A new Lancet Psychiatry report is getting the British media all bent out of shape today over the always headline-grabbing topic of drugs. Depending on what newspaper you read, the scientific findings down in deepest south London suggest that skunk, that pungent, refined cannabis type that's a little heavy on the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can triple psychosis in its regular smokers, or is to blame for a quarter of new mental disorders, or both. Suggestively scary stuff.
Our favourite quote, though, is from Marta di Forti, one of the academic psychiatrists at King's College London behind the findings, who suggested to the BBC that the psychosis is making all those heavily medicated south Londoners "suspicious of their neighbours". Well, suburban paranoia is certainly a new occurrence (hashtag 'twitchy blinds').
Anyway, what this is all kind of alluding to is that while this is a south London study – 410 patients who have suffered a first psychosis episode alongside a control group of 370 who hadn't – the issues could be more widespread and that something needs to be done. Except, while this is all interesting, skunk being stronger than standard hash is not exactly news and we're also not really sure how any of this really stacks up to anything other than "reclassification".
For one, it's argued that what most Brit cannabis smokers now partake in is predominantly some strain of skunk or other, whether they know it or not (scary, confusing), yet, in the same breath, that skunk is also the "whiskey or vodka of cannabis" (so a stronger option in the supermarket), which seems to be an oxymoron. And while we're at it, what's the Citizen Kane of cannabis?
But in all seriousness, the report finds that normal-strength hash, whatever that equates to nowadays, is basically harmless. So if the first part is true, and that the UK has cornered the skunk market and good people are having to buy harmful super-strength cannabis because there's nothing else available, wouldn't a legalised way to get at the harmless stuff be better?
Indeed, Ian Dunt over at Politics.co.uk highlights a raft of sterling examples that actually make the case for legalisation extrapolated from the same statistics that everyone else is weaving their scare stories from. For one, in the tests, those who had used cannabis were not at an increased risk of psychotic disorder compared with those who had never used the drug, which is pretty bloody significant.
As our recent feature on the sophistication of cannabis production nowadays showed, education is certainly needed on the wider implications of new techniques and the ever-changing product that's served up. But as mental health finally receives some much-needed government attention, it's swiftly becoming one of this year's shiny new "political footballs" to be booted around pre-election with wild abandon. With drug declassification the long-standing hottest of hot potatoes, we just hope these findings aren't being fudged to suit agendas. Again.