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For the record

Is there a link between patients receiving treatment and the cannabis downgrade?

On the 14th April 2009, The Daily Mail featured an article entitled “Cannabis downgrade sees health toll double”1. The article reports a rise in “patients receiving Health Service treatment for cannabis misuse” during the three years following reclassification in 2004, stating that “among children the number of cases leapt by a third”. In the article, Mary Brett of Europe Against Drugs is quoted as saying “ministers consistently claim overall cannabis use has gone down, but among 11 to 15 year-olds the figures suggest it’s rising” (23/11/09 Correction: Mary Brett has informed us that she actually said drug use among children was rising.) As noted by a spokesperson for the Department of Health in the article, this was not supported in the government report - Drug use, smoking and drinking among young people in England in 2007, which shows a steady decline of reported cannabis use by teenagers2. Usage had dropped from 13.4% in 2001 down to 9.4% by 2007; a constant downwards trend was maintained even after reclassification in 2004.

Professor David Nutt, Head of the Psychopharmacology Unit at Bristol University, comments:

“There is no meaningful association to be drawn between the downgrading and the harms of cannabis - use has fallen and the most likely explanation for the increase in patients receiving treatment is that campaigns such as Frank are encouraging dependent cannabis users to seek help.”


1 Cannabis downgrade sees health toll double

2 Drug Use, Smoking and Drinking among young people in England 2007

Author: Sense About Science

Document type: For The Record

Published: 23 November 2009

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