People who are addicted to cannabis are being neglected as support focuses too much on those who use Class A drugs, an expert has claimed.
The founder of the Global Drug Survey, Adam Winstock, has said it can be just as difficult for addicts to give up cannabis as heroin. However, he believes cannabis addiction is not taken as seriously so there is less help available for those wanting to kick the habit.
Dr Winstock, who is a consultant psychiatrist specialising in addiction at Kings College, London, told BBC’s Newsbeat: “We haven’t invested enough in helping people who use cannabis use more safely or stop. I don’t think people with problems with cannabis have easy access to services.”
He said over the last two decades drug support services have focussed on heroin and crack cocaine as they are seen as having a stronger link to crime and antisocial behaviour.
Despite cannabis use falling across the UK, more people are seeking help for addiction to the Class B drug.
Ten years ago in 2005, 3,328 people aged 18 to 24 asked for treatment for cannabis addiction. By 2013/14, this figure had risen to 4,997.
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Cannabis is often seen by young people as safer and less risky than other illegal substances. But repeated use can cause paranoia, short term memory loss and irritability.
It also increases the risk of developing schizophrenia, especially if cannabis use starts before the age of 18.
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Using a drugs test can give people the information they need to seek the right support for a friend or family member. Giving up cannabis can be difficult, with more than half of addicts suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms after stopping the drug.
Dr Winstock said: “Some people become violent, some young people can’t sleep and get very irritable.”