer horribly”.


Libby Purves’ son, Nicholas, committed suicide after suffering from a form of schizophrenia and now she cannot stand seeing healthy youngsters deliberately smoking a drug which can cause the illness.

She called on society to despise cannabis.

She said: “Bring on a culture of healthy social contempt, award cannabis its ‘tobacco moment’ of declining status.”


She said it is “pathetic” if young people can’t “laugh and relax without chemical assistance”.

Cannabis was downgraded from a Class B drug to a Class C drug in 2004.

In the three years after the law in the UK was weakened, the number of cannabis addicts receiving NHS treatment doubled.


The reclassification was also accompanied by a surge in the number of children aged 15 and under being treated for mental illness.

Faced with such overwhelming evidence, the Labour Government restored cannabis to a class B drug in January 2009.