Monday, 8 March 2010

Robbie Williams' love of Cannabis

Robbie Williams - 'cannabis is a lovely, lovely drug' - Radio Times interview 8 March 2010

We’ve just heard that Robbie Williams has been quoted as saying that cannabis is a ‘lovely, lovely drug’. It is depressing that someone in the public eye should be saying this. He is very well known in the pop industry, a celebrity who has been around a long time. He has only recently won a life-time achievement award at the Brits. Is he not aware of the problems many of our young people have with cannabis in the UK? We don’t expect musicians to be squeaky-clean of course. And there is a tradition here. In the 60s musicians such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones all voiced their belief that cannabis should be legalised, and the slow march towards liberalisation of illegal drugs began.

Cannabis has always been seen as far less harmful than any of the other drugs controlled by the Misuse of Drug Act. But, the cannabis of today is not the same stuff smoked back then. And that has caused a lot of confusion, especially to families. I'm not sure what type of cannabis Robbie Williams is smoking - it may well be herbal cannabis, which contains only around 1 per cent THC (the stuff that gets you high), or even resin which contains around 4-5 per cent. But both of those varieties are hardly available today. Most of the stuff our young people are buying is 'skunk' cannabis, which can contain as much as 16 per cent plus THC, and, importantly, virtually no CBD (the other main chemical in herbal and resin cannabis that we now know may act as an anti-psychotic on the body.)

We have one of the biggest drugs problems in Western Europe, and it is mainly young people and even children who are being affected. The age of starting is going down, with reports of children as young as 10 coming before magistrates for criminal activity connected with a drug habit. As Professor Murray from the Institute of Psychiatry said recently ‘We are awash with mental health problems’, and he went on to say that ‘it is crystal clear that people with schizophrenia use more cannabis than the general population’. I don't know if Robbie is aware of the latest research to come out of the IoP. Just before Christmas 09, studies were published showing that skunk users were 7 more likely to become psychotic (including schizophrenic), by using skunk cannabis than from the older style stuff. As the trial in one of the biggest heist in skunk cannabis ever seen comes to an end this week, we need to be aware that Britain has become a major selling ground for criminal gangs who are importing the stuff from abroad, and also cultivating the drug here in massive quantities.

Many young teenagers who are beginning to be daily cannabis smokers are not aware that it even is a drug, and few have any idea as to the hazards. Some have little idea that it is even illegal and Robbie's comment won't help disabuse them of this. The fact is that skunk use in childhood and adolescence is highly dangerous. 1 in 4 of us carries a faulty gene which, when activated by cannabis, can plunge the young into the nightmare of addiction and brain damage. Few youngsters who use skunk cannabis will fulfill their potential, at worst they can face a life dogged by mental health illness. For every child who begins to be affected by cannabis use there is the family in the background, including innocent siblings, who are all affected too.

Since the serialisation of 'The Cannabis Diaries' in the national press last month, I have had a flood of emails and calls from miserable families all of whom have said that our story is also theirs. One mother of a 13 year old addict has termed her ten year old daughter 'a cannabis orphan', because of the time she has spent concentrating on helping her son. She is worried her daughter will never forgive her for the neglect, or worse, will seek out partners who are also addicts, in later life. Let's stop glamorising drugs, it's time we all grew up and started to take our responsibilities as adults seriously. The children of our country are all our children; let's look after them properly and help protect them from dangerous, illegal drugs. There is no fool-proof cure for addiction, and I would have thought that even Robbie would know that.


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