Cannabis-induced psychosis has reached crisis levels, forcing the NHS [National Health Service] to open the first clinic specifically treating addicts of the mind-altering drug, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The clinic has been launched by a leading psychiatrist who warns that psychosis among users of skunk – a very strong strain of cannabis flooding the streets – has become ‘a crisis that we can simply no longer ignore’, with tens of thousands of people affected.
Dr Di Forti, a consultant adult psychiatrist and lecturer at King’s College London, said she decided to launch the clinic after being overwhelmed by the number of psychosis patients with a history of cannabis use.
‘It became ridiculous how many psychosis patients were also cannabis smokers,’ she said.
‘It got to the point where two-thirds of my psychosis patients had a history of cannabis use.’
Talking about the former trainee teacher, Dr Di Forti said: ‘He has a degree and professional skills but because he’s stoned all day, he can’t even read a book at the moment. He was training to be a teacher before cannabis took over his life but right now his main goal is simply to be able to use his brain again.’
Calls for the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use have grown in the last year, helped by the Government permitting its limited use for medical treatment.
But Dr Di Forti warned against following the lead of Canada and the U.S. states of California and Colorado, where legalisation has seen usage increase.
‘My concern is that there is no way you can legalise recreational cannabis without cannabis use going up, as has happened in America, and there is a potential for a lot of people to come to harm,’ she said.
Treatment comprises a mix of anti-psychotic medication, sessions with therapists, and motivational meetings to wean patients off cannabis.
Dr Di Forti said: ‘The problem has been that while you’re trying to do all these things to help patients with their psychotic episodes, they are smoking from half-an-hour after they wake up until just before they go to bed, so they’re basically stoned all the time.
‘Trying to reintegrate them by getting them to join a local football team or do an art class is very difficult. Often they will be so stoned that they will have no motivation to address their psychosis. That is something we have to work through.’